Living in a World of “Ifs”

Living In A World of IfsI watched the events unfold on live TV. I was in my pajamas eating a piece of pizza; they were being shot at inside a concert hall. The original shock of such an unthinkable act quickly gave way to panic—my mind and heart raced, and I imagined the worst possible scenarios.

“What if something like that happens here?” I texted Crockett.

“What if that happens to us? To you or me?”

The things I’d been worrying about earlier that day were suddenly trivial—what if I didn’t make an A on that History quiz? What if my acne scars don’t go away? What if I can’t find a better job? What if I’d overeaten at breakfast? But nevertheless, they were still worries, and I had spent the entire day with one or another always lingering on my mind. Dying in an act of terrorism was suddenly at the forefront.

Here’s my confession: I like to worry.

I don’t necessarily enjoy dwelling on negatives, but I’d much rather worry—in detail—about every possible thing that could go wrong than ask God to handle my worries for me.

Worrying gives me a slight sense of control; if I worry, I can mentally prepare for the worst.

“Can you imagine how those people must be feeling?” I texted, and imagine I did.

I worried about being trapped in a room with masked gunmen—I played the whole scene out in my mind—and worried about the pain I’d feel, my family’s tears, our country’s reaction, another war…and, of course, I even ended up dreaming about the exact things I had been worrying about.

Really, though, worrying about such a situation doesn’t prepare me for it. At all.

In fact, worry doesn’t do much of anything except give me a deep, defined ache in my neck and shoulders.

But I can’t seem to stop!

As you can imagine, Psalm 55:22 has always given me trouble:

Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.

I’d like to do that. I mean, worrying sucks the life out of me, and it doesn’t really give me any power or control.

But this anxious little voice in my head asks,

“What if God doesn’t keep the bad things from happening? What if you trust him but he lets you down? What if he doesn’t help you with those things you worry about? What if you ask for help but he doesn’t take the worries away? What if you keep worrying about worry forever?”

And I listen to the voice, the ifs, and they keep me from placing my trust in him.

If.

A word that implies the unknown possibilities, the worst outcomes, the things that we don’t want to happen. A word that equally stands for uncertainty and distrust. It drives us to worry and it keeps us from being sure of the hope and good future God has provided for us.

There are countless ifs in the world, and even in your life. Whatever struggles you’re facing, you’ve likely imagined the hundreds of different results that are possible. The longer the struggle, the more ifs you’ve asked; the more intense the struggle, the more terrifying the ifs. You don’t know what could happen—it could be the worst thing imaginable. Or it could be the best. You just don’t know. And if you’re like me, you just don’t want to trust God with such a scary, risky set of possibilities.

But God has a plan for each and every one of us, and he loves us all. And since he makes all things work for our good, we should be able to trust that he will take care of all our worries in his way and his time.

Surrender is never that easy, of course, and for this World’s Worst Worrier, it takes a conscious effort to allow myself the freedom of giving my worries to God. I hate to admit that he can take care of myself better than me, and that he’s in control of my life and I’m not. That’s the simple truth of the matter, though. Freedom from worry comes when we trade our uncertainties for his certainties—the promises of his word, and the knowledge of all the good he’s done in our lives so far.

Worry is the biggest challenge I face.

I’m still just about as possibly anxious a person can be, and I know I’m preaching to myself here—but we live in a broken world, and terrifying things like the terrorist attacks in Paris scare everyone.

The only hope I can offer is trusting God to take care of us, to provide, and to comfort us when bad things happen, because there are evil forces on this earth that we as individuals cannot control. Even under the threat of such evil, God is still our sword and shield, and he has the greater power. We can trust him with our fears and worries because we know he is always, always faithful.

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IMG_1563 Emilee Hackney is a recent high school graduate living in the
mountains in Tazewell, VA. She is attending a local college
this fall where she hopes to discover God’s plan for her career. She
loves her grandma’s house, her boyfriend of three and a half years,
and anything with an unhealthy amount of sugar.

Keep Going to Jesus

Keep GoingFor as long as I have remembered, I have wanted to become a wife and mother.

Now, I didn’t expect to marry as young as I did. In fact, a part of me always thought that I would be one of the oldest of my friends to get married, maybe around 30 or 35, having enjoyed many glorious years of single and devoted service to God without a husband or children in tow.

But God had different plans for me.

Melody MaynardHe sent a wonderful young man into my life, and allowed us to fall in love. He paved the path to marriage for us with stone after stone of love, forgiveness, and peace.

 

Everyone that asked us about children were told that we had a 5- year plan. Birth control of some variety for 5 years, and then we would consider starting a family. In 5 years time, we would have a stable home, stable jobs, and I would be through with college.

