Truth in the Trench of Trials- #1

I couldn’t make this year up if I tried. Between several life changing diagnoses of loved ones, death of family members, bad news from even neighbors and distant relatives, the repercussions of a global pandemic, I can’t think of a single person I know who is not in a trial right now.

This has led to some moments of severe disbelief. I won’t even utter the phrase “This can’t get any worse,” because then life seems to do just that. And I just wrote it, so I am not sure where that puts me. I’ll let you know…

More than ever before, we need to be reminded of truth. This is one of the amazing purposes for God’s Word- to provide supernatural comfort and solace as we experience the very real effects of this cursed world on our lives. To remind us of what is true and point us back to the Source of truth in the middle of pain and frustration and grief.

All this pain seems like a bad dream. But it’s real. These trials are like none I have ever experienced in my almost four decades under the sun. It is so easy for me to go to worst case scenarios, over-reading every piece of news and overthinking every circumstance. I often feel like I’m putting waders on and purposely wallowing around in a tar pit.

So as I take this journey, I do hope to share some of what I am learning with you. Comforting with the comfort we have been comforted by. Reminders for myself in what seems like a wilderness wandering in many ways. Because, we all need reminders.

So this first truth is going to make every grammarian cringe, but it is the only way to word it: This ain’t it.

Humans are awful to each other. Disease eats at our bodies. Things fall apart. Relationships get messy. If this was all we have to look forward to- as many actually believe- life would be incredibly abysmal. And no amount of optimism would cure it.

For those of us who read the words of our Creator, we see there is a bigger picture at play. We have a future full of hope, beauty, unfailing love, and perfection waiting on the other side of the veil of death we see here on earth. And we must remember that. To be heavenly minded is life and peace.

This life, this world- it ain’t it. And yet so often we as Christian pilgrims treat this world like it’s our inheritance. We live like practical atheists, collecting our toys and awards and money and power. Gobbling it up desperately like a people starved for purpose and satisfaction.

Jesus Christ categorically and repeatedly points out the emptiness of these pursuits. He is the source of purpose and satisfaction. As you seek Him, you find these things.

Even so, the human heart has an intuition that there is something incomplete in life. As I do my seeking for Christ, I find Him, but I still yearn for more because He has more waiting for me. I call it a holy dissatisfaction, and the main difference between a holy dissatisfaction and a instinctual dissatisfaction is hope.

The holy dissatisfaction is in the statement “this ain’t it.” I long for a day when I will see with my own eyes all things made new. My eternal home is going to be better than this. So I will keep looking up to Christ in the trenches of pain.

Ladies’ Bible Study/ Book Club!

Have you ever read something so helpful and profound that you found yourself becoming obnoxious to share it with others? Is that just a book nerd thing?

Well, it happened to me. Somehow I ran across a book that has been so perfect for my current circumstances. Well, not somehow- God directs these things. I want so desperately to share… so I am doing something about it.

Picture by Sophia Franklin
Picture by Sophia Franklin

I’m changing my church Bible Study to a book club for a few months. Because of people still social distancing for health reasons, I wanted to make this available to everyone who is interested.

“So what is this great book?” Glad you asked. Suffering is Never for Nothing by Elisabeth Elliot. It is a six chapter book. Her style is easy to read, yet so much of what she writes/speaks just digs to the heart of the matter. She doesn’t dodge the hard questions.

Right now, I do not know of a single person in my acquaintance that is not in the middle of a trial right now. For me, since March, many of the sure things in my life are faltering. It is unnerving, but I know that God is accomplishing something in the midst of hard things.

So join me. Our first in-person study will be August 1. I will be posting the same study on my blog and YouTube channel on the 4th. As we go through the book, you will get the lesson three days after it happens in real life. Links will be forthcoming.

The book is available at Amazon, Christian Book, Revive Our Hearts, Lifeway… all over the place!

Ligonier Ministries has Elisabeth Elliot’s original video series along with a study guide for free here. I don’t blame you if you’d rather hear it from her directly. I know I am enjoying it immensely.

The hard truths we learn from the school of suffering are so beneficial. It doesn’t mean life should be a continual drag, or that we ought to be begging for trials. It doesn’t mean we will ever know the purpose for our pain on this side of Heaven. We can, though, learn to see them as a tool in the hands of a loving God.

