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When Hope Dies

We were driving home as we usually do. Pulling down the last stretch of our street, I noticed a butterfly that appeared to cross our path. I hoped I hadn’t hit it.

We get home, the boys started to make their way into the house, walking past the front of our van. Suddenly they stopped. I heard a gasp. I became fearful, immediately thinking that I hit one of our children. I called out, “What is it? What is it?” The boys replied, “It’s a butterfly.”

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Our oldest son grabbed her from the grill of our van. “She’s hurt, mama. I think her legs got burned.”

Indeed she was hurt, and three of her legs were completely missing. He gently held her in his hands.

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He walked around with her on his finger for sometime. Her wings would open and close. Her head would lift up and down. “Do you think she will be okay, mama?” “I really don’t know. She has lost three legs and I don’t know if she can fly. I really don’t know if she will live, but she sure is beautiful..”

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Seconds passed then minutes, and after sometime of him being outside just holding her, our son came in the house with the butterfly in a box. “I named her Hope.”

And hope he did.

He stood there just watching her. “I wanted to shield her from the wind. The wind was knocking her over.”

She seemed worse off inside in the box. She was trapped and probably cold. Her little wings barely moving now.

I stood there watching her and watching our son. Tears filling his eyes his voice crackles, “I don’t want her to die, mama.”

It was then that it hit me so hard, the overwhelming feeling that I wasn’t just looking at a boy hurting for a hurt butterfly, I was catching a glimpse of a savior. Oh that we could only see how Jesus hurts when we hurt.

And so I asked him if I could take his picture while he cried, explaining to him how he reminded me of Jesus in that moment. He just nodded, and tried to wipe away the tears.

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There was our son. He was so much larger and so much more powerful than the little bug in the box. His lifespan would most likely far exceed that of any bug, let alone this bug. Why did he care? Why did he hope? Perhaps because Hope had touched him.

And perhaps it was Hope’s fault for crossing into where she shouldn’t cross. But that is what hope does. Hope intersects us. Hope collides with us. Hope holds on to us in the middle of the gravest conditions and makes us want to hold on longer to life. And when we feel the hold of hope, we feel the heart of God.

Hope was looking weak. I suggested our son take Hope outside back into the sunshine to warm up, and so he did.

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Our son gently opened the wire fencing that was placed to protect Hope from predators. He carefully coaxed Hope from the box onto his hand and removed her from her cage.
He held Hope once again in his hands.

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Our son knelt there next to her open cage with Hope in his hands. I stared at him for some time, moved.

Because isn’t this what Jesus does? He finds us in our brokenness, holds us, protects us, and then sets us free. I imagined Hope flying off right there from his hands. But Hope did not fly. All Hope did was hold on. And after nearly two hours of Hope holding onto our son, it became more and more clear, that Hope was dying. The slightest wind would knock her over. Dying hope is often knocked over by the slightest wind.

Our son placed Hope on a flowering bush in our yard. She rested there for sometime. Come evening she was still alive but hardly opening her wings anymore. Our son left her on the bush overnight hoping to find her gone in the morning.

In the morning, gone she was, but not as our son had hoped. Her body was lifeless. Hope had died.

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Our son began to cry. He began to question and get angry, “Why did she have to die? Why does everything here on this earth have to die? Why couldn’t she live?”

Oh, that I was wise enough to answer all of life’s mysteries. I closed my teary eyes and responded, “I don’t know. Sometimes the hurt is so bad, that the greatest way to be healed is to die. That is what the cross is all about. Jesus took on all our pain and shame, our sickness and infirmities, and there on a cross he died so we wouldn’t have to… At least not physically… But when it comes to people, the hurt we are stuck in has to die, in order for us to truly live. As for your butterfly, Hope isn’t trapped in a body that is suffering anymore.”

“You mean she can’t feel this?” He asked opening her wings.

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“No. She isn’t in that body anymore.”

He thought on the hard truth for sometime. I found myself thinking long and hard on it too.

