Keep Your Hopes Up

Hebrews 10:23 "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;"

You've probably seen the cartoon of the miner who cuts his path for miles then gives up and turns around just one foot shy of the where he would have struck gold.

Of course, we'll never know if we gave up a day before our answer was set to arrive.  

We recently spent over four years keeping our hopes up for one particular thing: a new baby.

We have two sons and when our youngest son was about three-and-a-half years old, we started talking about "trying" again. In the beginning, we were quite committed and I went through a lot of cheap pregnancy tests. If you've never "tried" to get pregnant, I can tell you that it's incredibly stressful, trying to get the timing right...then waiting to find out if you got the timing right, month after month after month. And of course, you want to know ASAP if it "took."

Over the course of those four years, our efforts occasionally waned, whether we were experiencing financial pressures or just feeling discouraged. I stopped taking pregnancy tests because it was such a let-down. Into the third year, my hubby would check in after the start of a new cycle to make sure I was OK. "Eh," I would reply. "I'm used to it." 

From the very beginning (probably after the first few unsuccessful cycles, because once you decide you want to get pregnant, it should happen immediately, right?), I promised God that I would always keep my hopes up, even to the bitter end when I was SURE I wasn't pregnant. So even if I were crampy and spotting one night, I would wake up the next morning with my hopes still up. "I will never stop trusting," I promised Him. 

Toward the end of 2016, I was growing weary. My husband and I agreed that at the first of the year, we'd either decide to stop trying or we'd go in for testing. I had visions of diagnostic tests, urine samples, ultrasounds and genetic work-ups. A part of me thought, "If it's that hard, maybe it's not meant to be."

Then one beautiful Sunday morning in early January, my cycle was five days longer than usual and I was set to head out for a day trip with my parents. I blamed holiday stress for a delayed ovulation but thought, "But I'm keeping my hopes up!" as I took a cheap dip test and let it run while I took a shower.

In the shower, I reminded myself for the umpteenth time..."One of these times, it's going to be positive." It was a thought that had kept me going for all that time.

Imagine my shock when I picked up the strip and saw a clear second pink line. "No way. No way! No. Way." 

I don't know when you'll be reading this but as of today, I'm sixteen weeks pregnant and due in mid-September of 2017. We've had one ultrasound (when our baby earned the name Baby Bean) and have heard the baby's heartbeat several times but I still can't believe it actually happened. I thank God every day.

I am so glad I kept my hopes up. I clung to the belief that someday it would happen and I don't have to live the rest of my life wondering if I gave up too soon. I am convinced that part of the reason why we waited so long was to be able to tell other people, "Don't give up!" 

Get your hopes up! Keep trusting! Keep believing! One day, you'll get your answer, even if it's not how you envisioned it. Just don't turn around before you reach the prize.  

One last side note: just before we found out we were pregnant, my hubby and I made the leap of faith to bring a vision for a ministry into reality and are in the process of setting up a non-profit. We pray every night for what we believe God has called us to fulfill. Yup...we've already committed to keeping our hopes up. 

 

 

 

 

 

Tabitha Dumas
Author

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I’m A Winner!

 

I found myself thinking it way too often: "I just can't win."

We all know the feeling. You get a flat tire on the day of your interview, you donate an item to charity then need it for a dinner party the next week, you send the email to the wrong recipient, you forget your boss's wife's name...(I could go on).

Or the more vague ones like expectations we can't seem to live up to and people we simply can't please. It's easy to feel like a loser if we choose to focus on what's not working perfectly in our lives.

I use to tell myself the "I just can't win" story until "winning" started to trend. As in, "I found a dollar in my car's ash tray! Coffee for me today! #winning"

Or "I added corn to the taco soup and all the kids actually ate it! #momwin"

I started taking note of how often I won.

Catching all the lights and arriving at karate a little early.

The cashier offering me a coupon code.

A new recipe turning out well.

Choosing the perfect gift (on sale!).

Pulling off a last-minute project.

The bank withdrawal being delayed so my account wasn't overdrawn.

It turns out, I win A LOT.

"Thank God!" I thought. "We can celebrate winning now!"

I'm pretty sure #winning was born from our collective desire to focus on the positive instead of all the ways things go wrong or we screw up.

The truth is, as children of God, we are winners.

Of course life happens and things go awry.

But God is working everything together for good and to accomplish His purposes. Romans 8:28 "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."

God is for us and desires to give us what we need. Romans 8:31-32 "God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?"

We are more than conquerors. Romans 8: 36 "In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." 

And when we focus on the good in our lives, we realizing we are winners. That's definitely worth celebrating!

Tabitha Dumas
Author

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Resting and Receiving

Some people use R&R to mean "rest and relaxation." That’s what people do on cruises or vacations and it typically involves spa robes or frosty beverages.

Ain’t nobody got time for that!

While I could use a day at the spa, one of my top priorities is setting aside time for my version of R&R: "resting and receiving."

Do you have to work at resting?

I know for some people, they have to force themselves off the couch and make a monumental effort to chip away at their to-do list.  

But I know for many women, sitting down for a bit takes major effort, let alone taking an entire day to rest.

We have a hard time be-ing instead of do-ing.

