Thriving in Change and Uncertainty

I’ve been struggling to thrive lately, pulled in every direction by life’s constant changes. I’m thankful and content one minute, then discontent or afraid the next as I remember all the unknowns and ‘what ifs’ of the new year ahead.

Rachel Olson ThriveMeanwhile, I keep thinking of the apostle Paul – a man who’d been through shipwrecks, prison, and all sorts of things, yet learned to be content in every kind of situation. I want to learn the same.

What does it mean to thrive when life is good, but my soul is still restless and discontent – hungering for something more? How do I thrive when life constantly fluctuates from one extreme to the next – full of joy and redemption; loss and grief; deep friendship or loneliness, and daunting unknowns? Circumstances are ever changing. I cannot thrive while I’m focused on my surroundings.

When I start grasping for hope and stability in the world around me, I come up short, floundering through every change and disappointment. But when I take my question back to Scripture, Jesus draws my eyes away from my fears and back to himself.

“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15:4)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

 “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” (Psalm 55:22)

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.” (Isaiah 55:1-2)

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

Thrive Rachel OlsonOver and over again, I see the same answer: Remember Me. Seek Me first. I am faithful.

In the Old Testament, the prophet Habakkuk describes a day when the fruit trees will not produce, the crops will fail, and the stables will be empty; nothing is left. In an agricultural society, this could mean starvation. Habakkuk’s basic survival is on the line. And yet his trust in the Lord is so deeply rooted that he can rejoice. Just like the apostle Paul, his eyes are firmly fixed on God, above his circumstances. His hope is not in his surroundings, but in the God who shaped the earth and put breath in his lungs.

This begs the question, where is my hope? Can I look beyond today’s uncertainty and rejoice in the God who holds the entire earth together? Whether today brings laughter, tears, or exhaustion, it makes all the difference to stop and remember whose world we’re in. What is it worth to depend on our own strength or the outlook of our circumstances? God is the one who puts breath in our lungs and sustains us moment by moment. He sees us, He cares, and He holds each situation we face.


Rachel Olson HeadshotRachel Olson recently moved back to the US after making Africa home for 2 years. She hopes to live there again someday soon, where she enjoyed sharing life with hospital patients, learning (and eating!) new things and seeing God offer hope in life’s hard places. Here in the US, she loves a good street taco, card game or deep conversation with friends and family. She longs to see Jesus at work in all of life’s changes, joys, and struggles, and writing helps her make a little more sense of it all. You can find more from Rachel on her blog and Instagram.
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God Makes Me Thrive

Author: Karly Grant

January is an interesting time of year. Honestly for me, it is often a difficult time. It is a time when people look back at the past year and forward for what they hope. For those that make resolutions, often it’s a time when they make the same ones as the year before—they didn’t succeed the previous year and know the change is still needed. While some are hopeful for the new start, others like myself can sometimes fall into a pit of feeling like they haven’t accomplished or have failed.

My birthday weaves into the beginning of January as well. For much of my adult life, January has brought heartache as I realize I am yet another year older, still not married, and my dreams of one day having children are looking more and more like fantasy. While I still have moments of sadness over these things, looking back on 2017 and ahead to 2018 provides brighter glimpses of hope this time around.

The reason is simple: God has shown me how He helped me to thrive. I clung closer to Jesus than ever before, and took scary steps of faith to follow where He led me.

thrive Karly GrantGod showed me how thriving very well could have been my word of the year for 2017. I just discovered it a year too late. That’s kind of how I roll. I’ve never been one to jump on the bandwagon of things just because everyone else is doing it. I’m too stubborn. Instead, I jump on later when it’s not longer popular. I know, I’m weird and stubborn, but God loves me and gets me. That’s why he gave me my 2017 word a year later. Maybe, I’ll reverse the trend and just start naming years after I have lived them. #onewordforlastyear

Being fresh out of a relationship as the year began, allowed me to cling to Jesus more. I saw that I didn’t need a relationship to thrive. My dreams of getting married and having a family may have been put on hold, but other dreams that I had forgotten about were about to be resurrected.

