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.
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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.

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.

Book Review: If Only You Knew by Jamie Ivey

I first learned of the Ivey family through a video showing their family going through the adoption process during the disastrous earthquake in Haiti. The longing for their children to be home, while at the same time praying for God to comfort and be near resonated with my heart.  It was one of the key pieces God used to draw us into adoption, and why my family is comprised of a feisty 16 year old, two almost-30 year old parents, and 12 bonus foster children who have come in and out over the last 4 years. (Yes, we will be 31 when she graduates!) Their telling of their adoption process didn’t skip past the hard in between spots, or even the rough patches of parenting. Their vulnerability and trust in God struck something deep within and catalyzed us.

image2Fast forward a few years, and I discovered the “Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey” podcast.  It is by far my most listened to, and recommended podcast in my life for the very same reason– vulnerability.  Deep trust in God that touches all of life is constantly on display, and the interviews of actual people who God has used in varied ways remind me of the depth of people opposed to the two-dimensional instagram version.

I was ecstatic to get to be a part of the “launch team” for Jamie’s first book, If You Only Knew: My Unlikely, Unavoidable Story of Becoming Free. I received a free ebook copy (after preordering) in exchange for telling YOU about it.  For those of you who know me, I would have anyway!

I have to tell you.  She did it again. I love this book and have told someone about it almost every day since I started it.

I’ve been a “church girl” for a long time, and am familiar with how things go.  Often instead of walking in freedom, we sanitize our story, hiding the messy details and covering up the very places God is most at work in our lives. Our sin and struggle become things to manage.  There are topics we don’t touch, or if we do, the story is about someone else or a long time ago.

Jamie challenges this tendency,

“When seen through the eyes of the gospel, our stories are not obstacles to our freedom; they are actually the key to unlocking it.”

This book is Jamie’s story of how God worked in her life.  It feels a lot like reviewing the tapes of her experiences and speaking the gospel over the girl she was. Telling the truth she wished she knew at that point.  

Let me tell you, we all need that.  Whether it is the girl you were, or the woman you are today, the Gospel of Jesus intersects every bit of your life.  Sin. Struggle. Failure. Success.

He knows it all, and loves us enough to die for us.  Especially the parts we don’t talk about. Somehow the very things we want to hide are what God can use in the lives of others who may not know His love.

“When we hide the mess we’ve been through, we also hide the redemption that God has lavishly poured on us.  We can’t proclaim His grace until we expose our mess.”

image1 (1)I’m convinced that the vulnerability that Jamie shares with us in this book is what women in the church are longing for. Even more, it is for women who want to love Jesus, but think their past (or current) life somehow disqualifies them from being a Christian.  I cannot think of another book that so pointedly proclaims that sin is sin but Jesus is greater, and He is our only source of freedom.  

You can find all the info for her book at http://ifyouonlyknewbook.net/ and until November 6th they have some awesome perks for pre-ordering including 20% off from Waterloo Style (aka Jamie’s awesome earring source)  and 5 entries to win a 2-day getaway for two to Green Acres with travel included, a dinner with the Iveys, and a basket of Jamie’s favorite things.

If you win, I’d be happy to be your second person!


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.

 

Sitting With Messy Grief

In memory, the turbulence created by losing a loved one causes those first long days of mourning to become foggy, but the people who showed up, stood up, and rose up amongst the chaotic whirl of life stand out.  As one who has been cocooned in grief and blankets on the edge of the couch I remember the faces that flowed in and out. When the sorrows of life and death pile high, our thoughts can easily become characterized more by messy questions than solid faith.

It would be foolish to assume that life can happen without mess, though I might just take that option if it were available. We all face trials and bear witnesses to how quickly life can become layered and difficult. It is there in the stacking of trial that we face a choice.  Let people in.  Let the God (who already knows) in. Or, leave the facade in place.

Messy Grief Holly HawesIn a day when  friendships can be made online, the ability to seclude ourselves from interactions with others continues to increase. Our relationships often appear to be more “fair weather” than anchor. When the water is rough we need to know solid ground can be sought.  Who will be there?  What is true?

God is not afraid of our mess. Whether it be caused by sin, or by suffering, he pursues us right where we are.  In Psalm 34:18 we are reminded that, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”  

His nearness and presence isn’t just an afterthought, it infiltrates every nook and cranny of the story arc of time.  In the very beginning of creation people walked with God in the garden of Eden. The “with” was broken by sin, and a savior was promised, one who was announced in Matthew chapter 1 as “Immanuel” (which means, God with us).”

Not, God watching the mess from far off. God with us.

There is profound opportunity for holy community in what I have come to think of as withness.

