Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Expectation vs. Expectancy

In the support material of one of our church Bible lessons, we read of Ann Smith who spent thirty years as a missionary in Asia, but still dreamed of traveling to yet another Asian country to minister. Finally, at ninety years old she realized that dream. One of the important lessons she shared about Christian service was, “We should not live with expectations but with expectancy.”

Over the years, I’ve said about a thousand times, “It’s my expectations that get me into trouble.”

Expectations often lead to disappointment. Disappointment is how bitterness gets a foothold, and then it’s just a downward spiral from there.

Nobody’s life is an Instagram photo. And if it is, there’s a whole lot of mess that’s been cropped out. If we expect our lives to read like a story book, well, hello, frustration.

But expectancy, now that’s another kind of story.

So, what is the difference between expectation and expectancy?

Expectation means looking forward to what we believe will happen—it’s already set and we’re moving toward it.

Expectancy has to do with hope. We haven't prescribed what will happen, but we still hope for it. As believers, it means leaving it up to God.

So, yes, we always, always have hope for the future, but we don’t place demands on it through our expectations. That distinction will save us boatloads of heartache from the destruction that unfulfilled expectations can bring.

In recent years, there was a big event that caused me much pain, and in time, I realized it was because of my broken expectations. I had to go again to the Lord and ask Him to help me with them. There’s nothing for us to do but let go of what we thought life would be, and with hope, embrace what is and move forward.

It’s not easy and it often doesn’t make for a beautiful social media post, but I’m thankful that living with expectancy brings joy despite circumstances.

As Jeremiah lamented the destruction of Jerusalem, he wrote this, “'The Lord is my portion and my inheritance,' says my soul, 'Therefore I have hope in Him and wait expectantly for him'” (Lamentations 3:24 Amplified). Even as Jeremiah sat in the ruins, he reminded himself to hope and live expectantly in God.

If you find yourself wrestling with bitterness over what might have been, or locked into expectations of the future, release these to the only One who can lead you into a life of expectancy. And be amazed at how much lighter you feel when you’re not carrying around the burden of your suppositions or disappointments.

I did a little digging and found a few videos of Ann Smith. Here’s a link for one from about ten years ago when she was eighty-six, and it has so much wisdom in it. You can see that Ann truly does live in expectancy.

A story set on the lovely Saint Simons Island HERE.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

When the path is longer and steeper than you thought

Out to see a mountain waterfall, we paused at the bottom of the trail. “Not too far,” I said glancing at a sign that read “.5 miles.”

Jerry nodded holding on to Lucy who strained a bit at the leash. I decided to change into tennis shoes from my sandals, though.

We had in our minds a leisurely walk to the cascading water where I’d snap a few photos using a new camera I’d received for my birthday.

We were only a couple of hundred feet up the way, when Jerry turned to me, both of us stopping to catch our breath. “Are we going to the top of the falls?”

“I don’t think so.” We hadn’t expected the elevation involved on this trek. Memories from the past rolled in. “This feels like it did when I used to climb Currahee Mountain.” In my youth, I had scaled a winding narrow path up the mountain in North Georgia several times. Emphasis on in my youth.

And we’d both climbed one of the giant peaks in Colorado—back in the day.

“Do you want to turn around?” Jerry asked.

Of course, I did, but more than that I wanted to see those falls. “Let’s keep going.” I hoped paramedics would not be involved. “Lord, help us,” I prayed.

We questioned a young couple passing, “How much farther?”

“Quite a way,” they said.

Not the answer we wanted to hear. We plodded on picking our way over tree roots and rocks—up hill. Lucy panted no longer straining at the leash (By the way, that picture above is not the actual path. I was too oxygen deprived to remember to take a photo at that point).

A little further, we collapsed on a bench, which I imagine was put there for people like us who had no idea what they were getting into.

Later, I read the reviews of the trail, one of which said, “Easy enough for my 5-year-old and the dog to walk.” The words easy and fun showed up often in the reviews. Seriously?

We left the bench, pressed forward, and hoped we didn’t have to carry Lucy. She loved a walk but wasn’t much on strenuous exercise. We drew some comfort that others even younger than us were having to stop and rest, too. And every time we clung to a tree so someone could pass on the narrow path, we asked those same three words, “How much farther?

Gradually the answers became more encouraging. “Only about five more minutes,” a young woman said eyeing us with pity. Her grey-haired mother dressed in hiking shorts and shoes came behind her almost bouncing along the path. Clearly professionals. I was only glad I changed my mind about the dress I wore earlier, and put on shorts.

“It goes up, then down, and you’re there,” she added.

The word “up” was not what I wanted to hear. My inhaler was back in the car. I never dreamed I’d need it. We gathered our courage and continued searching for the “down” part she’d spoken of.

