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Hope Deferred

KS-Instas-May25-17-blog6The death of a dream always means the birth of a new promise. It is hardest to believe when walking through the ashes of what you thought would be your future. Wading through shallow shattered hopes can almost drown you in waves of sadness.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick. When those hopes are our hopes.

Before the way of faith was made available to us, we were placed under guard by the Law…. It was our guardian until Christ came. The law. The dreaded law. Yet, it was our protector for some time. It was what kept our depravity at bay. It was our foster parent until our Father adopted us. It was our lawyer until the Judge came. It was our thermometer until the Healer arrived. It was the bank we measured our eternal rewards by until we gained our inheritance. It was the way we got our identity until Christ BECAME our identity. We were like the rich young ruler, craving perfection in law-keeping but lacking so much knowledge in life-gaining.

They were told that Jesus would come, to believe that one day He would be sent. But I know there were times that Abraham wondered when. When Moses wondered how. When even the man who was born to prepare the way for Christ wondered from a jail cell if He was truly the One the prophecies referred to. When the disciples wondered as they fled during Christ’s crucifixion if they had somehow missed the boat and this guy wasn’t really the One Who would crush Rome and save them from oppression.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick. When those hopes are our hopes.

I have a new appreciation for it, this law. In an odd sense, it was my chaperone until I married the chaperone. Now, with the Judge Himself granting me grace, I no longer have to live in fear of the consequences of the law. He has freed me from its wages. This does not mean I am no longer bound to any rules, simply that the rules changed. I now do time, not because it is my sentence, but because it shows the immensity of my gratitude.

The death of the law made way for the promise of life. Without the law, what promise would we have? The dark backdrop of the law was illuminated by the brightness of the Child of Promise who ushered in grace. Without the darkness, we would perhaps never realize the magnitude of our salvation. We would take for granted that we were roaming free without chains. But when Jesus breaks the padlock and we leave our shackles behind?

We never forget the beauty of it. It is a defining moment.

Just like the moment of “I do”. The moment of the baby’s first cry. The moment of the body-dunking in baptism. These moments stand etched on our memories and are reminders of who we are and where we come from.

And where we are going.

Those moments of despair? The moments of “no” or “not yet”s? The moment the doctor gives the diagnosis? The moment the casket closes? The moment the baby’s heart stops beating? The day they walked out? Or you did?

The day our hopes die?

He scoops up the ashes and wipes the tears. He takes us by the hand, leads us away from that pile of crushed hopes and broken dreams, points to the cross and says, “This is better than what you wanted. Just wait and see.”

And I beg you, through the tears, to believe the promise. To trade your hopes for the faith to believe that His hopes are better. I’ve heard it said that if your situation isn’t good yet, then He isn’t done with it. This is not a prosperity gospel. It is the promised Gospel.  God works all things together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

The death of the law brought the promise of grace. And although it is challenging to sever the attachment, no greater freedom has been found.

With every death comes life. We bring our broken dreams to the cross and He trades them for more… more than we could ask or think. Life abundant.

Life abundantly more than you thought it could be.

When our hopes are no longer ours but every bit His…. then we can be sure they will come to fruition.

And that’s a promise you can bank on.

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The Great Exchange

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Safe.

I would wager that this word means a variety of things to different people. Until recently, I didn’t use that word much. I would say it’s because I never felt that my safety was threatened. In hindsight, though, I feel maybe it’s because I didn’t know what safe really was.

Most think of it in the physical realm: safety from harm. That is definitely a factor. In the Bible belt, we throw around the term “saved”, meaning that we are exempt from eternal judgment because of our acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sin.

But hear me on this: just because a person is saved doesn’t mean he is safe.

When I speak of safe, I feel warmth. I immediately picture people and houses and memories. Safe conjures up in me a  feeling of security and acceptance. My secrets are kept secrets and my shortcomings are addressed but forgiven and my name is protected behind my back. My goodness is not measured and my flaws are not showcased and my bad hair days are not terms for divorce. My opinions matter and my voice is heard and my likes and dislikes are recognized and my words are cherished. Safe also means that there is equal give-and-take, whether in conversations or sharing of gifts or in heart-bearing. Safe means that it matters if I am in the room.

At first, I thought this idea of safe being an emotion not related to physical protection was preposterous. But when I started searching it out in God’s Word, I was amazed to see that the Lord confirmed this idea. He speaks often of safety from fear (Job 21:9), from the fear of man (Proverbs 29:25), from fear of evil (Proverbs 1:33), and even from “him that puffs” (Psalm 12:5)! A puffer in the Hebrew is the word puwach, meaning “to kindle (a fire), scoff, bring into a snare.”

Proverbs 18:10 speaks of the Name of the Lord being a strong tower, and while He could be speaking of physical protection, I most often find myself whispering His Name when I am feeling overwhelmed. Don’t you?