I had dreamed of furthering my education in a different part of the country and taking the opportunity to be adventurous. I let the realities of a relationship overshadow those ideas. I would have been tied down to a small region with fewer schooling options. Once the breakup happened, God reminded me what He placed in my heart.  I truly believe I will thrive as I continue to walk through the doors God is opening.

In February of last year, after much prayer, I decided to take another huge step of faith. I gave notice that I would not be returning to my job in the fall as I would be going to school full time. By earthly standards, this may have seemed foolish, but God has provided what I need. While it is stressful and scary at times, I am at peace with where God is leading. I know He is the one who is guiding me to abundant life. I know He goes before me.

Karly Grant ThriveSpring brought some unexpected health challenges. God was with me each step of the way as I dropped out of classes that term and pushed my moving plans. I had to trust that His timing was better than mine. I had to rest and get healthy. Sometimes, with God, resting is thriving, and doing what you have to do puts you right where you need to be.

And now with 2017 in the past and full time school in the future, I trust God to use me as I thrive exactly where He puts me for such a time as this. A time where I am able venture across the country to follow where He leads.  As I look ahead to 2018, I have no idea what is in store. I do know that God will be with me every step of the way, as He continues to help me thrive for His glory.


image1 (1)Readers, What challenge are you allowing God to move you into in 2018?

Karly is a single 30-something who is striving to follow Jesus and trust Him in every situation. She can be found with a cup of tea or a good beer in hand while cozied up with a good book or enjoying a laugh with family or friends. God has her on a wild journey. In the last year she has quit her job of 15+ years and gone back to school full-time to pursue a career/ministry in the realm  of adoption. God has laid this heavily on her heart and she is willing to trust Him. This homebody is taking the biggest leap of faith yet this spring and moving 1,700 miles away from the life and people she has known as long as she can remember. She is  both terrified and so stinking excited to see how God moves and what opportunities He provides in this adventure.

Change My Heart

Life is full of changes. We all know this, right? We have all experienced big and little changes in life, some people experience more drastic changes than others. As I write this, I am basking in the joy of my seventh wedding anniversary to my wonderful husband. Today we were recounting just a few of the changes that life has brought us in the past seven years. Four daughters, seven jobs between us, and four houses to name a few. If I am being completely honest however, I am not good at change.change Britney Bradley

I have learned over the past year how desperately I need routine to thrive. Maybe our four children have brought this upon me. I love life to be organized, orderly, and planned, and changes shake that for me. Some changes we can prepare for or even decide to make for ourselves. There are also changes that are thrust upon us by family or life circumstances that we do not get the comfort of anticipating. During these unanticipated changes are the times that I desperately need, though do not always desire, a change of heart to come alongside my circumstance.

rock of agesOver the past year I really have learned to run straight to my Lord and Savior when the overwhelm of change rattles me. As I am daily being sanctified and maturing in the Christian faith, I am able to see God as bigger and more glorious than ever before, and myself as more lowly and dependant on Him than ever before. When the waves of life swell over us, we have a choice. In the good and the bad, we can choose to remain inflexible and stuck in old ways, or come to that beautifully humbling place on our knees begging for help. As Charles Spurgeon once put it, “I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me up against the Rock of Ages.”

I often first react in my old ways, not wanting to be inconvenienced or willing to roll with the tides of change. But quickly I find myself reminded that I simply cannot remain in that place, and that I must press in for a change of heart. Not a white-knuckle strong-willed type change of heart, but of asking God for a heart of flesh, not stone. I need a heart willing to become sanctified and gracious and more willing to accept the changes before me. I love these words from God to his people in Old Testament times,

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)

I praise God that He is faithful and able to provide abundantly to us, we need only to ask. He will not leave us in change alone. He will be our guide.


britney-squareBritney Bradley loves being a wife to her loving husband, Brian. She is mother to 3 girls (so far) Ruby, Cora, and Lily, as well as auntie to 8, and friend to many. She has always dreamed about marriage and motherhood, and is now navigating God’s will each and every day in these realms. She enjoys writing when she gets a chance, and of course, coffee.

Goodbyes, Change, and Grandma

Author: Angela Burril

I am not good at change.  I like all things vintage, except my refrigerator and my long-distance traveling car—these I would prefer new or with very low mileage.  Yet, aside from God, all things change.