There we were, the two of us, staring at a dead butterfly. And yes, I’ll admit it, I was also struggling a bit, “Lord, really? You let a butterfly named ‘Hope’ die? My son hoped so hard for it to live and still it died. How does that build his faith? How does that build his hope?”

His answer?

It was written long ago. I was reminded of it as I walked in our kitchen after watching our children bury Hope:

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Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18
New King James Version (NKJV)

All the things we hold here will eventually flutter away.

And if we place our hope only in them, and make them the center of our joy, our hope and joy will flutter away as well.

All we can do is care for the things that have been placed in our hands while they are in our hands, understanding that eventually we will have to place them back in the hands of The Lord. In Him is our Hope. In Him is the promise of life eternal.

When Hoped died we placed her body back into the dust from which we all were made.

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We gathered rocks and a beautiful flower and laid them above where her body was laid to rest, as some small way to make a record of the gift that she was for the short time we had her… Some small way to say thank you. We imagined her flying in heaven above where true hope is found.

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Should something you placed your hope in be gone today… Should your heart be hurting and your soul wrestling, I am praying for you… Writing this to remind you, that when hope dies, hope still lives.

May you give those hurts to Jesus and make room for new life. May you be filled with hope today.

 

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“Don’t eat that.”

“You should have this down by now.”

“Didn’t you tell them not to do that? They don’t listen to you, and everyone sees it.”

“Look at all of you. What a disgrace, a far cry from the Duggards by far.”

“What were you thinking? A wise mother wouldn’t do that.”

“Why did God choose you to be a mom anyway? You clearly aren’t good at it. He picked the wrong person for this job.”

“Have another one? Ha! You can’t even control the ones you have! You need to quit now, pack it up before it gets even worse, because you know it is going to get even worse. You are barely afloat. Have anymore and you are going to sink the whole ship.”

“They behaved like that in church! Shameful. All that work getting them there for what? Just stay home. Save yourself the work and embarrassment.”

“You act so happy and blessed. Look at you. This is the real you. You are miserable. You are a fake and have no business ministering to anyone.”

Words whispered from an all too familiar voice. He loves to spew his poison in the midst of the seeming chaos. He speaks as clearly as The Lord, yet his words never bring peace. He brings doubt. He brings defeat. He comes with accusations and with lies disguised as truth. He often comes camouflaged as your very own thoughts. At times his voice is so similar to The Lord, but don’t be fooled. His words if ingested lead straight to death. Ask Adam. Ask Eve.

Where good mixes with evil, that is where you find him. Where truth becomes blurred by lies. And God has said, “Don’t eat that.” Yet the enemy slides in whispering, “Eat… Listen… Believe.”

Oh yes, the enemy wants you to be believe. He wants you to believe his words that you aren’t good enough. He wants you to believe that you should have everything in control. He wants you to believe you are a fake. He wants you to believe you are a failure. He wants you to believe you can’t… You just can’t, and furthermore, you shouldn’t. He wants you to believe that others are against you. He wants to isolate you. He wants you to believe that you will never measure up. And most of all, he wants you to believe that God was wrong. God was wrong when he made you and wrong when he chose you. Believe that and you will doubt everything God has said.

Satan whispered to Eve, “Did God really say?” And his whisper hasn’t changed.

Satan lied when he said, “You won’t die.” And he still is the speaker of lies.

Eve was deceived, but you need not be.

Adam ate freely and then blamed God.

Don’t you.

Don’t ingest the enemies lies.

A prayer for today:

“Heavenly Father, we ask that you give us a discerning ear. Help us to recognize your voice and the voice of the enemy. You said your sheep know your voice. Help us to know it. Help us to daily filter the words that approach our mind and heart, for every word is like a seed, capable of producing fruit. May the words we ingest be your words. May they plant and produce much fruit. May the words of the enemy find no place to take root. May we spew them out of our heart. May they wither and die and produce no fruit. Help us to remember that you desire to do mighty things through us, far more than we could ever imagine or comprehend. Help us to be at peace with who we are in you. Truth rise up. Joy rise up. Light arise. Darkness flee. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

 

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To My Husband

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It was supposed to be a beach, sunset wedding… That is what we planned out over the course of six short days. And we weren’t even going to have a ceremony. We were going to go to the courthouse, get married and “make things right in the eyes of The Lord.”