Definition: Identifying with another person, standing by their side through a storm. Being with them no matter how hard or messy it becomes. See also steadfast love.

We call this cosmic withness the incarnation. God becoming flesh, identifying with us. Jesus did not flee from the mess. He experienced: Loneliness, disappointment, loss, rocky friendships, betrayal.

He can handle our questions and days that seem brazen, broken, and dark. Mess doesn’t push him away, instead he draws near. He shows up.

Psalm 31:7 says, “I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul,…”

We must let down the facade, the masks, and the pretense and be comforted in how God sees. He knows. Full of mercy and steadfast love, He is Immanuel.

Little matters more that who is with us and who we are with. We have the opportunity to reflect God’s goodness to the world. While acting as the hands of feet of Jesus may sound cliche, we forget what an honor it is. Until the dwelling of God is with us in glory, the people of God, by the power of His spirit, go to offer presence to others.

Holly Hawes Messy GriefThere are countless barriers to simply slowing down to be with others, especially in times of suffering or loss. We get wrapped up in our own busy lives and fail to notice that day by day they withdraw and wither. We don’t know if we should mention their pain, so we gloss over it. We wear the mask for them, pretending we don’t see that life has shattered, but we need not always force discussion when we know how to be with. We can say, “I’m here to talk if you want to, but I am also just here to be. You are not alone, just let me know what you need. I also brought chocolate, blankets, coffee, movies etc.”

It mattered to me when someone cared right in the middle of mess with truth, not platitudes.  It mattered that love became action: the friend who brought flowers, another who fed us, the one who took over my sink of dirty dishes. Though the world spun God came, and He sent his people to be with me when I could offer nothing.

When the mess of despair filled me and threatened to overflow, I was full of doubt. The presence of others reminded me that God had not abandoned me. He had not left me. The pain was palpable, but He was still sweet. He was present in the here and now, and with the one who was no longer with me.


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 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.

Finding Rest

Summer vacation is quickly sailing away, and with it the moments dedicated to pursuing rest, adventure, and connection. As I look back on this summer, it is easy to wonder where the sunsets and sunrises went. Packed into the summer were days “off” and trips away, but it was basically being busy in a new location.

We fervently checked off the items on our summer “bucket list”: go to Saturday Market, check. Read a book, check. Hike, celebrate Anniversary, go berry picking, swim often, go to the beach, check, check, check. Yet, cramming in these restful activities has somehow created the opposite result. I lost the rest in my resting. How is it that I feel the need for a vacation from vacationing?

Rest Holly HawesI’m tempted to scratch out “September” on my calendar and instead write in bold sharpie: GET STUFF DONE. No other season tempts the part of me that is a recovering perfectionist more than fall. Between color coded school supplies and an uptick in scheduled activities for the various members of the family is a deceptive little lie: Getting stuff done is the most important thing. Productivity speaks to your worth.

It is so subtle. Just a shade off. For a long time I didn’t realize that my life was dictated by a false value system that signed me up for all the good things. The christianized version of this culture of productivity: Doing more for/with God is the most important thing. You are worthwhile and more loved based on how much you get done. If alarms aren’t sounding warning in your mind yet, be aware, because this lie is pervasive and harmful. The absence of rest leaves weary, unconnected, striving souls wondering why the very activity they pursued has left them feeling captive.

Something in our humanity requires rest. Our need for sleep on a regular basis is a signal that we are not self sufficient. Pushing through a few all nighters is different than simply not needing to sleep. Most people have experienced the crankiness of a child (or even yourself) that is quickly reset with a nap and a snack. Though we may deny it or pretend we are now somehow superior to previous generations, the need for rest has only grown as our reliance on technology and time saving methods has increased.

Our creator, knows this about us. “Then he [Jesus] said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.’”-Mark 2:27

The God who formed the universe and created humankind built into us a need for rest. He also created a system of rest for His people described in several places in the Old testament that was referenced by Jesus during his time on earth. By no means am I an advocate of legalistic law keeping—Jesus has fulfilled everything. However, the one who made us knows how we operate. He created regular rhythms of rest: a weekly Sabbath, Every 7th year a Sabbath year, and every 50th year an additional year off (Leviticus 25). During these times no work was to be done. The time was set aside to worship God in order to practice reliance. A day to remember that God is sufficient to meet any and all needs. A year in an agrarian society in which they did not plant, produce, or in modern day terms “hustle”. Each half century, a reset occurred: Debts were forgiven, people freed from indentured servitude, land redistributed by family once again.

I cannot even rest for a whole week on vacation without feeling the need to busy myself. What would a whole community at rest for an entire year look like? There is so much to learn from the practice of habitually resting.

