Yesterday, Today, and Forever

We’ve all heard the Heraclitus quote: “The only constant in life is change.” It’s the kind of thing you say to a child who is upset because something they’d come to rely on has changed. Most of the time I’m that child digging my heels in when confronted with change, especially change that I can’t control or don’t understand. I like routine and consistency. And as much as I try to plan, life still has a way of throwing curve balls and being as changeable as the shifting wind.

As I was thinking about the changeability of life, and mostly thinking about much I hate it, I was reminded of the one thing, or rather person, that never changes–Jesus.

Every Sunday (before COVID-19 limitations), I read Hebrews 13:8. It’s displayed above the platform at my church. During worship or the pastor’s message, my eyes would inevitably wander up and read these words: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” What a comforting thought to know that no matter how much life changes or is unpredictable, God will never change. Just meditating on that thought brings an overwhelming sense of peace to me. Deep breath in, cleansing breath out!

But this truth has to be more than a comforting thought, more than a mantra I recite when feeling anxious. It has to be the reality by which I judge all other realities in my life.

When life changes or people change or the weather changes (Who am I kidding. I live is Southern California. The weather never changes.), it can feel like the ground underneath me is shifting. That’s why it’s important for me to anchor myself in the truth that God never changes. It doesn’t matter what happens, I know I’m secure in my Father’s care. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (ESV, emphasis added).

As the old hymn says:
On Christ the solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand
(“My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less,” by Edward Mote, 1834)

What’s In Your Hand?

I was feeling discouraged earlier this week. I had exchanged texts with a couple of college friends. And after reading their updates, I was left feeling a bit unaccomplished. One was lamenting the challenges of being in grad school, working full time, and homeschooling her preschooler. The other was telling me about completing grad school applications, while helping her four kids with distance learning, and starting several businesses.

As I read their achievements, the only thing I could think about was what wasn’t being accomplished in my own life. How many times have I talked about going back to school in the past two years? How many projects have I started with fervor, only to watch them languish in apathy?

It made me think of the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). Each servant was given “according to his ability” (v. 15). The first servant was given five talents and doubled them. The second servant, although he was given fewer talents, doubled them too. And then there was the third servant. I wonder if he compared what he was given with the other two. Did he look at his lowly talent and think, “I don’t have as much as they do. They’re going to accomplish so much more than me. So I don’t even know what the use of trying will be.”?

In Exodus 4:2, God asked Moses, “What’s in your hand?” Moses was trying to disqualify himself from the task God had given him. When we feel unqualified, we usually ask things like, “How am I going to get this done? Where can I go to get the needed training? How much money will it take?” But God simply asks, “What is in your hand?” It’s similar to the question Jesus asked his disciples when He fed the 4,000. The disciples asked, “How can we feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” (Mark 8:4 ESV). But Jesus asked, “How many loaves do you have?” (Mark 8:5 ESV).

We are often distracted by what we don’t have or can’t do. We become like the third servant. We start looking around and seeing our shortcomings. So we choose to bury what we have, either out of fear or a sense of inadequacy. However, the difference between the first two servants and the third was not what they were given, but what they did with what they had.

My two friends have very different circumstances from me. They’ve been given things that I haven’t. It would be easy to sit around and do nothing, simply because I don’t have as much as they do and I may not be able to accomplish as much as they can. But God isn’t asking me to compare what I have with what others have. He’s asking me to use what’s in my hand.

Doing What Only I Can and Watching God Do More

Being a single mom is not an easy task. There are so many challenges that come with it. And so many different messages that are given about how to be a single mom.

I am blessed that my kids’ dad and I have chosen to co-parent. But on days when I’m solely responsible for the kids and I don’t have their father here to do the dad thing, it can be easy to buy into the idea that I need to be Dad too. I don’t want the kids to feel any lack when it comes to parental input. But the reality is, try as I might, I will never be able to fill the role of Dad. It’s not how I was created. And frankly, it’s exhausting to even try.

I am Mom (or Mommy or Mama, depending on the day or the mood)! That’s who I am. From the moment life was given to my babies, I became a mom, their mom. There are things that only I can impart to them. There are lessons that only I can teach. And there are conversations that only I can have.