That is what we were told we needed to do, by the mystical, “tennis court angel.” That is what I like to call her, even though you and I both know she wasn’t really an angel. And she wasn’t really “mystical.” She was just a woman who followed what she called the “leading of The Lord” late on a September night and found you exactly where The Lord told her you would be. She led you to salvation, and you then led me, but there was one thing she mentioned that we needed to do in order to “make things right”… Get married.

And it sounded crazy, stupid even… Believing some random woman was truly “Led by The Lord”…. “Having” to get married to “get right with The Lord”?

But we went with it. You followed the leading of a woman you truly believed was placed by God to intercept our world and forever change everything. You made the choice to follow Jesus and “make things right” as you felt you were being led to do. And I… Not so convinced… Simply made the choice to follow you. If you were going to follow Jesus, so was I. I would follow you anywhere… God knew that .

So we went to the courthouse on a Monday morning in order to “make things right,” if only on paper.

We walked out of that courthouse, ages nineteen and twenty-one, with a marriage license in hand. It was surreal to say the least.

And we would have gone to the court, but Tia and Tio said that wasn’t good enough and so we began planning a wedding.

Sunset. On the Beach. Hawaiian style. Standing room only… Lots of room.

We lined up a family friend who was a notary to perform our ceremony. We began thinking about flowers and favors… Little chocolates with our picture on it…. A cake with seashells, which we later learned was a bad idea.

(Mental Note: Real seashells on a cake is a bad idea. Also bad at the bottom of two betta bowls. Our poor wedding fish… Rough start but they survived! And so have we… Taking lots of “mental notes” along the way).

We planned for awesome homemade food cooked by your brother, a reception at Tio and Tia’s… It was all planned.

We invited every shocked friend we could think of and family. But being dead-set to get married soon, many, including our own parents were not able to attend.

We got as much marital counseling as we could in a week and a lot of prayer… God bless Pastor R and K-A for believing in us.

Come wedding day we ran late. Yes, late to our own wedding. Our “sunset” wedding became a pitch black wedding with only the headlights from family cars shedding light in the dark. And then half-way into the thing, it started. Little drops of rain. Wind getting stronger. After we both said “I do” it felt like the skies broke open and the wind came full blast. Sand whipped up from all around us. And our little flower girl, took off running. I can still remember the sight of her screaming and running off. Perhaps my favorite memory from that night.

It was so perfectly imperfect. So unpredicted. Planned and yet nothing really going according to plan. Light in the darkness. A name given. A name taken. Two vows made in the presence of heaven and earth. Holy and beautiful moments, and other moments that made us want to run…

Yeah- that is marriage in a nut shell.

But the secret to enduring the storms has remained the same, lock eyes, lock lips, and laugh in the rain.

And as I write this, it is 13 years. 13 years from that precious day when we “made things right”… So much has changed and yet so much has stayed the same.

To my husband- I love you. I thank God for you. Thank you for being “crazy” enough to step in faith, over and over and over again. Thank you for loving me, truth-be-told at times enduring me, with relentless, crazy, God-given, love. Thank you for locking your eyes on Jesus and leading me to do the same.

 

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To You

To you with problems ahead of you that seem so big… I want to encourage you tonight to listen for Jesus. Listen close and hear him whisper, “I am bigger.”

To you who feels so weak tonight and so rightfully sure that you don’t have what it takes… I want to encourage you tonight to close your eyes and fix your heart on Jesus. Because he is there- right in that place with you. May you feel his peace wrap around your heart and here him whisper, “I have what it takes and I am with you.”