Regular, Planned Timeframes

People tend to rest when forced. An illness, exhaustion, or panic attack signals that the human body is outside of the realm of optimal conditions. Rest is the only answer. We not only need rest for our bodies, but also emotional and spiritual rest.

Rather than running us down, God provided regular times for this rest to occur. Today, we must fight for that rest ahead of time as we schedule our lives. Or, prayerfully rest for a time, perhaps months, or a year rather than climbing the corporate ladder or making a big move.

At Risk Of…

In their day the risk of loss in productivity was actually food to feed their families. In comparison, I have little to lose. Productivity matters little in the light of eternity. Each of us has things that are ours to do, and we strive to use the days God has given us well. But He made us for rest, any task before us is done within that understanding.

Whole Community

Holly Hawes RestOne excuse to forgo resting is the never-ending competition. Surely someone else will get ahead if I stop and rest. In Biblical times this problem was a non issue because the entire community would be at rest together. No one planting. No one working. I imagine a lot more time chatting around the fire took place. As well as time dedicated to learning what God had to say and remembering His goodness to them in the past years.

This aspect is harder to replicate. I have a hard time imagining what it could look like. From the outside looking in, those who know Jesus should be known for being at rest.

Reliance

In the end, reliance on God rather than ourselves is what rest really comes down to. It tests our true beliefs when we must act. Will it really be ok if I take a day off? Will the school be at risk because I chose not to be on the PTA? Why do I think the world revolves around me anyway?

When I stop, God continues to keep the world spinning. My heart still beats. Rather than seeing the hustle, I see the beauty. I see the people He has placed before me to love. I see the great masterpiece of creation. I see the adventure He is calling me into. In rest there is quiet enough to hear Him again.


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.

One Another Friendship

Last week a beautiful thing happeneda friend dropped by. No planning, no consulting our schedules to pencil in a playdate in six weeks pending the weather, possible illness, and the unforeseen mishaps that are bound to happen. Just a knock at the door.

As we sat amidst my laundry, watching little ones play we chatted about what was going on in life. As we took breaks to feed children or put a grumpy baby to bed, we coached the littles on friendship 101. Don’t pinch. Give her space. You can play with it when she is done. Gentle. Be slow to anger,she didn’t realize that hurt you. Yelling isn’t how we talk to our friends.

Friendship Holly HawesIt is good advice for us all.

Later, they will learn to keep confidences, cheer one another on, and be includers. To care for one another’s broken hearts, and forgive one another.

One another is really what friendship is about. As Christians, friendship is not simply based on common interests or places in life, but on the fact that as followers of Jesus we are family. Beyond stage of life, race, or ambition we are called to relationship. Because of this the one another includes the other.

Romans 12:10 Love one another with {Sisterly} affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

While the Bible doesn’t have a top 10 list of friendship do’s and don’ts, when I think about the way a family should treat one another, I continue to gain more insight into how redeemed sister-friendship works.

Come as you are

…But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

There is no need to clean yourself up to join the family, and we shouldn’t permit the facade of perfection to remain within our friendships. Family gets to see all sides of you. Morning bedhead. Messy room. Struggling and succeeding. There is vulnerability in sharing your real life, and this is exactly where we begin to connect deeply with one another as sister-friends. Past the Pinterest projects and small talk is the part of your soul made for real inter-dependence.

Confess

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:16

I vividly remember the first time I sat across from a friend and confessed an area I’d been struggling that I hoped to never say outloud. Years later, I don’t remember even what I actually confessed, but I remember the deep relief and healing I felt as she said outloud that God had already forgiven me and she forgave me as well. We need people in our lives who can tell us the truth, hear us out, and pray for us.

Holly Hawes FriendshipMartin Luther famously said, ‘All a Christian’s life is of repentance.” Indeed, we are people who not only say we are in need of the change God can bring in our life on day one of following Jesus, but  also on every day after that. In our relationships this means  we are to be sisters and friends who are real about the places we are struggling and are pointing one another back to the good news of the gospel.

Forgiveness

…bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:13

Friendship has a certain quality of commitment that is never stated in vows, signed on a legal document, or even agreed upon in a conversation. Instead, day in and day out we begin to do the things that make relationships last and slowly a foundation is built. Part of that foundation must be forgiveness or the relationship will not stand the test of time. People do fail, and no one but Jesus is perfect. We are able to forgive one another because we know that God has forgiven us.