I liked the sound of it because it made us sound a little less crazy. We were already getting plenty of raised eyebrows for choosing to marry so young. The last thing we needed to do was add a baby to the mix.

But as soon as I said the words “I do.”, and we were presented as Mr. and Mrs. Shawn Maynard . . .

Something I like to call “Baby Fever” started swelling up around my heart . . .

And I desperately wanted to be a mom.

After just three months of marriage, we were done with birth control. We both had peace from God about our decision, and were ready to start our family. Come what may.

Except nothing . . .

I wasn’t quite prepared for nothing.

Infertility issues run in my family, but I had prayed to God for years to keep that trial away from me. Was He going to stick me with the one trial I had asked Him to keep away?

At first, I wasn’t too concerned. We weren’t really trying for a baby after all, we just weren’t preventing one. And although we were doing well financially, a baby would have stretched us to our limits. It still would.

Yet, as months went by, I started to get more and more discouraged. I thought all sorts of ugly thoughts about the teenage mom down the street, the birth mothers who have children in foster homes, and even some of my dear friends who had children out of wedlock.

We did everything right, God? Why aren’t you blessing us?

After a while, I became more strict on our “schedule”. I started paying close attention to when I thought I might be ovulating, and would make my husband feel terrible if he “wasn’t in the mood” on that particular day.

I was in no state to be blessed by God.

I would read statistics that said it could take up to a year for a normal, healthy couple to get pregnant. So I watched the calendar with anxiety. I discovered that “infertility” was defined as not getting pregnant within a year of trying. I had twelve short months before I could self-diagnose myself as infertile. *cue the nail biting*

This month marks a year.

Along the way, God has shown me that He still loves me, and that He has not forsaken me. He has broken me, mended me, and broken me again, in order to show Himself to me.

One such breaking happened last week.

In a moment of desperation, I typed the words “what to do while you’re childless” into the search bar on Pinterest.

I was hoping to find a fun list of things to do, and places to go before you have children . . .  a list of Master’s degrees that would lead to a good career for a mom . . .   maybe some good pregnancy and parenting books for the waiting period.

But do you know what I found instead?

Pictures of Jesus.

For some reason, that particular string of words typed into the search bar on my Pinterest account brought up pictures of Jesus! There was a painting of Him stretched out on the cross, and another of Jesus surrounded by children and sheep.

I don’t know much about Pinterest’s algorithms. I can’t explain why that phrase brought back those search results. But the message was clear to me.

Keep going to Jesus. That’s always been the answer. And it always will be.

Going to Jesus is what to do while you’re childless, while you’re single, while you’re a mom, and while you’re married.  He will never turn you away.

I would appreciate your prayers as I am having a small surgery later this month. The doctors are searching for any lurking endometriosis as it may be the cause of some serious pain I’ve been experiencing for the past two years. Endometriosis is also one of the leading causes of infertility, and I am hoping that this surgery will prove beneficial in all areas.

But in the meanwhile, I’m going to keep taking my pain to Jesus. Will you?

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I understand that many women have gone through far worse pain than I have experienced thus far, and I would never intend to minimize your pain.  Some women seriously struggle with the loneliness of being single. Some women have experienced the pain of a miscarriage or have suffered years of barrenness. If this is you, please know that God understands your pain as well. Nothing is too difficult for Him. May He cover you with His peace tonight. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

_______________________________________________________________________

Joyfully yours,

Melody Maynard

“Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing instant in prayer.”

Bolder Than Politics

Bolder Than PoliticsIt’s that time of year again—falling leaves, chilly nights, an overabundance of pumpkin spice beverages…and campaign signs dotting the roadside.

And front yards.

And vehicles, and storefronts, and billboards, and t-shirts, and newspaper ads . . .

. . . and every available vacant lot, field, and abandoned house in which the ownership is indeterminate.

The local philosophy is to stick a sign wherever possible and make your political viewpoint known. Local elections are a serious matter. The signs start popping up in early spring, and by summer, things really start heating up. Your mailbox, windshield, and front door get bombarded with pamphlets. Your jacket isn’t safe from at least a dozen different stickers when you pass through the gates of a football game.

Your neighbor puts up a few large signs announcing their favorite candidate, and you feel strongly compelled to erect something similar for your opposing party (I’m not entirely innocent on this one, actually).

People are passionate about politics!

Boldly placing a campaign sign in your yard is expected, even encouraged, especially by your candidate of choice or like-minded neighbors.

It’s a common thing to do—the duty of a good citizen, some would say. But what would happen if you put up a sign about your faith? Imagine that instead of putting up a “Tammy for Clerk” poster with her smiling face and patriotic colors, you set out a sign that said

“Jesus is my Savior.”