Finally, we hit it, and in another hundred feet we were there gazing up at the lovely falls. We lingered a while snapping pictures and Lucy waded in the stream.

When we started back to the car, I was amazed at how quickly we made the descent. I wasn’t as sore as I thought I’d be the next morning, either, but Lucy shunned us and camped out on her bed most of the day, I suppose making the point she is not an adventure dog.  Jerry informed me the sign I’d glanced at read “.7 miles” not “.5 miles.” The guide said “.9 miles.” It felt like thirty with the elevation.

I was reminded the trail in life is also longer, harder, and steeper than we expect. We think it’s a sprint, but it’s a marathon. And often up hill. We sometimes want to turn around and go back. But God promises to be with us along all our narrow paths, our switchbacks, our steep ascents, when we’re barely holding on, and when it seems we can’t even draw enough oxygen into our lungs. Jesus said, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). His powerful accompanying presence will be with us on any breathless, challenging path we face. His presence is enough for every ascent and is like those cascading falls, a source of refreshment and beauty.

When a daughter, who’s a hiking professional, too, heard about our experience, she asked, “Mom, didn't you know to check the elevation on the trail map before you started?”

Isn’t it annoying when your kids are smarter than you?

And speaking of Currahee, if you haven't read my story set at the base of that lovely peak, it's available HERE.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

A Knock in the Night

The wheezing, coughing, and fever had become too much. There were no urgent cares back then, so the call went out in the middle of the night. The voice on the other end said, "Come on over."

So we went.

When we knocked on the door, he opened it, and said, “Just put her in there,” as he pointed to his left. So, my dad took me into the living room, laid me down, and stood by hoping something could be done. There I lay on the beautiful living room sofa feeling like a princess—albeit a sick one. The absolute best of the small town or any town doctors went to work. I had always gotten better before, and I had confidence I would again. Once more, we would triumph over the bronchitis.

Somewhere in this house, his wife was around. I never wondered then how many sick children she had welcomed into her home in the wee hours.

I do now. I imagine that kind of hospitality would never happen today. It’s a throw back to a different era, but one I am so grateful for. I also question how many physicians would have accommodated patients this way even back then.

I saw a familiar name pop up on social media a few years back. Could it possibly be the woman whose home I invaded?

It was.

The doctor’s wife and I began a new chapter of our relationship on social media.

The thing that has most struck me in her comments is that she always signs off with “I love you.”

I have since realized that love and her Christian faith shown in all she writes, was what was behind a woman welcoming a string of sick children into her home in the middle of the night—for decades. That was the reason she was willing to sacrifice her beautiful furniture in the hope her husband could help a feverish child. Her life was a life of service to her community, just as her husband's was.

So, today, I pay tribute to Dot. Thank you for all you’ve done for me and so many others who came knocking in the night. Thank you for loving us. Thank you for still being there with those affirmations of love and your bright faith. You continue to be an inspiration to us all to lead lives of service to others.

If you or your husband ever need anything in the night. Please—just knock.

And Dot, we love you, too.

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other” (John 13:35 The Message).

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Tuesday, June 8, 2021

She Shed Shine

I’ve written much about sad things lately, so today something happy.

The newly renovated she-shed

In between finishing a first draft of another book, I’ve continued to work on another big project—the cleanout and redo of the studio.

It’s been a bear.

My dad built the tiny building for my daughter as a playhouse back in the day. Then as she grew older, it became a art studio/birthplace of the kittens. As young adults moved from apartment to apartment, it segued into its sad life of storage. In fact, I had not seen the floor in that building for two years. It’s miniscule, but oh, was it packed with stuff, much of it now given away with kids settled.

I have only one exterior before picture, and no interior. Just imagine the city dump and you’ve got a good idea of what it was like inside. This exterior pic was made after the kitten door was replaced with a new panel.

I had to excavate a little around the foundation because the building had settled, and we needed to clear soil from the structure. That was a lot of big fun.  

The interior walls were in good shape having only been painted a few months before the last kid transition two years ago, but I painted the floor and the whole exterior. Jerry moved the door from opening in to opening out which expanded usable space inside. As I said, he replaced the panel in the door the formerly feral mama kitty used who has now decided she likes being a domesticated feline.

I wanted a green and white stripe awning, but since this was a shoestring budget, we couldn’t/wouldn’t spring for hundreds of dollars for a custom made one which that space required. So, we came up with a way to make one from closet rods and fittings. Throw in a couple of galvanized pipe holders and we had the frame. I coated them with rust resistant paint.

When I received the awning fabric I’d ordered, I hit the sewing machine and fashioned the one in the picture using Velcro as a fastener.