Angela Burril ChangeThis last spring ushered in a profound change, and I have yet to get my mind and heart around it—the passing of my most beloved Grandmother.  My mother died when I was only 17 years old. In my panic over all the things I did not know how to do without her, Grandma showed up. She lived a mere 10 miles from my house and handled my emotional frenzy with grace. She gave instruction on how to boil an egg, and never disregarded my feelings of despair.

“The only time this will differ is when you are trying to cook at a different altitude.  For now, just boil it for 15 minutes exactly and you will have a perfect egg!  You can do this!” she said, and as she did my blood pressure dropped back down a good 50 points and my heart rate settled to where it could no longer be heard pounding in my ears.

Time and time again my Grandmother would stand in the gap when my motherless spirit threatened to drown my soul with tears and my immobilized voice cried out to the Lord in pain.  God knew I needed her.  God repeatedly sustains me with His word, and often those words come through human vessels. To me, Grandma was a vessel through which God poured compassion, understanding, and love.

In her last days, we knew the time was close.  So, I left my two girls and husband to fend for themselves for a couple days while I traveled three hours alone to say goodbye.  She was no longer always coherent and her eyesight was nearly gone. Into her nursing home room I marched, upright only because I had asked every person I could think of for prayer!  My arms were loaded with my Bible, a hymn book, and a quilt I was working on. My heart carried every intention to be a comfort to Grandma and to tell her how much I loved her.

“Hi Grandma!  It’s me – Angie,” my voice was strained with a lightness that did not reach my soul, and I busied myself looking for a space to unload my arms to give myself a minute to regroup my emotions.

“Oh Angie!  How nice!  Would you like a cupcake?  I’m sure I have cupcakes or something for you!”  Grandma responded in delight.  My gaze did not take long to inventory the room and know that Grandma’s homemade bakery delights were not to be on the menu this time or ever again.  Grandma spelled love F-O-O-D, and every bite of her homemade creations was permeated with her deep affection for her family. Taste buds danced with joy and contentment, sighing because they knew they were home.

“That’s so nice, but no.  I’m okay.”  I replied and moved to change the subject.  “May I read to you from my Bible Grandma?”  I asked.

“Yes,” she replied very simply.  I read to her from my Bible, and then from the hymnal the stories of how hymn writers were inspired to write a particular hymn.  Then I sat my quilt in her lap, so she might feel the work I was doing on it.  She dosed off and on all day, but just when I thought she was asleep she would pipe up with a timely word that made me smile.  So, I talked to her the whole time, just like I had always done since I was a little girl.

“Grandma, when it comes time to go, look for the angels.  They will show the way to Jesus.  In Luke 16:22 Jesus tells the story of how the poor man called Lazarus “…was carried by the angels…” after he died.  Grandma said nothing and seemed to be far off in her own thoughts.

The next day I came to say goodbye.  Grandma was having a good morning.  She listened to my step-mom and I sing some hymns and I read a blessing over Grandma.  Numbers 6:24-26:

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

“Grandma, I just want to say thank you,” I said in a voice so thick with emotions that I could not find the words to convey all that I felt.  “You have loved us well.”

She visibly brightened with delight and replied without hesitation, “You’re welcome.  There is enough to go around.”  The next flood of tears rose instantly in my throat.  I treasured up these words to muse over later, because there was still one more thing to say.  I needed to tell her the last words my 10-year-old daughter wanted Grandma to hear.

Change Angela Burril“Grandma, Teal wanted me to tell you that if she doesn’t see you before, she will see you with Jesus in heaven.”  My tears were near the breaking point, but I wanted to stay in this moment.  I swallowed hard again, and bent to kiss her cheek goodbye.  “I love you, Grandma.”  I turned and walked blindly to the door.

Just as I reached the door, Grandma called out to me once again, “Travel safely.”

I don’t know what God is teaching me through goodbye, but I know He holds tomorrow.  In the midst of this pain, there is joy and that can only be because of the hand of the LORD!  I would not feel the pain if I had not felt the love.  I can take the joy and the pain because I know it has been sifted through God’s fingers. He is here to comfort me as I grieve.