Rather than “Randy for Treasurer,” your sign said,

“God forgives my sins.”

What if you put up a half dozen of these along your driveway instead of the typical political ads? If you wore the t-shirts, displayed the bumper stickers, handed out flyers and pamphlets at every community event?

Your neighbors might not be so supportive then. In fact, they’d probably start thinking you were kind of wacko.

Hypocrites, they might think, remembering the time you yelled at their annoying dog two years ago (also not innocent here, either). The people you encounter might be a little perplexed, maybe even offended.

Religious nuts. Why can’t they keep Jesus to themselves?

They don’t have to push their beliefs on everyone else. They don’t need a sign to show they’re Christians. Even though I live in the Bible Belt, there are still some who would vehemently oppose such a public display of faith.

And that is the fear that keeps us quiet. I’m not saying to be obnoxious about your faith, but I am discouraging the silence that seems to plague us Christians.

There is something about proclaiming God’s truth that paralyzes us with the fear of rejection.

In my life, I’ve been extremely hesitant to talk about God for many reasons: I’ll say the wrong thing, someone will argue my logic, I’m weak in apologetics, the person doesn’t want to listen to me or accept their sinfulness or have any interest in matters of faith.

I don’t mind to risk offending someone by proclaiming and debating my political opinion, but if I have to do the same with my beliefs, I quickly shy away, make excuses, and reason that I’m just not prepared or qualified enough to hold a discussion.

So many times God has urged me to speak to others about him, but I’ve simply ignored the call. My own human reasoning has made me afraid to be bold and speak what I know to be the truth.

Lately, though, God has been calling me out of my comfort zone and asking me to witness pretty often, and I’ve noticed that the more I do it, the less frightening it is.

If boldly reaching out to others and speaking up for your faith is difficult, and if you’d feel more secure debating Donald Trump’s economic policy than telling an atheist about Jesus’s sacrifice (been there), here are my tips:

Know when God is urging you to speak about him.

To find out what God says about spreading his word, you have to get into the word! This is first and foremost. For a long time I would pray about God’s purpose for my life, but I wouldn’t read my Bible.

This is how God speaks to us, so it’s essential!

When I did begin to look for direction within his word, he answered my prayer, and gave me some very clear verses about what he wants me to do.

“He said, “Human, I am sending you to the people of Israel. That nation has turned against me and broken away from me. They and their ancestors have sinned against me until this very day. I am sending you to people who are stubborn and who do not obey. You will say to them,

‘This is what the Lord God says.’ They may listen, or they may not, since they are a people who have turned against me. But they will know that a prophet has been among them. You, human, don’t be afraid of the people or their words. Even though they may be like thorny branches and stickers all around you, and though you may feel like you live with poisonous insects, don’t be afraid.

Don’t be afraid of their words or their looks, because they are a people who turn against me. But speak my words to them. They may listen, or they may not, because they turn against me.”  (Ezekiel 2:3-7)

God makes it very clear that believers have a responsibility to speak on his behalf, even in spite of adversity or inconvenience.

(Some other verses to read are Matthew 10:32, Mark 8:38, Luke 9:26, Romans 10:9, and Psalm 105:1)

But since you don’t spend every waking moment in your Bible, how can you know in which situations God wants you to speak about him?

When the words seem to come from nowhere, when you have a sudden stab of sympathy or compassion, when you just have a “strange urge” deep in the center of your heart that compels you to say something, or if you feel like you’ll just burst if you don’t speak, that is God moving in you.

Ask God to give you the right words so his will and purpose for that situation is accomplished.

Speak when God urges you.

So you’ve got that funny feeling that someone just needs to hear a little hope and comfort, and you trust God to give you the words he wants you to say.

But this is when the doubt creeps in—

“Do they really want to hear this?”

“Is it appropriate?”

“What if I just make them angry?”

And then you start an inner debate where you try to reason your way out of speaking.

But doubt is just a trick of Satan designed to keep us in our quiet little comfort zones where our faith will never reach out and affect anyone else.

When we believe the lies doubt puts into our brains, we will never have the courage or boldness to speak about God, offer hope and comfort, or encourage others with our faith.

It is so important to not reason against speaking when God urges us.

He knows exactly what people need to hear, and if he gives you a word to tell others, you know it’s urgently important for them to hear it. Act when God urges you.

Our outreach is not limited to just words—in fact, if we only speak about our faith but never live out its principles, we just make ourselves to look like foolish hypocrites.

James 2:14-17 says it like this:

“My brothers and sisters, if people say they have faith, but do nothing, their faith is worth nothing.

Can faith like that save them?

A brother or sister in Christ might need clothes or food. If you say to that person, ‘God be with you! I hope you stay warm and get plenty to eat,’ but you do not give what that person needs, your words are worth nothing.

