Where am I supposed to be?

Portrait of girl in fur coat

“Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” Esther 4:14 (NIV)

That simple family portrait you glance at almost always has a big story behind it. Small unseen steps, and large messy steps all leading to the snapping of a photo.

I  had the pleasure to meet and photograph the Villegas family. My daughter and their oldest have quickly become best friends at school, and this momma approves of the friendship. Getting to chat with this new family, I couldn’t help but see GOD’s hands as they have trusted – and soldiered on- through some big changes.

Latinos, like me, we immediately found some common ground to connect (and it was such a beautiful gift to be able to speak Spanish with them!).  The father had just retired from the military and they are now adjusting to civilian life, which is oh so not easy: a new town, new school, new friends.

I couldn’t help but wonder, what other big mountains, secret mountains, have they overcome, with GOD in the background, preparing them for such a time as this?

He prepares us for the journey.

Here’s the deal:

We don’t send our kids to college before first sending them to elementary school or high school. They would not be able to understand it, handle it, and even less so, thrive and grow in it!

When we think in those terms, we understand how important step-by-step preparation is… It prepares us for challenges later in the journey.

Yet:

We fail to approach many of life’s harder lessons the same way.  Let’s be real, when a challenge gets in my way my usual responses can include: despair, crying, fear, or locking the door and hiding.  And more often than I’d like to admit, I give up.

Because let’s be honest, who WANTS to be uncomfortable?

So how do we embrace such discomfort and turn it into opportunities for growth instead of running for the hills?

Perspective is key to leaning into discomfort

Cali, our 5th grader, is having the hardest time at school. For the first time, she is not a straight-A student. She is struggling, she is being challenged and stretched beyond what she’s ever been. She is tasting hardships and failures like never before. And she is not equipped to deal with that.

My first reaction…

…I want to march into that classroom and demand that the teacher be more considerate to my child’s unique struggle.  Maybe she could loosen up the workload a little bit right?… etc., etc.

A wiser reaction?

There is an invaluable opportunity: my daughter is growing in strength and perseverance. She is earning something much more priceless than straight A’s. Instead she is learning, and she is being equipped with the tools that she’ll need to face and overcome life – an exciting and extraordinary one.

This is an opportunity to work with her and teach her how character, perseverance, and hard work are equally (if not more) important than the grade she gets.

Bottom line:

While difficult to orchestrate and create scenarios on my own where my children will learn these valuable lessons, our Heavenly Father does this, and He does so often.

Why would a good God do this? For our very own benefit. For our good (like Romans 8:28). Because He has greater and far more challenging things ahead of us; thrilling, exhilarating, amazing things, things that no eye has seen or ear has heard (1 Corinth. 2:9).

There is work prepared for us. There is wonderful things prepared for us. There is unbelievable blessings prepared for us. We need to be prepared to receive them, and to husband them well.

It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it:

“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.” Matthew 6:20

Have you heard that old saying “nothing worth having comes easy?”  As individuals, as Christians, as husbands, as wives, and even as children, life lessons are costly. Many times they are accompanied by tears.

I don’t know why, but growing pains are seldom pleasurable. But they are worth it… usually…. I think..

I used to think that, if GOD would give me the chance to re-enact my life, I would skip a few scenes, probably even full chapters. There’s some bad ones in there!  BUT, who I am, the life I have, the husband and kids I’ve been entrusted with, all of those things have been a direct result of those growing pains. And I wouldn’t trade a single one of them.

I praise GOD for them, and as a result, I can praise GOD for those hard times. Learning this lesson has prepared me to attempt something that is incredibly difficult: praising and thanking Him in the middle of the storm.

He is not asking us to do anything He hasn’t done first

Jesus  knows very well how difficult growth and pain are.

Betrayed and abandoned by friends, beaten and crucified on a cross (one of the most painful punishments imagined by the Roman Empire) he understands suffering.  And, He has promised to be alongside us, every single step on the way…

…even when we don’t seem to recognize Him, even when we feel like he’s a thousand miles away…

The ultimate sacrifice was paid in full at the cross. The debt that was owed for man’s brokenness, and the price tag was death.

Now: my debt history has been completely erased, and where I was in the negative, now I am not only left with positive funds but with immense accruing interest. Eternal, I might add 😉

The only thing left is to do is to grow and compound that interest, GOD’s investment: the process of sanctification.  Or, in terms I could understand, the process of becoming more and more like Christ – growing and being transformed by the renewal of my mind (Romans 12:2).

He is always working behind the scenes on our behalf. It is only in the blissful hindsight that we can recognize His hand even is the most testing times.

So as for the Villegas family, guys, look back. Look at what you have overcome, what GOD has worked in your favor. And draw strength, and keep on soldiering on.

Look forward. With anticipation, with excitement. Life from now on is filled with opportunities and open doors. Civilian life is not that bad! hehehe.

Thank you for your service.

Thank you for so many sacrifices. And thank you GOD for keeping them safe and keeping their marriage and family strong. Thank you for those whom You’ll bring to their lives to be ministered by them. Who knows, maybe you have been preparing them for such a time as this.

And to anyone actually reading this:

You were made for just such a time as this.

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