I’m With You

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15

As sisters we hold front row seats to each other’s life. We must cheer each other on both in times of joy and pain. I find that most people are great at half of this verse. We have the encouraging cheerleader party thrower types who celebrate well when a friend gets a promotion, begins a romantic relationship, has a baby, or is just excited for the new hobby she started. On the other hand there are the mercy-filled empathetic type who sit and weep with those struggling with illness, infertility, loss of a job, disappointment, or marriage trouble. We default to one side, but miss out if we don’t learn to give both rejoicing and weeping.

You Have a Gift

For as in one body we have many members,and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them Romans 12 :4-6a

For some reason, it is difficult to see in ourselves the ways that God has made us and gifted us. We need our sisters to point out how they see God at work through us, and how our gifts are needed. So next time you see a friend excelling at something, let them know. Because we are not alone in this journey. We were designed to encourage, help, and serve those whom God loves, those He created in His image.


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 holly-squareas 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 Story of Wonder

 

I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.”-Psalm 77:11

There is an upside-down topsy-turvy nature to the story that God is writing. The pages of the Bible take its readers through an unexpected storyline. It’s a lot less #blessed, and a lot more figuring out grace, belief, faith, and trust in the middle of mundane endeavors. The place where God shows up time and time again isn’t when everything is clean, or when life is easy, but right in the middle of pain, confusion, and a sink full of dishes. This life with God is more about being withless about doing. It’s more about following when we cannot seeless about striving after the perfect plan.

I’ve often missed the gift of wonder by not noticing what God has done, because I am so busy trying to stay away from the mess. The truth is, we cannot understand the gravity of the wonders of this God who is utterly outside all our paradigms unless we see the mess he entered into. It is easy to take things that are true, but strip them down to a sanitized version that can fit on a mug wreathed in trendy watercolor flowers.

“Look among the nations, and see;

 wonder and be astounded.

For I am doing a work in your days

 that you would not believe if told.” Habakkuk 1:5

People wonderYes, wonder. Yes, be astounded. Yes, believe that God is doing something amazing that you don’t even see yet. All that is true, but keep reading. Go back a few verses, read about how fed up the author is with injustice and how he cried out to God. The answer he received: This is not going to go the way you want it to. You’re going to lose. There will be pain. Yet somehow, this predicament was the work of God. His response, even though it’s going to be awful:

“…yet I will rejoice in the Lord;

 I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

God, the Lord, is my strength;

 he makes my feet like the deer’s;

 he makes me tread on my high places.”

-Habakkuk 3:18-19

I want faith like this. It is faith that astounds. A faith that makes the world wonder, because it raises the question, “Is that person crazy, or is this Jesus is real?”

  • When people cling to God despite a dangerous diagnosis. Not because God will automatically heal them, or make life good again (though he could, and sometimes does), but because He is their strength.
  • Joy in the midst of struggle, be it financial uncertainty, difficult relationships, or loss.
  • Declarations of the goodness of God despite the current state of affairs.

Looking into the lives of my brothers and sisters in Christ, gives flesh to the ways God is working even in incredibly hard times. Without vulnerability and close connection within a community of believers I would be tempted to view their lives out of context in the same way I cherry picked verses for so many years.

Look at that great promotion, the cute Instagram picture, the orderly children who said the cutest thing today, and so on and so on. We must let people into the struggle, or they won’t know the goodness of God in the midst of it.

Stories of wonderThe wonder that a couple made it to their next anniversary isn’t there, if you don’t know how desperately they prayed to be able to forgive one another. Again. The wonder of the college student graduating isn’t there, if you don’t know that they were taken from their parents for their own safety and bounced from foster home to foster home all through grade school. The wonder of God in the person limping past you, is lost when you don’t know that only a year ago they couldn’t walk.

I’ve truly been amazed by the steadfast love of God when I see his story both on pages and in the lives of his children in context. I find wonder in listening. By asking another the question, “What is God doing in your life?” You will find more of God revealed. I’ve also been listening through the Bible in large chunks at a time. It was supposed to take 90 days- which would put me in Revelation by now, but I’m a bit behind and through 2 Samuel instead.

Listening to the stories of these characters, their  relationships, and God’s story of redemption has opened up the scriptures to men in a new way. The lives of the people known to be “heroes” of the faith are just as messy as the lives of those who surround me today, if not more so. Their story isn’t written so that I can try to measure up, but to give a picture of a person following God through all the ups and downs.
They, like me, needed to see the goodness and graciousness of God in response to their flaws. I need mercy. I get stuck. I find my identity in all sorts of things that cannot satisfy. Even when I know only Jesus does. These stories. Your story. My story. We are living pictures filled with wonder, not because we have lived perfectly, but because we have lived with faith.


Readers, What causes you to be amazed by Got? What causes you to be struck by someone’s story?

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.