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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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Follow Me

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When Jesus rose from the grave, that wasn’t the end. He appeared to His disciples, and gave them a simple message: “Follow Me.” It wasn’t a message that the 11 hadn’t heard before. For some of them, these were the words Jesus used to draw them into His elite group. They had followed Him for nearly 3 years, but that was different…. He had been visibly in front of them every step of the way. Now, He was leaving, but His message didn’t change: “Follow Me.”

They obviously couldn’t transcend to heaven, so what did Jesus mean? He had taught and prayed and healed and loved… and they were to carry on the tradition. He was passing them the torch, so to speak. Those things that the disciples had observed in Jesus were to be implemented in their own lives. They were to teach, pray, heal, and love. 

How easy it is to yell, “He’s alive!” on Easter Sunday, and then go back to our regular lives on Monday morning. Without being changed. Without experiencing the power that raised Jesus from the dead. What a tragedy that is! This same power lives inside of us! It should change us. It should change our lives. It should motivate us to teach, pray, heal, and love.

We don’t have to teach Sunday school to be a teacher. If we have children, our pupils are in front of us every day. If we have a young person who looks up to us, we are teaching them by our words and behaviors. We have a responsibility to teach them the Gospel.

We don’t have to be a pastor to pray. We can pray alone, in our prayer closet, or with a friend who needs help going before the Lord. Prayer is a vital ministry. We can keep a list and pray over it daily. We can offer to pray with a friend spontaneously at church, at work, at Walmart. Anytime someone shares a need, why don’t we just offer it up to the Lord right there? Ultimately, what we need is not advice, not a solution, but more of Jesus. Let’s not wait until we’ve tried every other human measure before we pray. Let’s make it our first stop.

We don’t have to be given the gift of healing to heal. How often we forget the healing power of our words! Giving each other God’s Word via a phone call, an email, a text message, a coffee date, a hand-written note. The Word of God heals. How beautiful are the feet of them who preach the Gospel of peace. And where our feet take us, let our mouths encourage others. Let us visit the shut-in and take flowers to the widow and bake cookies for the single person and take a meal to the sick. Let us seek to heal with the message of the Gospel.

And most of all, we can love. There is an old hymn that says, “They will know we are Christians by our love.” We can find a complete stranger and show them Jesus’ love. A smile, a kind word, a considerate gesture. In an every-man-for himself world, it speaks volumes to let someone in front of us in line at the grocery store. To pay for an older gentleman’s milk, bread, and Snickers bar. To pump gas for an elderly lady in the cold. To pay for someone’s coffee in the drive-through behind us. Jesus said that this is how we serve Him. “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).

This is a simple formula. It’s so simple that we can stumble over it. We want to obey the commandments and cross off check-lists and do holy things like church attendance and tithing. And these are all important parts of the life of a Christian. But let’s not be so caught up in our legalism that we forget to love. Let’s not be so consumed with religion that we neglect real people. Let’s not be so devout that we ignore the deserted.

Tim Keller says, “No one will believe if we tell them that Jesus loves them until they experience it for themselves.”  Jesus didn’t just talk. He proved it. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Two simple words. The mission of the church.

Follow Me.

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This is the last day of our Journey to the Cross devotional! You can still have a copy emailed to you by subscribing to our newsletter here! We hope you’ve enjoyed this free resource as you’ve celebrated Easter and all that it means to us as the church.

 

 

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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The Upside-Down Kingdom

Just imagine opening this morning’s newspaper and reading the title, “{Your best friend} plans the murder of {your name.} Go ahead. Say it out loud. Let it sink in… what it must have been like for Jesus to turn the page of history and see the title, “Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus.” One of His elite group would be the one to deliver Him into enemy’s hands. Judas, who walked and talked with Jesus, who joined Him in the synagogues each Sabbath, who ate meals with Him, didn’t truly love Him.

Judas was so angered when he finally got a whiff of Jesus’ plan. It didn’t involve an earthly kingdom at all. He wouldn’t have the opportunity to rule and reign, after all. And so he decided to get even (or so he thought) by signing Jesus’ death warrant.

And yet, Judas joined them for the Last Supper with the Savior. On the night Judas betrayed Jesus, he sat with the disciples and played the part of one of them. How sobering it must have been for Jesus to look around that table and see Peter, who would deny Him; Judas, who would betray Him; and the other disciples, who would flee from Him. Yet, we observe no animosity in Jesus’ words or actions. He is kind, calm, and gentle. He was prepared to give up His life on our behalf.

But as if that wasn’t enough, on this night, we find Him on His hands and knees, washing the feet of these same men. He loved them in such a way that their sin didn’t anger Him here. Even as they argued about who was the greatest among them, He patiently assured them that He was saving a place for them in His Kingdom. He even told them that they will receive these benefits because they had stayed with Him during His trials. Yet He knew that a few verses later, they would not be able to stay awake to pray with Him at the most crucial point of His life.

This is the God we serve. He bends down to us even when we are consumed with ourselves. He doesn’t seem to feel taken advantage of by anyone. (In fact, I think I am more angry about this than He is!)

This God we serve is King of an upside-down Kingdom. He doesn’t operate the way we do. He doesn’t demand our eye for His eye. He doesn’t feel the need to expound on all that He has given up for us. He doesn’t get huffy or give the silent treatment like I would do.  He just… loves.

Another oddity in this passage is this: just hours before He sweats drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, he is eating a meal, drinking wine, and giving thanks.

How is it that on the night he was betrayed, Jesus could still give thanks? Give thanks for His betrayer? Give thanks for the people He had come to save that had rejected Him? Yet in the midst of His inner turmoil, He thought to give thanks for their bread. Is it possible that this act of giving thanks is an anecdote for our grief?

When I’m in the middle of a tough situation, the last thing I usually think to do is thank God. For that flat tire? For that job loss? For this illness? Blessed are those that mourn; for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4). Yes, we mourn the consequences of sin, but we don’t grieve without hope. Jesus kept His eyes on the prize… our souls reconciled with the Father’s. When we focus on Jesus instead of on our suffering, we are able to give thanks.

What grudge do we need to lay aside today? Can we forgive that small offense in light of the HUGE debt of which Jesus has forgiven us? Maybe we need to get down on our hands and knees and serve that person who has hurt us. Maybe we can start by simply giving thanks.

And then we can set out to follow our Father’s footsteps.

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