But I’m often burdened with the idea that the kids are somehow lacking something in me–that I’m simply not enough. The fact of the matter is, I’m not enough and never have been.

When my kids were born and their dad and I were still together, it was easy to believe that between the two of us, we had everything covered. But the reality is, even then, there were gaps in our parenting. And back then, whether we realized it or not, it was just as essential to rely on the Holy Spirit to fill those gaps as it is now. Our shortcomings are highlighted by single parenting, not created by it.

And I guess that’s where I find myself–with more deficiencies than adequacies. The good news is God doesn’t want my self sufficiency. He wants my dependency. Second Corinthians 12:9 says, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (ESV).

I’m reminded of the story of Jesus feeding five thousand with loaves and fish from a little boy (John 6:1-15). Andrew, the disciple who found the boy, said, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many? (v. 9, ESV, emphasis added). That’s often how I feel. Lord, what can you do with the little that I have to offer? But most of us would remember what happens next in the story. Jesus takes the boy’s meager offering and multiplies it to feed five thousand. And at the end of the meal, where everyone ate “…as much as they wanted” (v. 11), the disciples filled twelve baskets with what was leftover.

God isn’t looking for me to be able to do it all. He just wants me to do what only I can do, be the mom He created me to be. Then He will take my paltry contribution and do what only He can do–multiply it and make it more than enough.

There’s a line in an old song my mom used to sing, called “Ordinary People” (originally recorded by Danniebelle Hall) that captures this perfectly:
God uses people who will give Him all
No matter how small your all may seem to you
Because little becomes much
As you place it in the Master’s hand

A Lesson in Humility

I consider myself to be a pretty smart person. I’m no genius. But I like to think I have pretty good common sense and the ability to apply it properly. I also like to consider myself to be pretty wise. I don’t make decisions haphazardly. You can pretty much be assured that when I make a decision about something, I’ve considered all sides and thoroughly thought through my options. That’s why, when someone disagrees with me, I have a hard time accepting it. Enter co-parenting.

As their mother, I am used to having the loudest and most influential opinion about the welfare of my children. When I was married, my husband often deferred to my judgement when it came to things about the kids. It’s not that he didn’t care, he just knew I was down in the trenches with them more than he was and therefore had a better vantage point. But in the process of divorce and shared custody, he too has had to crawl down into the trenches with the kids.

And while I say I respect his opinion, I’m learning that I actually esteem his ideas as long as they are the same as mine. It’s hard, when I’ve considered all sides of a situation and come up with what I think is the best solution, to be challenged with a different viewpoint.

I find myself becoming indignant and judgmental, thinking that somehow I must love my kids more. After all, any one who would advocate for that idea must not love their kids as much as I do, obviously! Then that still, small voice rises up and asks, “Are you really upset that his suggestion is not what’s best for the kids or is it because he doesn’t agree with you?” Ouch!

As I think about my prideful attitude, I’m reminded of Proverbs 16:5: “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished” (ESV, emphasis added). What does it mean to be “arrogant in heart”? Well, I don’t know about you, but I know I can often display humility outwardly, but inwardly I am full of pride. I’ll say out loud, “Okay, if you don’t think that’s best, we can find another solution.” While inside I’m seething with anger at the opposition. But we must remember, “…the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b ESV).

The word “abomination” means, “something regarded with disgust or hatred” (merriam-webster.com). I grew up hearing that word associated with sexual sin. I don’t remember anyone telling me my pride was an abomination to the Lord. That puts it in a whole other category of sin. To be clear, all sin separates us from God and shouldn’t be taken lightly. But somehow knowing that my pride, no matter what it’s based on, is considered disgusting to God, is upsetting. It’s no wonder James 4:6 says, “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble'” (ESV, emphasis added).

There is no shortage of verses on pride in the Bible. Here are just a few:

  • “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2 ESV).
  • “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18 ESV).
  • “One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor” (Proverbs 29:23 ESV).

Did you notice the negative consequences associated with pride: disgrace, destruction, being brought low, punished (Prov. 16:5)? But with humility comes wisdom, honor, and, according to James 4:6, grace.

