Gathering Wanderers

There is a story that has become etched into the structure of our family.  My grandma has always been one to host, and more than that, to gather people. A visiting missionary who has devoted his life to Cote D’ivoire was in town (circa the 90’s), and our family and extra friends had gathered to hear his stories and spend time together. The plan was to make Fry-bread, a recipe passed on from a friend on the neighboring Warm Springs Indian Reservation. We joked that they must have given us a slightly different version of the recipe because it never turned out quite the same, but this time it was our alteration that created a recipe we would never forget

Oil beginning to simmer, we helped heat up cans of chili, chopped onions, grated cheese, and mixed up sticky globs of dough that would soon bubble in the golden oil.  Suddenly, the pot of oil began to overflow, and with it a pungent scent overwhelmed the room. The jug of oil had been accidentally swapped with a neighboring jug of Pinesol floor cleaner! Dinner was late that day, but the stove had never been cleaner. More importantly, the people who gathered were close and loved.

Gather Holly Hawes.png

In my grandma’s kitchen, I learned how Jesus taught us to welcome the stranger. That is what hospitality is after all. It isn’t hosting a gala with food you’d never eat on a normal night, or inviting the people over that you already know and agree with on every issue. Hospitality is making strangers belong and sharing the life saturated with the Spirit of God to those hungry for more than a bowl of soup.

In the kitchen with the dishwasher that pulled out from the wall with a butcher board top for kneading, we made pizza to welcome college students who lived too far away to go home for the holidays.

At the hearth of the fancy new gas stove, we lined up dozens of frozen gloves, hats, and jackets for children waiting to drink hot chocolate and thaw off before heading out into the snow again.

The freezing pantry (that is actually a lean-to outside of the house) welcomed college students arriving in the middle of the night to scavenge for a midnight snack.

In the kitchen with an eclectic china set consisting of every pattern (from every decade) of Corelle plates bought for ten cents at yard sales, we tried out recipes from far off places with exchange students from almost every continent.

The single bathroom, with no lock, but a drawer full of combs that could be pulled out to stop the door from the next occupant’s entrance, wasn’t a reason to shorten the guest list.

The back bedroom with shag carpet and a VHS player let the children play and the adults talk about the things in their lives.

I didn’t know then that the people who gathered could have had so many barriers to friendship and were carrying such heavy loads.  The big things our world is at war with have all been addressed around that table. Racism. Mental Health. Poverty. Broken families. Addictions. Economic inequity. I didn’t realize that I was seeing the outcasts be loved, the struggling have equal footing at a meal, the sojourners becoming family. Categories that could have divided, were instead celebrated and shared.

Holly Hawes Gather.png

Many of those who gathered are now scattered into their own places, creating their own places of welcome. When I began to recount to my husband, the many ways I have seen people gathered with love and imperfection, he showed me how the gathering never stopped; It has been carried on in me, and in all those who are now scattered.

Because I saw strangers welcomed, we haven’t had more than a year of our marriage without someone living with us for some amount of time.  Since I saw people feel welcome with sweet tea and writing their names on red solo cups, I don’t feel bad about breaking out the paper plates.  Since holidays were shared, and extended to anyone, I am on the lookout for who might want to join in this year. Since food and culture are so important to share and help people feel welcome, we have had Ceviche for Thanksgiving made by a foster teen.

When you go out to gather your people, look at what you have, not at what you wish for. You have everything you need to make someone feel important and loved. Don’t let your location, your decor, or your regular-life food keep you from inviting people in.

Look for the strangers, who need a place to land. There are so many people just waiting for an invitation.  Those who are wandering about in life, who need to be grafted into a family.


holly-squareHolly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been a foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years and works part-time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.
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Grocery Doubts and the Storms of Faith

I was slogging through my grocery trip, pushing the cart and handing the cranky baby things to keep her occupied, when I turned a corner and almost ran into another shopper. I quickly apologized for my lack of shopping cart skills, and she replied with something that has pricked my heart ever since.

“It’s ok. I’m just over here drooling over your life.”

Circumstances are impossible to determine from the other side of the grocery cart. Perhaps she has lost a child. Perhaps her children are past the baby stage and she misses it. Perhaps she desperately wants to be a mom, and month after month was disappointed. I could see the doubt coming to the surface. The doubt that begins to question when life doesn’t look like we had hoped it might.