Stay tuned.

The Reluctant Entrepreneurs

It was summer in the early 90’s. My dad did not want us sitting around, frittering our summer away watching mindless tv while waiting for our friends to come out and play. So he sat us down and presented us with an opportunity.

“I want you two to start a business. I will give you start-up money and it can be whatever you want.”

Now, there is a motto my dad had for us kids that you need to know: “You are free to make your own choices, but if you make the wrong choice, I will make it for you.” It was our safety net growing up. I see that now. At the time, we saw it as cruel mockery.

In other words, if Dad said to start a business, we were starting a business whether we wanted to or not.

My sister and I did not want to start a business.

Nevertheless, we dragged our feet and hemmed and hawed over what to do. Our “Shark” investor, aka Dad (Who will be known for the rest of this story as “Daddy Shark”. Just kidding.) pressed us until we finally committed to starting up a business making the most 90’s accessory out there- scrunchies.

The Proprietors years later…

Mom took us material shopping and got out the ol’ Kenmore sewing machine. Dad made scrunchie holders to present our wares. We even had a deal with our hair stylist to sell our product… it was a venture primed for success.

We were only missing a name. This was still extremely unexciting to us, but we had to come up with something. Anything. We both liked the hymn “Face to Face.” There is a line in the song that says, “Far beyond the starry skies…” Or was it because of the famous artwork of the notorious Vincent Van Gogh? I don’t exactly recall, but Starry Sky Scrunchies would forever be emblazoned in our memories.

So our days went like this: Wake up. Eat. Cut out and sew scrunchies while watching Matlock or Andy Griffith or Beverly Hillbillies. Eat lunch. Play with friends. Repeat.

The part of the day called “cut out and sew scrunchies” was not relished. Cutting material and elastic. Sewing and figuring out how to close the end. It was something we did because we had to- we had an investor and distributor to think of, after all. But we did it with the gusto of a toothless man trying to eat corn nuts.

I think I can safely say we hated it. We were so unenthusiastic about it that our production rate was maybe, MAYBE, 5 scrunchies a day. With my expanded knowledge of sewing, I know now we could have easily pumped out 4 to 5 times that amount in a morning.

Lack of motivation is all it takes to make a successful business model a complete failure. Our hearts weren’t in it. I don’t know how long that hairstylist left our scrunchies in her shop, but we didn’t sell many. They were really ugly.

Eventually my Dad let up on us. We should have been embarrassed or disappointed in ourselves, but we were only relieved. We were not entrepreneurs.

So let’s fast forward about 7ish years. My dad decided to start his own business- a sign company. We learned how to look at signs from an early age and were glad to help him get started.

We drove around picking up neon, looking for broken signage in need of repairs, mastering fear of heights in a bucket truck. I was once handed a book bigger than any college textbook I ever had, and told me to learn graphic design. Ha. Ha.

But I watched and learned as he worked so hard to provide for us and build this dream with God’s leading. He made it work when it looked like failure because he wanted it to succeed. He cared.

Dad always knows how to make us laugh.

My sister would eventually get married and move away, but I stayed. I remember telling my Dad before I got married, “I am done working for the family business.” I am no entrepreneur, remember? I’m pretty sure I even brought up Starry Sky Scrunchies.

But my husband caught the bug. He had the drive. He had the willingness to learn. So my Dad took a chance on a bike mechanic with a college degree in Health and Fitness.

This will be their 17th year together. It has had its ups and downs, but God has been so unbelievably good to us. And yes, I still play a part in this 20 year old venture, albeit small.

Those epic fails as a kid helped me for this life I live now. I now know if motivation wanes, business will fail. I now know that putting all of yourself into a project is a rewarding experience. I now know when an opportunity is handed to you, you owe it to the giver and yourself to give it your all.

This is just one lesson of many Dad has taught me over the years. Some lessons I had to learn over and over and some took right away. And right now, I am watching my Dad- our business partner, the Scrunchie Shark- fight for his life as cancer is trying incorporate his body. I am still learning from him.

While I am still no entrepreneur, I am willing to take what he has given to our family and give it my all. I may not be able to weld, or wire, or even operate a crane, but I can cheer and motivate and send invoices.

Who knows? Maybe I will start making scrunchies again… I hear they are back on trend.

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