So what does it mean to be humble in my efforts to co-parent? It means not always assuming my way is the right way. It means being able to consider someone else’s opinion as valid. It also means not getting my knickers in a bunch when I don’t get my way.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he will exalt you.”

1 Peter 5:6 ESV

It’s a work in progress. I’m a work in progress. I have to ask the Lord to forgive my prideful attitude a lot. And I have to fight against negative assumptions when there’s a difference of opinion on how to address an issue with the kids. But I’m learning it’s a much easier path when I choose to humble myself. Just as 1 Peter 5:6 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he will exalt you” (ESV).

If you would have told me that co-parenting and shared custody was going to be part of my refining process, I would have scoffed at the idea. But God, in His infinite wisdom and love uses everything, even the unpleasant stuff, for our good and His glory.

Best Laid Plans

Most of us are familiar with Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” It’s printed on coffee mugs, T-shirts, and inspirational journals. I’ve even written on it in this blog. Isn’t it such a comforting verse? But sometimes, I think we miss the point.

As I’ve shared before, this verse is part of a letter from the prophet Jeremiah to the Babylonian exiles. The exiles had been carted off to Babylon, all the while thinking they would be returning home soon. They were making their plans, much like we all did when 2020 began. Like many of you, I made goals and plans for this year. And also like many of you, a global pandemic, violent protests, earthquakes and fires were not part of that plan.

The exiles felt as I’m sure we’ve all felt: “This isn’t going to last. We’ll be back to our lives in no time.” But this letter from Jeremiah arrests them of the idea of a quick return to normal. I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to give up on the idea of “normal.”

It’s hard to give up the plans we’ve made. I’ve seen many of my dreams, plans, and expectations go unfulfilled. It’s really disappointing. I’m sure the exiles felt that same disappointment in learning they weren’t returning home for 70 years (Jeremiah 29:10).

Isn’t it funny how when we normally hear Jeremiah 29:11, it’s rarely in the context of disappointed expectations? But that’s exactly where it fits. You see, the comfort in this verse is not in the promise of good things, even though that is very comforting. The comfort is in the promise that even when our lives aren’t going according to plan, God has plans for us that are even better than anything we can imagine.

Letting go of our plans and expectations is never easy. But we can take comfort knowing that even when our plans go awry, God’s plans for us are right on schedule, no matter how it looks.

Raising Strong Kids

As a mom, it’s my instinct to protect my kids from the hard things in life. I want to keep them safe and protected from the harsh realities of this world. However, I’ve learned I simply can’t protect them from everything.

Last weekend, Faith fell and chipped her front teeth. As we walked through yet another challenge, it broke my heart to watch her process through this disappointment. She was upset and worried and embarrassed to show her teeth to anyone. But within a day, she was back to her smiley, joyful self (and this was before she had them repaired). Watching her, I realized something about my kids. They are tough. They’ve got a bounce back that is admirable.

Isn’t that ultimately what I want for my children, to be strong and resilient? But I don’t just want to raise strong kids. I want to raise kids that are strong in their faith–able to trust God no matter what. As I’ve seen in my own life, that kind of strength and steadfastness doesn’t come through easy living. It comes through adversity. Their faith is built by going through trials and challenges, and watching God answer their calls for help.

Romans 5:3-5 speaks about the upside of hardships: “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (ESV).

James 1:2-4 also says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (ESV). This is the fruit I want to see produced in my kids’ lives.

As their mom, I never want to see them hurt or face hardships. But I must remember they’re not mine. They belong to our Heavenly Father and He loves them more than I do. He would never allow them to walk through anything that wasn’t designed to conform them into the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:29). Everything they experience is helping to prepare them for the assignment God has for their lives.

It is my hope that, as God continues to meet them in the hard things of life, they can say as Job did, “I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes” (Job 42:5 NLT).

Learning to Forgive Yourself

Recently, I had a huge parenting failure. I lost my temper and unleashed every emotion I had been keeping bottled up on my poor, unsuspecting child. Looking at the tears in his eyes as I ranted, I knew I had crossed the line. Once I gathered myself, I apologized and, as kids are prone to do, he forgave me right away. I prayed and asked the Lord to forgive me too. Then came the really hard part, forgiving myself.