I will never be entirely sure of her intent, but under the surface, I could feel that there was a deep well of hurt. She outright stated that my life looked enviable. I was shocked, but I felt for her. That emotion wasn’t foreign to me. Did she, too, sometimes doubt that the life she had been dealt was really God’s grace and kindness to her?  I know how easily we can believe that everyone else’s life is sunshine, while our own is overcast with doubt and fear.

Doubt Holly Hawes.png

Despite the outside picture, my life was clouded with doubt that day. What she couldn’t see behind the mom pushing a baby through the grocery store, is that the sweet, yet the cranky baby was a foster child who would be moving on from us in a few days. The childrearing stage I had dreamed of living while we faced infertility had come but in an abbreviated fashion. What she could see on the outside may have been both of our biggest dreams, but it was also the biggest storm. I wonder how many of the enviable lives I measure mine against are facing doubt of God’s goodness behind the layer I can see.

For a while, I had tried to avoid doubts as much as I could. But, I think storms may be meant to push us to face the doubts head-on. The situations I was facing at that time remind me of a storm Jesus and his disciples faced that was recorded in Luke 8:23-25.  

As they sailed, he(Jesus)  fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”

Beth Moore referenced this passage of scripture in her Quest study. She says, “Knowing a story turns out well can have a terrible way of taming it.” From where I sit, knowing that the storm was calmed for Jesus and the disciples that day, takes out the terror of their immediate situation. They didn’t know whether they would die in the storm, or if Jesus would miraculously calm it.

At times I can think the doubts I have are too big, but the disciples had some pretty big doubts to deal with that day as well. Can you relate to any of these:

Doubt of God’s goodness

Doubt that he cares.

Doubt that he hears our cries.

Doubt that he has a plan.

The disciples went straight to Jesus, but they were filled with doubt rather than faith. Our storms can leave us reeling similarly. We don’t know where this story is going, but can we trust the author of the story, even when it looks grim.

All throughout the Bible, the people we see interacting with God had no idea what would happen. If you actually sit in the tension of the situations they were faced with, the outcome would be far different from the platitudes we often hear in the midst of trials. When we face our deepest trials and hurts, it is not the  time to pretend that they don’t exist, or that they will somehow just magically be better and “turn out in the end.”

Holly Hawes Doubt

Should we begrudge Hannah, for pouring out her heart to God in agony, because, “It will all happen in God’s timing.”? Do we skip over the utter abandonment, and betrayal felt by Joseph as he suffered as a slave and later a wrongly convicted prisoner? Do we quickly run to Resurrection, and fail to reflect on the sorrow of the cross and the tomb?

As we start to see the narrative of the Bible through the lens of the struggle of human experience, we see a dance between doubt and faith, that I had been blind to. Just because everything does turn out in the end, doesn’t mean that it feels like it at the time. Instead of ignoring it, Jesus spoke directly to the storm. He can handle any doubt we face, and any trial that comes our way. Platitudes negate the storm, rather than letting the storm lead you to the only one who can calm it.

Experiencing Jesus in the middle of a storm is one of the greatest ways to turn seeds of doubt into faith.  Doubts spring up in the darkness when we cannot see what God will do; Paradoxically, faith cannot exist if we already see the end. Somehow the same circumstances that make us feel out of control can either be experienced on our own, and lead to doubt, or with Jesus and lead us to greater faith.

The only way out of their storm (and ours) is to ride it out with Jesus. The disciples went straight to him, and instead of their fears actualizing, they discovered that Jesus was good to them. He did care about their plight in the boat, he heard them cry out, and he gave them a way out.

Whatever the storm you are facing today, whether it blows across the water or at your local grocery store, take your doubts and fears to Jesus. He can see through peaceful facades, envy, and doubt. He is there to shepherd us through the storms of our life.


holly-squareHolly is a wife of 7 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been a foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years and works part-time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption.

To My Daughter and Her Friends as the Final Year of High School Begins

Lazy days of summer are quickly moving towards the inevitable first days of school.  The countdown is on as the last “first day of high school” approaches for my daughter.

Like most mamas with a child ready to fly out into the world, this has me reeling. We all know the time goes too fast, but this day has come so quickly. I became a mom for the first time only five years ago. My daughter was 12 when she walked through our door, and in so many ways we are still figuring each other out.

Just like any other life transition, people are captivated by the “next step” questions. Everywhere we go, someone will ask, “What do you plan to do next year? Are you going to college? What do you want to do?” Even though I am well aware that few of the 17-year-olds eating popcorn on my couch have that figured out, I find myself mindlessly asking the same question.

