Hope in God’s Bigger Story

Jared, Raegan, Elliotte, Sarah, Asher, Toben, and Shiloh

Before the Covid 19 quarantine, a typical day in the life of our family might have looked like this: Wake up, mad rush to get everyone up, fed, and ready for school, feed all the pets, drop off kids to three different schools, grocery shopping, put away groceries, do dishes from last night’s dinner and this morning’s breakfast, laundry, make lunch, laundry, first school pick up, prep dinner, laundry, second school pick up, laundry, third school pick up, friends stop by for snack, GATE class, talent show rehearsal, soccer/baseball/basketball practice and games, dinner, homework, shower, put kids to bed, discuss logistics for the next day, and collapse into bed. Only to wake up and do the whole thing the next day. 

Amid this chaos, last year I found myself in a season of discouragement and discontentment. The circumstances of my life were really not anything to be discontent about. I was not going through any major trial and objectively speaking, I had been blessed with much and had so much to be thankful for. Yet there I was, day after day, grumbling in my heart about the chores that needed to be done, wishing I could be more than just dishes and laundry, ignoring bickering and disobedient kids rather than shepherding. I was not eager or joyful to serve my family. I wanted appreciation, affirmation, a return for my love. I relied on my own strength and each day was just a matter of survival. I was just so tired. Tired of the mess, tired of the busyness, tired of saying the “right” thing, and eventually, tired of my own selfishness and failure to be content. 

It was during that season that Lamentations 3:22-24 became an anchor for me. As I read the book of Lamentations and saw how far the Israelites had strayed from the Lord, how they had lost hope in him, and despaired in their loss, I saw myself in the same lonely place. But chapter 3 offered hope for the Israelites and hope for me: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.” 

Dwelling on these words over months, God showed me that I had come to hope in myself, rather than trusting my days to him. He reminded me of all the ways he is faithful, merciful, and loving. That because he is steadfast and unchanging, I could hope in him to help me in my selfishness and discontentment in the day to day. That he could forgive and give hope for change. That his grace was enough. That my portion for each day was gifted to me by a faithful and merciful God who saw me in my need and cared about my good. 

I wish I could say that I am now always content and selfless, serving joyfully at home. But no. By God’s grace, I’m growing. And now more than ever, I need this grace and this truth. 

Our days look different now. Being safer at home means no more mad rush to get out the door in the morning, no school drop offs or pick ups, no after-school playdates, practices, and games, no small group or ministry, not even grocery shopping and errands. With Covid-19, my life was instantly stripped of all the distractions that blinded me from seeing where my heart was. In the first week of quarantine, I realized how much I actually thrived on the busyness, maybe because it gave me something to do outside of home. Our busy life had become an idol, an escape, even a source of pride. I realized that maybe my identity has been wrapped up in being a super mom who does all these things in the name of “serving” my kids. I don’t think I had really stopped to think about it. The busyness just covered my sin and gave me an excuse to overlook it. 

I asked the kids to share their honest thoughts and feelings on staying home and this is what they had to say about both the good and the hard: 

  • “I don’t get to go to the park. I read books. We can’t go at the swimming pool. We made cards. And we got bey blades.”  
  • “I feel sad. I feel bored because I can’t play with my friends. Sometimes I have bad dreams and I can’t stop thinking about it. Sometimes I’m angry at my siblings because I don’t get my way. It’s pretty fun because we get to play on bikes and stuff and it’s fun to do church online and google meet my class. I get to walk Chelsea.”
  • “The good part about the corona virus is that we get to spend more time with Chelsea and the buns. But we can’t go anywhere. And it’s really hard to do school and my teacher gives me a lot of work.” 
  • “I can’t see my friends and it’s hard to do school and church virtually. I miss my soccer team and my school friends. But I like doing devotions in the morning.”
  • “It’s boring and lonely and not fun and I can’t wait to go back to school. It’s hard getting all my work done because it’s hard to focus. I know that I can trust God that it’s going to end up alright. And my siblings are driving me crazy.” 

With this new normal, the kids and I have had some great moments and days. The thirty minutes we aren’t rushing around finding socks, homework, clarinets, sports equipment, and snacks we have spent doing devotions together. I have always wanted to be in the word with the kids. Every year I buy a new devotional book with high hopes of at least opening it, and year after year they have sat on the shelf. Until now. We started at the beginning and even in a few days we’ve gotten to talk about sin, forgiveness, and the sovereignty of God in a way we never had before. It has been a blessing watching my kids play with each other and enjoy each other’s company every day. I have had fun spending time playing with them outside, riding bikes, rollerblading, walking the neighborhood with the dog, and doing chalk drawings. We have made playdoh, done lots of crafts, written cards for friends, and played a lot of board games. Our time together is often actually kind of fun. I’m humbled when I hear the kids pray, asking God to help them have a good day even though we can’t go out, to help them be kind to each other, and to love others. I wish I could have the child-like faith they have and am encouraged in their trust. 