My children used to ring that bell in the pic when they visited a beloved neighbor. It was black when she gave it to me years ago, so I also spray painted it black. While sandpapering it for a recoat, I noticed a shiny area. I put some work into it and discovered the bell was brass. I couldn’t believe it. I kept working until I cleaned it up and now it shines by the door.

The place is just barely big enough for a chair, a bookcase, a desk, a small chest, and a little cabinet my dad built. I wouldn’t have that much in it, but I intend on painting out there and need supplies. Even though there is air conditioning, I prefer to open the door in the mornings. With a mesh magnetic screen I’ve put up, I don’t have mosquitoes, but I do have the ventilation I need for oil painting.

View from inside through the screen

Also, I keep materials for children’s ministry out here, but I like having crayons around anyway plus, shells, driftwood, rocks my kids painted when they were small, art books, and magazines for inspiration. The posters are from a stationary company.

I am writing there now. Nothing has to be done out here though I'm still working on a couple of areas inside, but no pressure, so no distractions.  It’s amazing. Only a bird trill soundtrack. Yes, technically it still belongs to a kid, but she’s not here, and as a former lawyer I'm married to says, “Possession is nine-tenths of the law.”

The roof still needs replacing and as well as a few other little exterior repairs. It’s a work in progress.

So, the she-shed/writing shed/painting shed has a little shine on it and a new life. It’s worth it to take the time to carve out a space for something creative--someplace where you won’t be distracted and can just make it your own and messes don’t matter that much. I can’t create much without making a mess, but that’s a whole other post.

Only God knows what good may come of this little oasis. I pray that whatever is created is done so to the glory of God. It was a maker of physical tents whom God has used to helped believers work on their spiritual tents for over 2000 years who once wisely said, “Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way” (Colossians 3:17 The Message).

I am praying it will be so.

And if one of the kids moves again, I have the number of a storage unit company in my contacts. 

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Tuesday, June 1, 2021

When Sorrows Like Sea Billows Roll

When the phone goes off after midnight at the pastor’s house, it’s never good news. It’s always someone’s life has or is about to change significantly.

It was the case last night, which has made me scrap what I originally intended for today.

Our dear friend Andrea, who guest posted here only a few weeks ago about the loss of her special needs daughter last year now faces another loss--the man she intended to spend the rest of her life with died yesterday in a work-related accident.

A phrase from a hymn comes to mind, “When sorrows like sea billows roll . . ."

As we and other loved ones sat on her front porch with her in the dark hours of the night, we could have just as easily been on the bow of the ship, because it sure did feel like sorrow was crashing against her and us in mighty waves.

No one wants someone they love to ever endure the kind of pain she has faced. I can still feel the shudder of her sobs as I sat next to her. We want to wind the clock back to another time for her or jettison her to another place to get her away from this suffering. If only.

The tragedy leaves us sputtering for words and even before we finally get out the one-word question, we know there is no answer this side of heaven to “Why?”

I’ve told Andrea that the entire time I’ve known her, she has lived at 911. Her daughter’s health was so fragile long before her death, that they were always on alert for the next ambulance ride, or helicopter airlift. It was a difficulty beyond what most people ever realize exists in the world.

The next lyric Horatio Spafford wrote in the hymn I referenced above was, “Whatever my lot, thou hast caused me to say, it is well. It is well, with my soul.” He wrote this hymn in the place where his four daughters had perished when their boat went down.

The thing I know is that despite these heart wrenching losses Andrea has suffered, it is well with her soul. That is the difference faith makes. That is what helps her and us stand in times like this. In Andrea’s own words in her last post, “It is not in my own strength that I live. If it weren’t for God’s grace and mercy poured out to me, I would not have been able to exist after my daughter died.” 

It will be her faith in God and his grace and mercy that will once more sustain her and help her experience joy. I am confident of that.

I had the privilege of singing with her this past Sunday. We were a little unsure of our timing so we locked in on each other’s faces so we could sense the next move. I was so struck with how full of joy her beautiful face was, of how full of joy she often is despite her sufferings.

I will hold that face of joy in my heart as I pray for her in this time of such sadness.

I know I have written much about loss lately. But I won't apologize. That is a season we've been in. Sometimes, life is barbed, ragged, and just plain sad. But even when it is, we hold on to Jesus because He is faithful. And He will bring us round to joy, again. Just as you can see that slice of blue above those dark clouds in the picture above, the joy is there. 

The Psalmist wrote about that in a verse Andrea concluded with in her last post here, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

Join me in praying for Andrea and her precious family that the morning would indeed come for them.

Read Andrea's posts, "Healing is Hers, Joy is Mine" Here and "Hope Carries Me" Here. 

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