In the same way, faith by itself—that does nothing—is dead.”

There are times when God won’t call you to just speak about hope, but to give it. You might feel an urge to show compassion rather than just tell someone about your faith, and that’s okay—do it!

Whether you feel compelled to buy a sandwich for the man who always sits at the bus stop, or to give away a thousand dollars to a friend in need, always listen to God and obey what he asks you to do.

Don’t reason your way out of it by thinking they won’t accept your gift or they don’t really need your help—if God urges you to act, then act, and give him all the glory for it.

Even just the slightest act of kindness is a testament of your faith.

Don’t be afraid to do what he calls you to do!

Now I have to admit that I have spent my whole life hiding in a shell of shyness, so being bold with my faith is definitely a challenge I face.

I’ve wasted plenty of great opportunities to show my faith by ignoring the urges to speak God’s word or to do work for him, and I’m still not perfect—though I mostly try to obey his calling, I do sometimes reason around it or get scared.

But the awesome thing about God is that he never gives up on us and he is continually perfecting us. By trusting in him, we keep growing in faith and fearlessness.

This is my encouragement for the week—go be bold in your faith, and let other know Jesus by knowing you!

________________________________________________

IMG_1563 Emilee Hackney is a recent high school graduate living in the
mountains in Tazewell, VA. She is attending a local college
this fall where she hopes to discover God’s plan for her career. She
loves her grandma’s house, her boyfriend of three and a half years,
and anything with an unhealthy amount of sugar.

5 Practical Things I Love About Our Home

Last week, we celebrated one year of living in the same place. I affectionately call our home “Little Blue” in reference to its sky blue siding and compact size.

Our home is so much more than a foundation and four walls.

It’s where we eat together, sleep together, dream together . . . Simply put, it’s a place we’re together.

But sometimes, it’s helpful to think about specific and practical things as well.

 

 

5 Practical Things I Love About Our HomeThere are so many things I love about this home we have shared this past year.

But for now, I’ll just share a few practical things that I love! Feel free to make your own list as you’re reading mine!

1. It’s old.

Our house doesn’t look too ancient from the outside . . .  Remember the blue siding?

But the inside features tall ceilings, long windows, and a pocket door that separates the living and dining rooms. The front door shows its years with an ornate wood design, and a piece of stained glass rests above it.

I love thinking about the stories that have been made in this house. My grandma lived here for years, so I have many childhood memories that took place here as well.

Although I’m sure I would love a newer house as well, I love the history that’s within “Little Blue”.

2. It’s in a small town.

I’ve shared before about how I love living in a small town. It’s wonderful to be able to walk virtually anywhere you need to go.

Sadly, we are still lacking a coffee shop, but there is an amazing place that sells Herbalife meal replacement shakes. And yes, they actually taste good!

We may never have a shopping mall or taxis, but we do have what we need.

And knowing all of the local police officers makes me feel a lot safer. #jobperk

3. It has a real backyard!

One thing that I’ve always found a bit sad about most houses in town is the lack of a yard.

I understand that a town would cease to be a town if we all had hundreds of acres apiece, but sometimes the lack of green just makes me sad.

Thankfully, we are blessed with a decent sized backyard. Admittedly, we haven’t spent much time there this year. But we love to dream about the possibilities.

A vegetable garden, a swingset, a koi pond . . . Our own secret garden . . .

It’s all possible!

4. It’s small.

Now I know this may seem like a negative, but hear me out.

Our home is just over 1,000 square feet. So it’s not tiny . . . but still relatively small.

I love that we don’t have tons of space to fill with clutter. Neither one of us are natural neat freaks, but we both love for our home to look nice.

If we had a room to devote to junk, I’m pretty sure it would be filled to the brim.

Now maybe years down the road, when we’re on kid number ???, I may be begging for a bigger house.

But for now, this is absolutely perfect.

5.  It has a laundry room.

Out of all the earthly things I could have chosen for my home, this is it!

I never realized the importance of a washer and dryer until Shawn and I moved in to a camper when we were first married.

Although camper living was a blast (especially as newlyweds), I hated dragging the laundry in a hamper from our camper to my parents’ house, then from our camper to my in-laws’ house . . . It was endless.

I have never been more excited to purchase something than when I purchased our washer and dryer.

True story.

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Home is where the heart is, and of course, our home is so much more than these things listed above.

But sometimes it’s nice to take a step back, and remember to be thankful for things found in our physical world as well.

What are some things you love about the home you are in?

Do you ever find it hard to be thankful for your home?

Let’s discuss in comments!

Joyfully yours,

Melody Maynard

“Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing instant in prayer.”