And then there are the other moments and days that are…not that great. The kids are bored and tired of each other, pushing each other’s buttons and bickering all day. They ask me, “what are we going to do today?…oh right, the same thing…again.” There’s whining and complaining. It’s a battle for the kids (and me) to get through the schoolwork with even a partial good attitude. We all miss our friends and activities. The dog is crazy and has eaten another wooden spoon or Tupperware lid. When I can barely figure out how to join yet another Zoom meeting, I worry that I’m not doing enough with schooling them, coaching them in sports I can’t play, and helping them stay connected with friendships. While it’s nice to have Jared home, his presence means he’s not at work and I wonder what we will do down the line. Some days I just feel so lonely, missing friends, the moms I see at school pick ups, the friends on our teams, and church. While none of these things are a true trial, I’m finding this season to be an easy time to only think of myself. So much about our circumstances has changed in the last few weeks, but I find myself in the same place I was last year. I will admit that even in our changed circumstances, some days my heart is still stuck in a bubble of self-centeredness, I am easily irritated and impatient, and I don’t serve my family with joy. I get tired of serving meals and cleaning up after. I wish for circumstances to be different, for an escape from the monotony of endless piles of dishes that are now multiplied because we all eat at home all the time, and for all the “can I’s” to just stop. I have to fight daydreaming about “me/free/alone time.” Blessed with much, thankful for a lot, yet still battling selfishness and discontentment in the daily grind.

Once again, God has given me hope. God has not changed. While our marriage and parenting may struggle, our finances are unsure, our schooling is changed, our sports careers are on hold, our friendships look different…there is one thing that is sure. Christ is sure. Lamentations 3 continues with verses 25 and 26 saying this: “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” God has given us a season for seeking him and waiting on him. Once upon a time we were busy–too busy to quiet our hearts, to realize our sin, to spend time helping each other forgive and grow. And now we are not and we have been given time to learn to trust him. I’m fighting being selfish, impatient, and discontent, but this time I’m not relying on myself for change because I’ve been given time to pray–to pray for more patience and more grace. 

In this season, we have been so blessed and encouraged by so many of our friends and church family. Cards, meals, groceries, supplies, virtual dinners together, shared worship songs, Facetime calls, devotions, and prayers have been abundant. While we are thankful for these gifts, the best gift is that our friends have pointed us to God’s faithfulness. Those things have been God reminding me that as we struggle in the day-to-day, whether in chores or with sin, that he cares for us. What this past few weeks has shown me is that in everything, his grace has been sufficient. In my worry, he has provided for every need. In my selfishness, he is selfless. In my grumbling, he gives contentment. In my pride, he models humility. In my impatience, he gives more grace. In my weakness, he is strong. 

I’ve been loving the words to the song “Yet Not I But Through Christ In Me”:[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_column_text]What gift of grace is Jesus my redeemer
There is no more for heaven now to give
He is my joy, my righteousness, and freedom
My steadfast love, my deep and boundless peace

To this I hold, my hope is only Jesus
For my life is wholly bound to his
Oh how strange and divine, I can sing: all is mine!
Yet not I, but through Christ in me

The night is dark but I am not forsaken
For by my side, the Savior he will stay
I labor on in weakness and rejoicing
For in my need, his power is displayed

To this I hold, my Shepherd will defend me
Through the deepest valley he will lead
Oh the night has been won, and I shall overcome!
Yet not I, but through Christ in me

No fate I dread, I know I am forgiven
The future sure, the price it has been paid
For Jesus bled and suffered for my pardon
And he was raised to overthrow the grave[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_column_text]To this I hold, my sin has been defeated
Jesus now and ever is my plea
Oh the chains are released, I can sing: I am free! 
Yet not I, but through Christ in me

With every breath I long to follow Jesus
For he has said that he will bring me home
And day by day I know he will renew me
Until I stand with joy before the throne

To this I hold, my hope is only Jesus
All the glory evermore to him
When the race is complete, still my lips shall repeat:
Yet not I, but through Christ in me!
When the race is complete, still my lips shall repeat: 
Yet not I, but through Christ in me!

Like the kids, I sometimes think about when this quarantine is over and life can go back to normal. But then I remind myself that if what we have seen in the last two weeks is even a glimpse of God’s plan for our family during this time, then what more can God have in his bigger story? When the quarantine is complete, it is my prayer that my lips can repeat, “Yet not I, but through Christ in me!” Our future is sure because Christ has been and will be steadfast. He is steadfast in his love, powerful in his grace, merciful in his care for us, and great in his faithfulness.