I grieve, but I do not live in grief.  The sacrifice of Jesus laying down His life has given me this freedom.  I can rejoice, although I am certainly sad, because I know, thanks to Jesus, I will see Grandma again.


Angela Burril HeadshotAngela Burril lives on a small acreage farm in Madras, OR with her husband, Gus, and two young daughters, Teal (10 years) and Shiloh (5 years).  She taught high school science (Biology, Forensic Science, Integrated Science, and Physical Science) for eight years.  After that, she became a stay at home mom and part time “ranch/farm manager.”  For the last 10 years, Angela has taught ladies Bible Studies, and some various adult Sunday School Classes.  Some of the topics she has spoke on include: waiting on God, fear, loneliness, letting God lead your emotions, grace, loss, and spiritual authenticity. Angela’s speaking is characterized by sincerity and a wholehearted attempt to see the trials and challenges in life as blessed
opportunities to see and feel God’s presence.

Fostering Change

Driving down the highway on auto-pilot, I spoke outloud to the little one gazing sleepily out the window as I breathed in the early morning air.

“Today you get to be with your mom and dad all day, and pretty soon you don’t have to leave them anymore. They are going to take care of you and I will miss you so much.” She babbled back, but she was too little to have real words.

Unbuckle. Deep Breath. The handoff. Go home. Come Back just in time for dinner. Meltdown. Bedtime with an extra song. Pray for her. For Mom. For Dad. Repeat.

foster care Holly Hawes changeUntil one day we packed everything up and restoration happened. A family was reunited. We prayed our way to the moment when we shook their hands, unpacked the boxes, and drove as far as we could. We drove to the Pacific Coast where the salty air mixed with our tears and we could be reminded of the very big God who made the ocean so vast. He was the one who had intertwined our story with this little girl and the many people who love her. He is the one who holds us together when changes in life are hard, because even good change can be difficult.

My days have changed since then. Life doesn’t revolve around naptime, visitation schedules,and playing peek-a-boo. Every child we have had over that last four years has changed us. For a season there were new schedules, taking apart the bunk bed and putting together the crib, new schools, moving the bedrooms around again, different snacks because the last child liked cheese sticks, and this one doesn’t.

Now the time has come for a harder change. We are no longer foster parents, by choice. Partly to rest from the chaos of a revolving door, and partly to eventually pursue adoption through another means.

Before I finally accepted the change, I dug in my heels. I thought we were called to this? Even if we come back in the future, how is it that now is not the right time? How can I say no to the phone calls, the stories, the children who wait in DHS offices for a family to give them shelter? God, what are you doing?! What does this change mean?

Then, I was reminded this weekend of a word I began to ponder almost a decade ago as I read Isaiah 58.

Restore.

 

“And the LORD will guide you continually

and satisfy your desire in scorched places

and make your bones strong;

and you shall be like a watered garden,

like a spring of water,

whose waters do not fail.

And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;

you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;

you shall be called the repairer of the breach,

the restorer of streets to dwell in.” Isaiah 58:11-12

 

Holly Hawes Change Foster Care (1)I long to be a restorer in my community. I have had just a taste of seeing restoration first-hand, and I want to see more. I long for broken generations of people who are stuck in self-destructive lifestyles to find their footing in Christ—the only foundation that can bring true change and life.

The mission we have is timeless, but the specific application can change. There isn’t just one place where that restoration happens. It happens in foster care, in the women’s shelters, in my kid’s classroom, in my neighborhood, in the home, and within my soul. Wherever the people of God are, the Lord is guiding them, satisfying them, making them a spring of water able to overflow with the living water to people who are dying of thirst.


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.

The Discipline of Change

I’m going through a difficult season right now where I feel broken and tired at every turn–health difficulties and struggles, emotional and mental instability, and also just the tiring parts of adulting. In this season, one where I feel so helpless, I’ve been forced to trust God like never before. I’ve been forced to give over control (mostly perceived!) in so many areas.

Sarah Clews ChangeI can’t believe I thought I knew what trusting God looked like as a young adult. Have you ever looked back on something you did or said when younger and just cringed with embarrassment? Too many times I look back with horror at my judgmental nature, hasty conclusions, overly direct and harsh words, and thoughtlessness. Sometimes I’m surprised I still have any friends after how I behaved!