Job 11:18 speaks of security bringing about HOPE so that we can rest in safety. That’s not often a word associated with safety. But I feel safe with people who have dreams for me. Because they can hope for me when I’ve given up.

Psalm 31:20 says, “Thou shalt hide them in the secret of Thy Presence from the PRIDE OF MAN: Thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the STRIFE OF TONGUES” (emphasis mine). (Whatever happened to “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”?)

Proverbs 1:33 says that WISDOM causes safety. The free will we are given makes us responsible for deciding what situations are safe to be in and with whom we should feel secure.

Proverbs 31:11 gives a stunning report that the Virtuous Woman’s husband “safely trusts in her” not to bring him ruin. That was the degree to which he trusted her. He felt safe with her, in EVERY way possible. Do most husbands fear their wives will harm them? I think it would be rare if they did. But Mr. VW knew he could trust her to protect his name behind his back, provide financially for their family, and not squander his resources or his reputation.

I love the Hebrew and Greek definitions of the words “safe”, “safety”, and “safely.”

Yasha contains the meaning “free, avenging, preserve, get victory.”

Betach was one of my favorites to define “safe”: “both the fact (security) and the feeling (trust); place of refuge, assurance, boldly, confidence, hope, surely.”

Shelah means “prosperity” and shalah means “to be tranquil, successful, secure, happy, to be in safety.”

Sagab goes beyond the act of rescuing to include these words in its definition: “exalt, set up on, be too strong.” I don’t think He is simply speaking of physically pushing a kid on a swing to touch the clouds. Job 5:11 says, “To set up on high those that be low; that those which mourn may be exalted to safety.” Jesus recognized that true safety goes way deeper than surface physical security. It has everything to do with our emotions, our mental capacity, and even our melancholy. The feeling of safety not only describes our physical condition, but also our spiritual condition.

I think I could go so far as to say that if I am to feel safe with a person, not only do I not fear harm, but I can trust in that person to lift me up and promote my success and ensure my peace in any way possible.

My intention is not to make you unsatisfied with the people or situations in your life, but to encourage you to run to Jesus for your safety. While wisdom can be used to create a place of safety, I know there are positions you will find yourself in that require you to remain. I encourage you to determine if you really are bound by the Word to remain in those relationships or situations, or if living in fear of the unknown is just easier than courage.

Don’t miss that.

If you are currently surrounded by things and people who do not scream SAFE to you, but you know you are where you need to be, take heart. Let me be clear: Jesus very well may call us to do un-safe things or to surround ourselves with un-safe people. But He does call us to remain in His love and claim His peace and security regardless of the unsafe things He may call us to do.

Similarly, if you are in your comfort zone now and feel safe simply because you have created such an environment for yourself, then your safe is in the wrong place and will only last as long as your circumstances cooperate.

The freedom for me came when I recognized that I did not feel safe and dug deeper to find out why. And when I realized that my safety came SOLELY from Jehovah, it changed everything.

As you think about your life in light of these definitions, do you truly feel safe? I will tell you from experience that it is possible to create an environment of safe for others with cards of affirmation and calls of care and gifts of graciousness and have it somehow create in you that feeling of safe. But it is temporary.

Jesus intends to fulfill safe in us. And until you feel safe with Him and His character, it will be well-nigh impossible for you to find safe in the world around you. Security and safety go hand-in-hand. People who act insecure do not feel safe. And you do not feel safe with them because they do not emit security in and of themselves. They are desperately trying to create a place of safety and are going about it from the wrong angle. You can’t create that place of safety. Only God can give it to you. This final Scripture is the most important. Proverbs 21:31 says that safety is of the Lord. He is the source.

The Hand with the power to save ultimately has the power to keep you safe.

And when you beg for it, He will give. Abundantly above anything we could ask or think. He can bestow better work places and happier family members and truer friends and peaceful homes where we feel safe. We can have hearts to confide in and hands to hold and souls who are just as concerned with our interests and ministries as they are their own. And if He doesn’t, we can rest in the safety that we find in Him even though everything around us might be falling to pieces.

This is the desire He has for us: to take our insecurity and replace it with safety.

It’s part of what we call the Great Exchange.

Cara Cobble Trantham is a freelance writer whose passion is to encourage women of all ages to draw closer to the Lord. She lives in Greeneville, Tennessee, with her husband and one-year-old daughter. She loves to send cards in magazine envelopes, counsel ladies over sugar and cream (with a little bit of coffee), and read a good book at the beach. Her bucket list includes eating pizza in Chicago, staying at a bed and breakfast in Savannah, and following a recipe without leaving out an ingredient.

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Waiting with Wonder

What do you feel like you are waiting for right now?