When my former husband and I first separated, I struggled with self condemnation then too. I would recall all the ways I had failed in my marriage, all the ways I had been selfish and self-serving. I didn’t need anyone to punish me. I was doing a fine job of it by myself.

We all know how important it is to forgive others quickly (Matthew 6:14). But why does it seem okay to somehow keep beating ourselves up over our mistakes? When God says in Psalm 103:12 (ESV), “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us,” we counter with, “No, you’ve got it wrong, God. This time I’ve gone too far. This time I can’t be forgiven.” When He says He “… will cast our sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19b, ESV), we grab our fishing poles. Why? Why do we somehow think we know better than the God of the Universe when it comes to forgiving our own sin?

David knew what it was like to have an epic failure. He committed adultery, then tried to cover it up with murder (2 Samuel 11). Psalm 51 was written after the Prophet Nathan confronted him about his sin: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (vs. 1-3 ESV, emphasis added). I’m sure David felt as I have felt, unforgivable. I’m sure he kept replaying in his mind the errant choices he made. That’s why he says, “my sin is ever before me.”

When we are in self-condemnation, we hide from God, feeling unworthy. That’s exactly what the enemy of our souls wants. He wants us to feel shame for our sin and hide just like Adam and Eve did in the garden. But when Adam and Eve sinned, God came looking for them. He didn’t storm in with bolts of lightning and cracks of thunder, ready to condemn. He simply came looking for His children (Genesis 3). He does the same for us. While we’re busy trying to cover up our mess, He comes with arms wide open, ready to forgive, if we would only come to Him.

That’s what David did. He went directly to God, without covering up: “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgement” (Psalm 51:4 ESV). He goes on to say, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (Psalm 51:10-12 ESV).

Forgiving ourselves is really just learning to receive the forgiveness that God has already given us through the death of His Son. We need to take God at His word when He says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2 ESV).

In the immortal words of Jesus: “Your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5b). Now “pick up your bed and walk” in that forgiveness (paraphrase of Mark 2:11).

Look How Far You’ve Come

Music has a way of holding memories, taking you back to certain places and times in your life. No matter how much time has passed, if you hear that one song, all the memories start flooding back. Personally, I love musical walks down memory lane.

My house, growing up, was filled with music. So it’s always fun for me to pull up those old songs on Spotify or YouTube and just reminisce. If I put on Tramaine Hawkins’ “Look at Me,” suddenly, I’m transported back to my four-year-old self who could listen to that song over and over. I remember sitting in front of our record player (yes, record player) and just singing my heart out with Tramaine. Or if I listen to anything from The Clark Sisters, I’m reminded of my brother, sister and me skipping around the coffee table in joyful celebration of the songs we loved. These are such wonderful memories for me.

But not all songs hold happy memories for me. I remember when my classmate was stabbed and killed in high school. I must have listened to Commissioned’s “Cry On” a million times. And even now when I hear that song, I get teary-eyed, remembering how sad I felt, even though, for the life of me, I can’t remember his name.

Today, I was listening to several songs that were on repeat during my divorce. On one hand, all the emotions I felt as I walked through my divorce came rushing back. But at the same time, a great sense of gratitude washed over me because I wasn’t in that broken place anymore. I could remember and even feel the pain, but it didn’t hold the same power over me anymore.

There are several verses that encourage us to look forward not back, like Philippians 3:13-14, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies head, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (ESV, emphasis added). Or Isaiah 43:18-19, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (ESV, emphasis added).

There is a trap in reminiscing. It can be easy to “romanticize” the past. And I think that’s what these verses are warning against. We have to be careful not to get so stuck in the past that we can’t move forward into what God wants to do in our lives now. But there is value in looking back and seeing how far God has brought you.

The people of Israel understood this. Before they entered into the Promise Land, in Deuteronomy, Moses retells all that happened from their Exodus out of Egypt to the forty years in the wilderness, reminding the people of all that God had done for them: “I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn off your feet” (Deuteronomy 29:5 ESV).

Even as they were crossing into the Promise Land, God instructed them to set up Memorial Stones from the Jordan: “And Joshua said to them, ‘Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, “What do those stones mean to you?” then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever'” (Joshua 4:5-7 ESV).