I’m encouraged though by how God has been working on changing and transforming my soul over the years. The kind of trust I’m learning now…it’s so much more painful and brutal and soul stripping. It’s the kind of pruning that hurts bad but brings forth the best fruit. I’ve recently discovered just how many props I’ve been leaning on. What does one do when these props are stripped away? What’s left? My bare naked soul is finding that I control so much less than I ever thought.  

change sarah clewsGod has used my three little girls to break me down and root out my selfishness. The constant needs of three tiny humans, the mountains of laundry, the endless wiping, cleaning, cooking, and so on, refines me. I really identify with the hashtag #motherhoodissanctifying, and have found encouragement as my children need discipline, because it reminds me true discipline comes from love. All of life, I see it serving as part of the process of change. Paul reminds us it will all be used to make us into more Christ like people. “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

We take hope in being disciplined and changed by God, “For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” Hebrews 12:6 The change, the hardship, the mundane routine, it’s a sign that we are His beloved children. The best part? God never says, “You know what! I’ve told you this a million times and you just don’t listen.” He’s the Pursuer, the Rescuer and He never gives up. I am not a lost cause, and neither are you.


sarah-c-squareSarah Clews is a wife, mother of two little girls, and prolific reader. She received her BS from Corban University in English and still loves writing. She helps her husband run their martial arts school, and in her free time, enjoys sewing, experimenting with makeup, and reading blogs.

Resting in the God Who Never Changes

“This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure, and found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected.” –J.R.R. Tolkien

I am a girl who embraces change — well, mostly. I traversed through 5 colleges, travel often, and worked numerous jobs before I became a nurse. Each switch in my life’s story welcomed fully. I need not fear, for I was girl on an adventure!

Change Sarah DohmanAnd then adulthood hit, head on. Instead of looking for the next inspiring task or journey, I began to plant roots. Roots that have now run deep, and secure. Those around me seem to having perpetual changes happening in their life. But for me life has been fairly consistent for a couple of years. I’ve worked for the same school district for 3, going on 4 years. I’ve attended the same church for 10 years. Even my newest source of change, the new community group I attend, has been meeting for a year.

I know change is coming down the pike, as it always does, but sometimes my life can feel like a hamster wheel: spinning, spinning. Consistency is not necessarily bad, but what happens when consistency feels like monotony? What truths and/or lies do I believe about myself— about God when life goes on, and I’m feeling a little left behind?

Upon examination of my heart and mindset, I’d say the biggest emotion I feel in the daily grind is fear. Consequently, what I personally love about God’s word is how it shows us what to do when riddled with fear.

Sarah Dohman ChangeIsaiah 43:1-2 says, “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you: and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” In this passage of Scripture, Israel’s people are about to walk through huge change. God prepares their hearts by explaining they are not alone. God’s people are never alone. They need not fear because they have been chosen and redeemed, and God will not leave their side! What reassurance the Israelites had, and what reassurance we can have too.

When everyday life rests in the mundane, I rest assured in knowing I am not forgotten. I am loved by a God who will walk through the stillness with me. I can submerse myself in His word and be reminded that He chose me and knows me.

Oswald Chambers succinctly sums up what God is up to when change feels distant. “We have the idea that God is going to do some exceptional thing, that He is preparing and fitting us for some extraordinary thing by and by, but as we go on in grace we find that God is glorifying Himself here and now, in the present minute. If we have God’s say-so behind us, the most amazing strength comes, and we learn to sing in the ordinary days and ways.”

My hope is that in the mundane, when the outside world is bustling with change, there would be an inner strengthening of my character. That my heart would be so reliant upon God, contentment would take root inside my heart, and I would be a woman not living in fear, but in ultimate trust that His ways are better than my own, whatever may come.


sarah-dohman-square Sarah Dohman is a nurse, kayak enthusiast, coffee addict, microbrew lover, globe trotter, adorer of friends and family. She has a weakness for donuts, runs in 5k races, and cannot get enough tea and books. She loves writing more than talking (and she talks a lot), can be seen at Target frequently, and is loving life in her thirties. She believes God has called her to this space to bring joy and encouragement through words to friends and family, near and far. You can find more from Sarah at her blog or on Instagram.