Holly Hawes Identity.png

So, to the brand new seniors, preparing to explore all the options, leaving the familiar behind, and desperate to find their path in life, my prayer for you this year is that you will be able to relax into your true identity rather than trying to mold your identity around some future vocation or goal.

If you remember these hard-learned truths they will help you along your way.

God will direct your steps one at a time. It is ok to course correct.

I can remember being so afraid of making the wrong decision, choosing the wrong college, choosing the wrong major, or dating the wrong guy.  The list of choices to be made in your late teens and early twenties is endless. Somehow, I had gotten stuck in a fatalistic viewpoint that the oft-quoted Jer 29:11 meant that there was ONE plan and I had to figure it out.  But when read in context of the whole Bible I noticed that sometimes God lets us wander a bit before providing the perfect next steps. I have been captivated by the story of the Israelites leaving slavery in Egypt through the miraculous provision of dry land at the bottom of the Red Sea as recorded in the book of Exodus.

God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near….But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea…”  Exodus 13:17-18 (abbreviated)

Sometimes the “near” way, the way that “makes sense” is in opposition to the leading that comes from God.  This is your chance to pray, test your choices by the word of God, and search out wise spiritual mentors. But know that it is ok to course correct. Whether you try a career that isn’t your favorite six months later, or you find yourself far off track, God never stops leading and loving his children.

You are not what you do, but you will be known for what you do.

The great lie you will fight in your college years, is that your identity comes from what you do.  We think of people by their roles. The Doctor. The Mechanic. The Mom. The Librarian.

You may be known by what you do vocationally.  But more than that you will be known by whose you are. Jesus gives us the great freedom to be completely at rest, because we have nothing to prove. He already loves you enough to go to the cross for you. You don’t have to do anything, or become someone important.  You are already secure, loved, and important.

As you are making new friends, you will tend to drift into groups who are into the same things. But the most important parts of these relationships boil down to the fruits of the spirit being (Galatians 6) shown in your love (1 Corinthians 13). How you love a friend when they’ve had a bad day. If you are kind even when it is inconvenient.

You don’t need to be an expert to learn. No experience is wasted.

Right now, you are the oldest students at your school. The best at what you do. For years your teachers have passed out awards for excellence in various fields. You are about the enter a world of billions of people. It can be hard to stop learning for the outside applause or the competitive edge rather than because learning and growing as a person is a constant journey.

So, just try lots of things. This is your chance to see if you come alive creating art, studying abroad, or managing people. Take a cooking class, self-defense, or a course in medieval literature. You don’t have to be good at something right away. There will be lots of things you try that will be a funny story someday and some you will love. Summer jobs you find could last just a few months, or you could find a new passion you never dreamed of.

Someone once told me that “God packs your bags.” Over and over I have realized that the surprising moments of clarity or purpose God brought me to was informed and equipped through the very things that seemed “random” earlier on. Good and bad experiences are somehow morphed as we see our lives through the lens of God’s purposes rather than our own.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” –Romans 9:28

Identity Holly Hawes

Find out how God gifted and wired you and use that.

As you spend this next few years trying to answer the question “what do you do?” know that God has gifted you with seeds of talent and calling. You can choose to investigate and invest in these gifts.  Years down the road, I can see the way that my friends have leaned into the way that God made them. One adores filing and organization. Another can handle blood and is not in the least grossed out or queasy while stitching up a wound.  My Brother was born mechanical, he was picking locks with my bobby pins in elementary school because his brain just understands mechanical things. What I hear from many of them is that they never realized that the natural bents or inclinations they had were more than just a talent or an interest. Pay attention to the places you excel, where you are fascinated and want to know more.

No, it is not just your mom’s job to tell you are good at art, or science, or with people. Open your eyes, listen to what others see, and be aware of where you feel purpose.

Always know that no matter where you go, or what you do, you are incredibly loved.  Not because of what you might be someday, what you plan to do, or the path you are on, but because God calls you his.


holly-square

Holly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been a foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years and works part-time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

 

Images found at Pixabay

Convicted: Let Yourself Be Known

I can still remember exactly where I was standing when it hit me. For several years, I had been fielding the same set of questions from well-meaning people, about that one painful place in my life that refused to be ignored. Each story may be different, but I’ve found we all have our own pain point.