A friend of mine asked me this question earlier this morning and it took me hours to respond.

There are many things I am waiting for answered prayers about: things like spiritual redemption in my family and job decisions for the future and finances to expand our house and timing for when to have another baby. But, I think what shocked me the most? Is that for the first time I’m not in a season of waiting. Oh, I am waiting… for sure. But I’m not in the season of waiting for a husband or a kid or a new job or a pay raise. I honestly feel like I am—possibly, for the first time in my life– not waiting for something out there to fulfill me.

The funny thing about contentment is that you usually don’t realize when you’ve reached it. This is why it shocked me so much when I realized that overall, I wasn’t waiting for anything. Not really. If you had asked me five years ago, I would have told you a definite answer without batting an eyelash. I can’t wait until I get married. Four years ago: I can’t wait to settle into a house of our own. Three years ago: I’m can’t wait to go up north and see my family! Two years ago: I can’t wait for a kitchen reno! Last year: I’m waiting until after Christmas to have this baby. And then, after that, it only seems to get worse. I can’t wait until she sleeps through the night. I can’t wait until winter is over so I can leave this house. I can’t wait to go back to work. I can’t wait until I get off work and go home. I can’t wait until these kids grow up and leave the house. I can’t wait until I retire. And then after that? I wish I were young again. I wish my kids were babies again. What I would give to be able to go to work!

It seems that we never want to be in the season we’re in…. until it’s over.

Now don’t get me wrong… I am no saint. There have been many tears shed asking the Lord why I’m STILL asking for this request and that healing and those salvations. Why I can’t master housework or parenting and why my husband hasn’t changed those habits I hate overnight. As Christians, God commands us to wait! Not the least of which is for heaven. I literally can’t wait to get there, can you? Titus 2:13 says, “Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ…”

Psalm 27:4 says this: Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD.

He knows waiting is hard. He waited 33 years for His death. He has waited for decades for His people to repent and return to Him. He has waited to redeem us. He has waited for centuries to bring His bride home.

I’ve always struggled with waiting. But today I realized that I was no longer allowing my identity and joy to hinge on another person or event. All of a sudden, I realized that I was broken and the world was broken and this life was broken but that I AM OKAY WITH THIS. And I was no longer waiting for one, two, or three significant things to determine my level of contentment. I was no longer looking to the next thing to determine my hope, my amount of excitement, or my future. I was living in the now, surrounded by baby toys and a full sink of pots and a cluttered desk, realizing that this life I’ve been given is wonderful.

Baby toys means a baby to love, and a sinkful of dirty dishes means food on the table and people I love to eat it with, and a cluttered desk means I have the opportunity to work from home and provide for my family. (Disclaimer: this does NOT mean that I wouldn’t hire a nanny in a heartbeat.)

I suppose we will never stop waiting for things that we call exciting and wonderful and the desires of our hearts. We will never stop hoping for things to be better, for things to change, for things to look up. But the beauty is that in the wait, we can look up and see Jesus. And He is better than anything we have or will ever want. Wait for Him, sisters. Wait for His timing above your own. Don’t be so consumed with what you’re waiting for in the future that you forget to thank Him for your present.

And in the wait, watch with wonder at what God has wrought.

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Cara Cobble Trantham is a freelance writer whose passion is to encourage women of all ages to draw closer to the Lord. She lives in Greeneville, Tennessee, with her husband and one-year-old daughter. She loves to send cards in magazine envelopes, counsel ladies over sugar and cream (with a little bit of coffee), and read a good book at the beach. Her bucket list includes eating pizza in Chicago, staying at a bed and breakfast in Savannah, and following a recipe without leaving out an ingredient.

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May Scripture Challenge | 2017

The May Scripture Challenge is  a way for us to keep each other accountable and encourage each other to spend time in the Word. This is our 4th year of the challenge, and each year I have been amazed at the community that came together  and committed to reading Scripture every day in the month of May…so this year…we are doing it again! I would love for you to join us! Join me on instagram and follow along with our Lamp and Light instagram and our Facebook group! Our Lamp and Light Facebook group has become an amazing resource and group of nearly 3500 women who love the Lord and love studying

The Challenge:

  • Read scripture every day in the month of May.
  • Share a photo on instagram or Facebook using the hashtag #lampandlight so that we can encourage each other on the journey and inspire others to make Scripture a priority.