But as we see in the book of Judges, there is a danger of forgetting: “And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them that did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10 ESV, emphasis added). Just one generation after the people of Israel had taken possession of the Promise Land, they had forgotten all that God had done. As a result, “…the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger” (Judges 2:11-12 ESV).

It’s important not to get caught in the past, reliving the “glory days.” But it’s equally important to remember and acknowledge how far you’ve come and all that God has done for you. Like the people of Israel, set up memorial stones so that you can be reminded of what God has done. But don’t stay camped out at the banks of the Jordan. There’s so much more land to possess.

“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children.”

Deuteronomy 4:9 ESV

The Bigger View


Have you ever tried to look at your reflection in a window instead of a mirror? Since a window’s purpose is not to cast a reflection, trying to see yourself in one is difficult.

I found that I often treat the Word of God like a mirror, when in actuality it’s more like a window. I’m constantly looking for myself in the pages of the Bible. But that’s not a right perspective. If, as I’ve proposed, the Bible is more like a window, it was written to show the bigger picture of who God is, not merely a reflection of who I am.

To take this analogy further, if I focus on my reflection in a window, I can still see the window’s view, but it’s out of focus and a bit distorted. The same is true when it comes to the Word of God. If I’m so focused on myself and what it says about me, I’ll be too wrapped up in the “dim” reflection to be able to see the grand view of God clearly.

Reading the Bible from a self-centered point of view allows me to still “see” God and His character. But it’s out of focus and distorted. Instead of being about who He is and how I fit in His story, it becomes about how He fits into mine. And if I don’t perceive Him as serving my purposes, I question Him and His character.

Second Timothy 2:15 reminds us of the importance of keeping a right perspective of God’s Word: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (ESV).

Of course, if I look out of a window, I will catch glimpses of myself. The same is true as I read and study the Bible. God will inevitably reveal things about me. Second Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (ESV). But the reason I look in a window is not to see myself, but rather the larger view it’s been designed to showcase.

Try it sometime. Try focusing on your reflection in a window. How well are you able to see the view of that window? How well are you able to see yourself? I dare say, you will see both quite poorly.

Thoughts on Identity and Contentment

If someone were to ask you who you are, how would you answer? Seems like a pretty straight forward question. I would likely list: mother, daughter, sister, friend. But is that who I really am?

All of those adjectives describe who I am to other people. They describe a role I fill in someone else’s life. But if I define myself by the roles I fill, what happens when those roles change or go away? For example, I will always be Faith and Journey’s mom, but even that relationship will change. They will grow up and move out and start their own families. Who will I be then? Grandma?! (I’d choose a much cooler name like Gigi or something.)

Understanding who I am, outside of the roles I fill, is paramount to my contentment. Being secure in my identity in Christ and finding satisfaction in Him will allow me to weather the changing roles and relationships in my life. But can I be honest? I’m not always satisfied in Christ. I know I’m supposed to be. But the truth is, just like I try to find my identity in temporal things, I try to find my contentment in those same things.

The reality is, I know that none of those things will ever actually satisfy. But I keep looking to them to fill a hole that only God can. Romans 1:25 says, “…They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (ESV). Every time I try to find my identity outside of Christ, every time I try to gain fulfillment and satisfaction outside of Him, I am exchanging the “truth about God for a lie.” I’m saying, “God, even though I know you are all sufficient, I’m going to see if this thing over here will meet my need instead.”

How do I break out of this? Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (ESV). I used to look at this as a quid pro quo exchange with God. “If I give you this delight that you need, then you will give me the things I want.” So then I would manufacture enjoyment in Him only to be left feeling more empty. But that’s not what this is saying. I believe it’s saying that as I delight myself in Him, truly and completely, all the desires of my heart will be met in Him. He will not leave me wanting or needing lesser things.

Unfortunately, I don’t know how to delight in Him on my own. I need the Holy Spirit. So my constant prayer is, “Lord, help me want to want You more. Help me to die to lesser affections, so that You are my one desire.”

I wish I could conclude this with a triumphant statement about how deeply satisfied I am in Christ and how I know my identity is secure in Him. But it’s an ongoing struggle for me. I have to be deliberate to change how I think in this area. As Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (ESV).

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