Though I knew the people in my life meant no harm, I somehow thought that I needed to protect myself and the wounds others didn’t know their words were picking at. By now, I had figured out all the tricky ways to get out of a conversation. Most either turned the attention to someone else or ducked behind some bit of “Christianeeze” I wasn’t sure I really believed. “Well it’s all in God’s timing,” “Someday,” or “We’ll see.”

Holly Hawes Conviction

Until one day when the conversation continued down the well-traveled path once again, and I was convicted that the lies to the people who love me must cease. It was a different feeling, something liberating as opposed to the condemning whispers I had fought for years. Instead of fear, I felt peaceful and safe and clearly saw what my default had been in the hundreds of conversations that started just like this one.

In an effort to avoid conflict or awkwardness at the pain of the truth, I had been choosing to hide behind a falsehood of “it’s all ok” for too long. How strong this lie is embedded in our culture. The temptation whispered that no one would care if I told them the truth. It was better to stay alone in my struggle and keep the peace than to bring up the hard things.

What I found to be true once I began speaking truth was the absolute opposite.

The words tumbled out of my mouth, and a look of shock came across my friend’s face. “Actually, we don’t know if we’ll be able to have children. We’ve been trying for a long time and it has been really hard. Could you pray for us?”

The shock on her face was full of compassion. She hadn’t meant to step into something painful. She just didn’t know, because I hadn’t told her. I found the more I let people into this hard area of my life, the more love and compassion I received.

When I cowered behind falsehood, I felt alone and hopeless. No one in our lives could care for us, because they didn’t know we were walking wounded. No one could practice Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn,” because I had put up walls around my life and denied access to those who cared about our story. As Matt Chandler has said, “To be 99% known is to be unknown altogether.”

The land of being unknown is a desperately painful place.

I wish I hadn’t tried to be the strong one for so long. I am now convicted that God made us to need one another on purpose. Jesus told us clearly:

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” John 13:35.

Conviction Holly Hawes

In our weakest places, our love and vulnerability show the world a way of living that doesn’t point to how well we are doing at “being ok,” but at what a Savior we have! Jesus, who has initiated such radical love amongst people that those who would never naturally love extravagantly, compassionately, and sacrificially shine a new way in a dark world. When I began to tell the truth, people were able to love me in a way that was impossible as long as I was hunkered down in pain. I saw Jesus in them every time. Their love is a great testament to the God who comforts the broken-hearted, hears our cries, and united us together when nothing else in the world could.

Instead of letting pain make way for bitterness, lies, and envy slowly brokedown relationships I was gently taught to let pain turn to vulnerability, which led to care, compassion, and strong relationships. Though the culturally acceptable lie would keep false peace, my soul tasted Shalom peace, full of wholeness and rightness. When I took the scary step forward in conviction to tell the messy, painful truth God’s people met me faithfully on the other side.


holly-squareHolly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been a foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years and works part-time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

Celebration of Freedom

Imagine with me: You’ve just had the most amazing, first-hand encounter with God. It seemed like spectacular showing off from the creator. It reached into dreams you had long set aside, and even though you doubted if He even cared about your suffering, you are now assured that He heard your cries. There is no denying what you have seen. Your full trust is placed in this God who has shown up in your need as your rescuer. Standing on the precipice of freedom, victory has been won. You will soon leave your old life behind. There is no way you will ever go back there again. 
 
This storyline of freedom plays out over and over again in the lives of people who follow the God of the Bible; it is considered a “Mega theme” that points out the ways that God operates and interacts with humanity. Have you had this kind of moment?  
Holly Hawes Celebrate
 
Some might call it a mountaintop experience. A moment after which you cannot deny that God is alive and that he is working in the middle of our daily lives. Who could keep from celebrating? We rejoice when it is so evident that God has revealed his power and love on behalf of actual people! 
 
Take a moment sometime soon to page through the book of Exodus. I have often imagined the people and places living out what feels like a vivid screenplay. Recently though, I have left the theatrics behind and pondered how I am just like them. What was it like to walk in the shoes of those God set free?  
 