How to get ready:

  • Decide what you are going to read. I recommend choosing a book of the Bible and starting at the beginning, but if you are already in a reading plan or going through a study you don’t need to choose something else.
    Our Facebook group just started Psalm 119 and will begin Freedom and Grace mid-May! We would love to have you join us! You can purchase a book from The Daily Grace Co., or just follow along in our group!
    You could also choose any study from our shop to help walk through the May challenge, or even consider walking through the whole Bible with The Story of Redemption Series that will help you work through the entire Bible in a year!
  • Prepare your heart. Ask God to encourage your heart throughout the month of May, and instill in you a love and desire for God’s Word.
  • Ask a friend to join you. I will be here to cheer you on, and will be checking out the hashtag often, but it would be great to ask a friend or a few to try to commit with you so that you can encourage each other.
  • If you aren’t sure how to study Scripture, you can read this post about how I do it.
  • Share the image below on Facebook or instagram and ask friends to join in.
  • Join our Facebook group and connect with other women online who are doing this study!
    MayScriptureChallenge
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On Saying No…

Every weekend, I reflect on the things I have gotten done during the week.

And the things I haven’t. 

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I always have a lot to celebrate. Fun things. Time with family and friends. Shopping trips. Good eats. House cleaned.

But I also usually have a lot to beat myself up about. I think of how some days got de-railed. There’s something to be said for being flexible, but often I find myself off track because I choose to say yes to things that I have no business saying yes to. I am a people-pleaser to a fault, and I have a hard time saying no, especially to the things I want to do. The things I’m good at. The things I worry no one else can do as well as me. The things no one else wants to do.

I don’t want to say no to church things. If I cut corners somewhere, it surely shouldn’t be in the church, right? And I don’t want to say no to friends. They’re my people! And my neighbors can’t think poorly of me because then they might think poorly of Jesus. So that doesn’t leave many requests for me to say no to.

But this week, I found that I had been saying yes to things I don’t even want to do! This is when I realized that this is an epidemic in my life.

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So how do I deal with this? I can’t stay afloat in my life as long as I’m agreeing to everything I’ve been asked to do. How do I set boundaries? One thing that is helpful is deciding ahead of time what things I will and will not say yes to. A friend of mine had a rule when her children were small. She could only go somewhere twice a week and only get the kids in and out of their carseats two times on that trip. This kept her sane. If she had already committed to two things in one day, she knew her answer to anything else that was presented to her.

The world will banter for our attention, and if we turn our head every time something sparkles, we will soon find that our life will lose its sparkle. It has been helpful for me to write down a mission statement. This small paragraph composes the goals I have in life, the jobs I am confident God has given me to do, and the roles I must play to be a faithful servant. These are mostly under the headings of Christian, wife, mother, and employee. The usual things are on this list: meals, laundry, reading my Bible, finishing work projects on time, taking time out to encourage others in the faith. I think having a boundary in place is helpful.

If you are an extrovert, it will limit your time spent socializing.

Likewise, if you are an introvert, it will encourage you to go outside of your comfort zone, once or a twice a week. I feel sure that my friend wanted to say yes more often than she did. But looking back, she realized that her boundary was a wise decision.

So I guess the real question is: are we willing to sacrifice now to gain later? Sacrifice our comfort zone to reach out to others who need it? Give up our daily nap to spend more time in the Word? Give up our TV time to call a friend who needs encouragement? Go to bed earlier so that we can wake up before the kids and have a better disposition? Schedule some self-care and take a bath or go on a walk so that we have more patience with our families? Sacrifice our need to socialize so that we can be home more and less stressed about the Cheerios stuck on the walls?

I choose a word to be my theme every year, and a verse to correspond with the word. My word for 2017 is Necessary, from Luke 10:42, and even just having this word stuck in my head has enabled me not to distract myself with lesser priorities. In her book, “A Woman After God’s Own Heart,” Elizabeth George says that she prays about every decision. The ones she wants to say yes to, the ones she wants to say no to, and the ones she has no idea about. I think that if we prayed about every opportunity, we would find ourselves less stressed, less irritated, and much more peaceful.

Maybe Isaiah was onto something when he told us to wait on the Lord. Before we rush ahead, before we chock-full our calendars, before we operate on a whim. “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and no be weary, and they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31 KJV).

Are we willing to stop the rat race that the world is in and slow down? It will be unusual. It will feel foreign, perhaps. It may not be popular in our circles. But take courage. As Christine Caine says, “Life is too short, the world is too big, and God’s love is too good to live ordinarily.”

Let’s be women who fear God more than people. Let’s not feel failure as much as we fear succeeding at things that don’t really matter. Let’s give up our comfort idols in order to make a mark on the world.

Our time here is short. Let’s make the most of it!

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Cara Cobble Trantham is a freelance writer whose passion is to encourage women of all ages to draw closer to the Lord. She lives in Greeneville, Tennessee, with her husband and one-year-old daughter. She loves to send cards in magazine envelopes, counsel ladies over sugar and cream (with a little bit of coffee), and read a good book at the beach. Her bucket list includes eating pizza in Chicago, staying at a bed and breakfast in Savannah, and following a recipe without leaving out an ingredient.

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