And to you, who has come to know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that on your own, there are so very many things that are impossible, that you simply cannot and will not ever do. Can I tell you something tonight? To you Jesus whispers, “With God all things are possible.”

And to you who wrestles daily with fear, who fights to find peace, who trembles inside at the tribulations ahead. Yes, tribulation will come, just as Jesus said. But listen close to His voice one more time. He spoke it, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Did you hear what he said? “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.” His warnings of tribulation were not meant to scare you, but to assure you… That the only One strong enough to conquer the world is available to you. May you lay your head down on your pillow tonight and rest in His peace.

A prayer:
Sweet Savior Jesus, you are never too far, but all too often, I am. Help me to draw close to you tonight and rest in your presence, your goodness and your love. Thank you. Yes, thank you. Amen.

 

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Feathers from Angels

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I guess our freezer door wasn’t fully closed. Opening the door and seeing the frost that developed on the shelves, our little girl shouted out:

“Mom! Look! It looks like feathers from angels!”

Her words caused me to look closer… Changed my entire perspective.

And now every time I see frost I am going to think of angel feathers… Of our awesome God, and the precious gift He has given to this world: children.

Feeling so thankful right now for our little “angels” that all too often open my eyes and my heart to the beauty and the heavenly right in front of me- beauty I am often too blind to see.

 

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We will Leave our Imprint

Sometimes I wish my little phone camera could catch with greater depths the beauty I see.

I woke up this morning, walked into our kitchen, passed by glass doors covered with smudges and little hand prints.

Out passed those doors a morning mist was gently moving across a dark and still lake.

Stepping closer to our kitchen windows I caught sight of what inspired me to write this morning- one window among a row of windows, covered in dew.

A tiny slug must have made its way across this window pane.

And every where it went, behind it was left its trail.

The slug is gone, but the trial remains and what is left is an intricately beautiful history web.

Like a flash of lighting caught on a dew canvas, with bolts that lead to the morning sun…

I want my life to leave an imprint such as this.

If I could only see it all the time,

How every moment and every choice,
like finger prints on a glass door, are leaving their mark.

And sometimes we… or maybe just I… feel like I am a mess, like I am all over the place.

Because like my little camera, I can’t seem to focus on the beauty in the picture.

I fail to capture the beautiful web that only God can see.

And sometimes our lives can feel so small, so worthless, so terribly finite, like a morning mist and the dew that is here and then gone.

And yet the truth is, our lives and the tracks we leave can be infinite…

Can lead others to the Son.

So here our my pictures of kitchen windows, slug tracks and finger prints on doors.

I pray this morning they might inspire someone else as well to consider how every touch leaves its mark, every word leaves its trail.

And we will leave our imprint.

May we see that and see it well.

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“Can We Start Over?”

This week started with me in a nasty mood, subtle and yet constant attitudes toward my husband. I am not proud of that or saying it is ok… It wasn’t. But I wanted to share this because I wanted to share a decision that my husband and I made that greatly blessed our marriage: We decided to start over.

We didn’t hash out every offense and mistake. I didn’t even say “I’m sorry” again. Why? Because it was more than that. Yes, I was sorry and I needed forgiveness but there was more. I needed a “re-do,” a slate wiped clean, a chance to try again.

Ever need one of those?

So I asked my hubby if we could start over and incredibly he said yes and just like that- all was so well again. And it still is.

And I share all this because I realized just how much we all at times need a “start over” pass. And that is in fact what God did through us through Christ Jesus. He wiped the slate clean and gave us the freedom to start over, fully restored in the eyes of God- as if we had never sinned at all. With open arms and a smile, our Lord said, and continues to say “Yes, let’s start over.”

And so it is that we, too, also desperately need to be able to say that to each other- to offer that mercy, that love and grace.

Who might you need to start over with today? Maybe your spouse, your child, a friend, a family member, a co-worker, maybe even God?

May the same power that raised Jesus from the dead rise up in our marred hearts and relationships. Because all can be made wonderfully new.

 

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