People who have been set free remember and they celebrate:  
 
“This day is to be a memorial for you, and you are to celebrate it throughout your 
generations…” Exodus 12:14a 
 

Remember 

Before leaving Egypt, while still in the land of enslavement, God told his people to celebrate. Paradoxically, the party starts with remembering the pain and the struggle. Remembering how they had cried out to God and how God intervened as their rescuer. We can only celebrate freedom when we know what we are free from. The Passover celebration became a way to yearly point back in time at God’s faithful care, rescuing power, and mighty love. But it also points forward to Jesus, the true Passover lamb, who died to rescue us when we didn’t even realize we needed it and rose again conquering all that has ever enslaved us. 
Celebration Holly Hawes
 
I find it hard to remember, or even recognize the places God is at work in my life unless I take the time to notice. Processing the journey with other people helps. Journaling the things I am learning helps cement them into my consciousness.  
 
When I am set free from the need to control my life, the fear of people’s opinions, or the desire for comfort in unhealthy ways, it is valuable to find a way to remember. Even if it was only a small moment, it is encouraging to look back later at the string of tiny things I didn’t realize were individual footprints across the bottom of an impossible sea. 

Celebrate 

Celebrate anytime you know God is at work, whether it shows up as conviction, freedom, or simply how God orchestrates life to show that He is watchful and caring. The people of God don’t celebrate only once they cross seas miraculously and arrive at the final destination. Celebration is called for, even in the unfinished pieces of our stories.  
 
In my life, this looks like sharing life with our home community and rejoicing even with places of our hearts still pleading for need and work. It looks like crying over baptisms. Pointing out celebrations at birthdays in thanks for what God has done over the last year. Gathering people, sharing good food, and pointing to the one who has provided so much more than we ever realized we needed. 
 
Every single step toward freedom is worth celebrating, no matter how small it may seem. 

 
 holly-square

Holly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years, and works part-time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.
 Pictures found at Pixabay

Remembering the Birds

Numbers are not my favorite. I line them up, pencil it out, move things from one category to another. Every month, my heart rate unconsciously rises and the same budget conversation happens: Why am I so anxious? I remember before, when we had so much less. Why am I more high strung now, when so much more has been provided? How can I forget that the God who made me knows what I need?

We have never been hungry. My thirst is often satisfied with a drive-thru caffeinated creation, while I know there are people who walk miles and fill up buckets of water that may still be tainted with contaminants. Not only have I not experienced true lack, but I can point back to multiple times that I have seen God’s provision in my life. Yet fear and anxiety easily settle in as I forget.

I know I am not alone in my struggle to put away anxious thoughts. Over two thousand years ago Jesus spoke to a crowd of despondent, needy, sick, oppressed, broken, and hungry people and shook up the way things had always been.  He called them to a new and different kind of life. A life that seeks God.

Holly Hawes Hunger and Thirst

This teaching is commonly called the Sermon on the Mount, or the Beatitudes and is recorded in Matthew chapters 5-7.The whole thing challenged the way that people had been living. Whether the people listening thought they knew how to follow God, or they never even considered it, everything was changed that day.

Nestled in the midst of chapter 6 is a picture I often recall when anxiety grips me as the monthly bills roll in and we decide how to use the resources at our disposal.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? Matthew 6:25-27

Look at the birds. Slowing down to observe is the last thing I do when I worry. Red-bellied spring Robin’s have begun to flit about my yard gathering bits of seeds or worm. They sing in the morning as the sun comes up, and fly freely. They are beautiful, colorful, and at ease. As unworried as possible. They are transitory, not relying on any single source of nourishment. They don’t work, or worry, and yet God provides for them abundantly. I can learn a lot from slowing down to watch the birds.

But the next line is the kicker: Are you not of more value than they?

Here lies the problem. When we forget that we loved children, we start craft contingency plans to take care of ourselves.

Hunger and Thirst Holly Hawes

I have seen this survival mentality play out in my home as a foster parent over the last few years. The anxious striving consistently appeared in dozens of kids in varying ways. Until they could trust that they would be safe and cared for, they worked with unrelenting determination to make sure their needs were met. The expectation: no one will help me. I must take care of myself. No matter what. How exhausting!

But their experience learning to trust, just like ours, is shaped by hundreds of conversations. More than that through thousands of silent needs met without fanfare.

“ No honey, go back to bed. We will clean up the puke”

“Would it make you feel better to keep a granola bar in case you get hungry tonight?”

“You don’t need to hide that away, we can get more.”

I am challenged to remember all the ways God has cared for me in my life. Sometimes the answer appears after much asking and praying, other times before I was even aware of the need.

I think of a grandma who welcomed me to my college dorm with a loaf of banana bread. When the car broke down but someone was there to help me. The times we just happened to get an unexpected bonus at exactly the right time.

People could say it is happenstance, but I see whispers of the abundantly good Father caring for every need of his children. Sometimes it comes through something tangible, and other times through the grace to trust Him. In either circumstance, we need not have anxiety. If you know Jesus, you are a loved child. Your Father knows what you need.

Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

If we, as entirely imperfect parents, want our children’s minds to be set at ease that they will be loved, cared for, and provided for, how much more are we loved as God’s children?

As we begin to trust that we are loved and that God knows what we hunger for, we are able to live free, like the birds. Living in settled trust that displays itself as creativity, play, or satisfaction. No longer must we worry and prepare for the worst-case scenario. We are like the birds.


 

holly-squareHolly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years, and works part time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

Indescribable Glory

We all have defaults. The route we drive if we’re not thinking about it. The dinner we make on stressful days. The comforts we turn to when life hurts. They tend to pop up most in the hard times. When there isn’t enough time, the money is short, or emotions are frazzled.

But sometimes the default turns out to be faulty. I know for me, default mode just isn’t working for day to day life. I must pause and consider. Why?

Why is this my default mode or belief?

How did I choose it?

What did I know then?

What do I know now?

What will I do next time?

The trouble is, defaults run deep. We often don’t even realize we have slipped into one until it is in some way challenged. This is particularly true in what we believe about God. Our actions and attitudes swing on a spectrum in response not to what we have heard or have understood, but to what we deeply hold to be true, whether or not it is in fact true.

Holly Hawes Character of GodMany people believe in “a god” out there somewhere. Perhaps one who got everything started and flung the stars and planets into motion, but who is far off in their daily experience. Or they see God as someone looking to catch them in something, or they simply deny the existence of God entirely. I grew up in church, and the thoughts I had of God were colored through the lens of the interpretation of the people around me. Some resonated with or emphasized different characteristics while others were left out all together. It is vital to be aware of how I can default to seeing God through the interpretation of my own experiences, knowing my interpretations to be fickle and changing things.

We walk in dangerous territory when we try to manufacture our own ideas about God. The only trajectory that seems secure is to read what God says about himself. As Francis Chan simply stated,“ We don’t get to decide who God is.”

So how do we find out what God is like, and how can we know if we are making up a “god” of our own ideas rather than discovering who our creator is?

  • Story: God is described throughout the Bible primarily in narrative, the story of the actual events as God interacted with his creation through which we glean understanding. It can be confusing and filled with tensions we would rather not fight with, but what can be discovered is worth the wrestle. Try reading with a pen nearby and keep track of patterns or attributes you notice. Some are straightforward and stated in the text (God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love), others are described and must be inferred (God created all things, and must enjoy diversity and beauty).
  • Names of God: The Bible is clear that there is one triune God, but there are so many facets to his character that throughout the Bible God is described by using different parts of his character: The God who sees, the living God, God who provides (to name a few). Find a devotional, or free online tool that delves into the places where the original text of the Bible uses different Hebrew words to illuminate for us what God is like.
  • Are you uncomfortable?: If you never have to grapple with an aspect of what Scripture says about God, you may be cherry-picking verses to create a God you are comfortable with, rather than discovering all of who God says he is. This is important, because we are responding to the reality of who God is and who he has revealed himself to be, not creating who we think he should be.

 

For the rest of eternity, we will go deeper into our understanding and relationship with the inexhaustible God who cannot be defined or limited by our human categories.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV

The Character of God Holly HawesThere are so many facets to who God is. The creator, redeemer, triune God of the Bible is constantly surprising me with aspects I have never considered. It is astounding that God has chosen to reveal himself to human beings at all, much less that he decided to love us, and be known by us.

“But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Deuteronomy 4:29

 


holly-squareHolly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years, and works part-time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail, and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

5 Seeds of Bitterness that Need to be Uprooted

Two tiny leaves popped through the newly thawed soil. Stretching toward the sun, they began to grow, each extra bit of sunlight and water fueling them to become the exact imprint of the seed that had been planted months before. Laid dormant through the harsh winter, it was finally time for this new life to break forth into the world.

I watched with delight as the seedling burst forth. I hadn’t lived long in this place, and certainly didn’t know what may have been planted. In the beginning, the tiny leaves were indistinguishable from one another, so I waited with baited breath while I imagined what beautiful things had been sown in this place. I watched carefully, at first, but as they continued to grow I lost track and checked in less often. Until, one day, I rounded the corner to find that the innocent tiny duo of leaves had somehow transformed overnight into a gnarly tangle of thorny foliage.

A weed. In fact an army of weeds, had invaded my yard as I stood there watching. I didn’t have the time to wrestle with it that day, so I left it and went about my business, sure that it would be there to face another day.

Sure enough, when I came back, it was there. Nearly as tall as I am, with a thick stalk and strange alien defenses, the weed defiantly stared me down. Inch long thorns drew blood and precariously fragile fluffy seed pods drifted defiantly in the air around me.

In the cool of the day, as I yanked out the deep roots of this intruder, I began to think of how similar my heart is when infested with unexpected bitterness.

Bitterness Holly HawesBitterness has never been something I saw coming. Instead, it always appears as an unexpected invader. As a seed dormant for a long time, promising new growth, all hiding and disguised bitterness. Death that masqueraded as life until it was so deeply entrenched that tearing it out tore me up in the process.

The seeds of bitterness are tricky, because the same experiences can lead us to different places, depending on how we respond. One way leads to death, and the other to life and peace.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” Romans 8:5-6

Here are some unexpected seeds of bitterness to watch out for:

Pain

Pain becomes bitterness when we don’t allow God to heal us. The source of the pain doesn’t really make a difference. Loss, betrayal, physical anguish, and the things that make our heart hurt can either push us away from one another and from God, or pull us closer.

When we face pain points in our lives we need to watch carefully. Guard against bitterness towards God by meditating on and wrestling with the truth of his goodness, faithfulness, and power despite the current situation. Guard against bitterness towards others by not expecting them to fix it, or say exactly the right thing.

Avoidance

Relationships become filled with bitterness when we don’t bring up hurts or offenses. We try to get past problems without facing them, and in the process drift away. Soon we realize we haven’t seen the person in months, and it would be quite uncomfortable to encounter them. A gnarly bitterness has grown where there needed to be a simple conversation. In confronting hurts rather than avoiding, we guard our friendships and relationships. The initial plucking out is far less destructive than what we could allow to grow.

Control

Control produces bitterness when we discover that control is a mirage. Whether it is a cancer diagnosis, or a person you’d rather act a different way, any effort to control things can quickly turn into bitterness.

Longings

Holly Hawes BitternessWe all long for something, but if we make our happiness contingent on the fulfillment of our longings, we will discover that none of our longings truly satisfy. That specific person’s approval. The next step in your career. A child. To be included. It isn’t as if these desires are for “bad” things, but the overwhelming nature of the longing can easily elevate it beyond what these good things were meant to fulfill. Long-term lack of the very thing you feel entitled to moves quickly from disappointment to bitterness.

Expectations

How can bitterness grow in the solitary mind? Unspoken expectations can quickly pile up, until our thoughts become centered on how “He never______ ” or “She always____.” This is especially true of roommates, or family members. The people we share close physical proximity with have ample opportunities to fail to meet unspoken expectations. Instead of letting expectations morph into bitterness, have a conversation.

This year, I am facing spring head on. Trowel in hand, I am heading into the mud to root up the seedlings that I have seen turn into painfully-spiky alien invaders. And as I dig, I am examining my heart once again. What have I let grow that God would ask me to dig out? What at first glance looked like innocent leaves, but is beginning to grow into bitterness? Are the things in my life full of the Spirit? Life and Peace? These must be answered if I want true life to flourish.


holly-squareHolly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years, and works part time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

Leaving Behind Consumerist Thriving

What exactly is a good life? How can I find it? No matter where you come from, this is a question everyone finds themselves trying to answer. It is also the source of the myriad of products, remedies, and regimens that bombard any kind of social media platform. Take this. Eat this  Use this. Try this. IT. CHANGED. MY. LIFE.

I mostly believe you.  Quite a bit of my money has been spent because I completely believe that you must be thriving (because you told me so on Instagram) and this thing really helped.  Don’t we all want  life to be more {Choose one: Organized. Healthy. Youthful. Exuberant. Energetic. Pretty. Fun. Whole. Toxin-Free. Eco-Friendly. Simple. Clean.}? There is nothing wrong with trying new things to help us in life as we seek to use the days God has given us well. Attempts at thriving may be great for a time, but one by one they all will eventually fail. Even good things make a poor god.

thrive Holly HawesThings are a poor substitute for what we are meant for. At the end of your life, your heart will stop beating, no matter how many smoothies you drank. Youthfulness will not last. It isn’t supposed to. And you can be lonely even if you have the “perfect” everything.

In the age of lifestyle bloggers, there is a constant comparison and expectation I often don’t realize I have ingested until I begin to feel the ramifications of the poison.  Envy.  Discontent. Jealousy. Idolatry develops as I expect life to feel better “when” the next big thing is achieved, only to find that my desires are a moving target that cannot be satisfied. How easy it is to let the lives everyone else is living consume my thoughts as they are  thoroughly scrolled, liked, and commented.  All the while, leaving the actual life God has given me on the sidelines.

I know not everyone is held captive by the lives they see others living, but I have found that this is the battlefield of my soul, where God fights for me, and teaches me that he alone can satisfy. Only he offers the abundant, thriving life I am looking for. It just looks different that I thought it woulddifferent than the cultural air I breathe would ascribe to.

holly hawes thriveJesus says that something altogether different makes for a thriving life.

  • He said he came to serve, not to be served, and the greatest in his kingdom would live out this upside down economy of love.
  • His word says not to be surprised that we face trials, for the Lord is near to the brokenhearted.
  • He says we are blessed when we are persecuted, peacemakers, or poor in spirit. The things we try to actively avoid are exactly where we will be most fulfilled in Him.
  • His life was cut short, he was betrayed, he never married or had kids, and yet Jesus is the only one to have lived a perfect life. A life without many of the blessings I feel are “owed” to me.

As I look to the next season of life, I want to wash my cultural lenses through the truth of the gospel, so I may see clearly. No circumstance, product, or relationship can meet the God-given desire for wholeness that only comes from being in relationship with the God who created us with purpose. Nothing less will satisfy, all else eventually falls apart. As you begin to live with Him, with new motivations, and a new upside-down economy, know the kingdom of God will begin to bring the joy you were seeking. When you find the sense of thriving in Him, don’t be surprised if it looks very little like Instagram but is still more beautiful than you can imagine.


holly-squareHolly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years, and works part time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

Deeper Longing

Author: Josh Hawes

It is that time of the year again. We all know it’s coming. It’s the season where everyone thinks I’m a grinch. That’s right. I am the guy who doesn’t want to hear Christmas music before Thanksgiving. The guy who likes to question traditions, much to the discomfort of many in my family. I have even risked asking, “but why do we have a tree? Could we not celebrate the birth of Christ without having to rearrange our furniture this year?” Much to the dismay of my wife and daughter.

Josh Hawes Christmas longingRelax, we have a tree up and decorated. All that to say that I do, in fact, love Christmas. I love family time spent together, and I love the deeper look into the coming, and inference of the anticipation, of the second coming of Christ.

Yet, this year is a little bit different. I say that because my wife and I are at a new place in regards to growing our family. We have just started the process of adopting an infant. And I do mean just starting, in that it could be two years before we meet the baby that God has in mind for us. This means the child may not even be conceived yet.

As most adoptive families will be able to tell you, most adoptions begin at a place of great pain and struggle for both the parents and the childours is no different. Years of negative pregnancy tests, a miscarriage, and two adoptions, while in our hearts forever, did not come to be. Not a month goes by that I don’t think “maybe this is the month” almost 7 years into my wife and I trying.

There is a deep longing for my wife and I, and an ever increasing anticipation that has been created by these trials. We wait for the moment when we will be able to hold in our arms that which we have dreamed about for years.

Christmas longing Josh HawesThis longing has become something of which I am keenly aware. It makes me reflect on what it must have been like for those in Israel before God’s promise became flesh in the form of a baby who would deliver them from their hopelessness. Within my soul I can feel that deep longing, the ache,  they must have felt, not just for their families, but for their nation, and ultimately, the world! They held to the promise:

 

 

“For to us a child is born,

   to us a son is given;

and the government shall be upon his shoulder,

   and his name shall be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” -Isaiah 9:6

I too can have that longing messily entwined with hope. Not for Jesus coming to save us, for he has done that to completion, but for His Second Coming. Where it says “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” A place where the sorrow, and effects of sin on this world, such as our struggle with infertility, will be no more. That longing is my deepest longing. That is the hope this season heralds—God is with us and He will make all things right.

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!

   Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!

Behold, your king is coming to you;

   righteous and having salvation is he,” -Zechariah 9:9


476f7-dsc_5558Josh Hawes is a hard worker, husband, and father who is trying to faithfully walk through life as he is made more like Christ.