I even made my word for the year "beloved" in 2014 to remind myself to slow down and "be loved."

What about receiving?

I bet you're a better giver than receiver. Those of us who love to serve and help often feel awkward accepting gifts, whether a trinket or a personal favor. Sometimes a simple blessing from God can even feel extravagant or misplaced! “Noooo!” we say. “Give that to someone else who needs it more!”

If you're like me, "rest and receiving" doesn't come naturally.

But God gives rest to the burdened and weary. Every good and perfect gift is from Him!

Matthew 11:28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

James 1:17 "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."

That's why I have to force myself to intentionally pursue R&R.

Sometimes I take a day of rest and ignore the laundry and dirty dishes to play with my kids or go on a hike. Other times I sit with a pen and my journal in breathless anticipation of what God wants to reveal to me. Every so often, a miracle happens and I can have some time to unplug, decompress and open myself up to God's gifts all in one sitting.

My goal is to keep practicing until R&R becomes my default mode! In the meantime, whether a weekend or fifteen minutes, R&R is important--and even more refreshing than a spa day.

Tabitha Dumas, Author
loveSTRONG ministries

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I’ll Pray About It

Sometimes I tell people I'll pray about whether I should be involved in their project or ministry and then I commit or pass without actually praying about it. Maybe that's just me.  

Some things are an easy "yes" but for anything that requires more than about an hour of my time, I give myself a chance to think it through. Sometimes I consult my calendar, my mother, my husband...but I don't always specifically pray about it and wait for a response.

Recently I was asked to help with a large leadership event held at our church, fulfilling the same role I held last year. Last year, it ended up being the equivalent of a part-time job for about three months and a full time job for a couple of weeks. I told the team leader I'd pray about it.

I sat down with my journal, Bible and pen and a few strategic questions in mind, expecting an easy "yes."

As I went through the questions, read some scripture, sat quietly and listened...I was surprised when the answer started to turn into a "no." I was reminded that there are things in my current season of life that only I can do, and that I know God has called me to do...and that the position for the event could be filled by someone else. I knew God was leading me to cut back and simplify.

What??

I called the staff person and told him the news. A week later I was having coffee with the gal I passed the baton to, an acquaintance I've known for years. She's going to do a terrific job. A few weeks later, I found myself at the orientation lunch, serving food and coffee to the people who'd served on my various teams the year before. It was surreal, but it felt right.

The confirmations that I made the right choice kept coming.

Within a week, I learned that another ministry team I'd been a part of for years was being absorbed into a larger ministry, eliminating my role. An event I was supposed to help with ended up being postponed and yet another project was cancelled. It was like God was taking a giant celestial eraser to my calendar...and it all started with praying and listening.

I had to wonder...what had I missed out on over the years when I dove in to projects head first without seeking God beforehand? Now when I say I'm going to pray about something, I really do. Sometimes it means I'll be leading teams and sometimes it means I'll be serving dessert to the team. Either way, knowing I'm fulfilling God's will for me is the best place to be.

Isaiah 30:21 "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."

Tabitha Dumas
loveSTRONG ministries

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All Things Work Together

I was a newlywed, straight out of college, working at a tutoring center when I pulled up to the shopping center where I worked and a voice said, "Park in the front."

"What??" I replied. "No! I'm not parking in the front! Then I have to unlock the door super fast and run to the back to turn off the alarm. It's too much trouble. No."

So I parked in the back, like usual.

That day, my car was broken into and my backpack was stolen out of the back seat.

This was 2002 and some of you might remember the gas shortage in Phoenix that summer. I was planning to spend the night with friends that night to save the gas from commuting all the way home so besides several library books I'd have to pay to replace, my toiletries and clothes were also stolen...along with my birth control pills.

It's important to note that after reading a brochure about Natural Family Planning from a Catholic co-worker about the effects of The Pill, I'd been praying about the possibility of stopping them. The stolen pills seemed to be my answer. I went on to teach myself Fertility Awareness, which became a turning point in my journey as a mother as well as in my health. I saw those stolen pills as a gift.

Here's the kicker, though. I feel that the Holy Spirit had told me to park in the front to AVOID getting the backpack stolen. Since that incident, I always try to "obey the voice." But if I'd have obeyed it that day, I might have kept taking The Pill and that could have affected my fertility, my health and even my future children.

Looking back, I have to believe that going off The Pill was right for me. If my backpack hadn't been stolen, I trust that He would have shown me some other way. In fact, I believe that the stolen pills was His plan B for having me stop The Pill--because I didn't chose the first option.

This incident is my reminder that "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:29) He will accomplish what He sets out to do...even when we're stubborn. I am resolved, however, to take the hint the first time so He doesn't have to resort to plan B. Library books are expensive to replace...and sometimes the cost is even higher.

Tabitha Dumas
Writer

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Grace Grower

I attended a local Bible college for two years in my early twenties to complete my degree. While there we were required to attend a chapel service every Wednesday. I don't remember very many of the sermons we heard but I do remember this one.

The speaker asked us to think about that person that I now like to refer to as a "grace grower." Maybe they're a family member, maybe you are assigned to the same group for a project, maybe they're an acquaintance or a co-worker. This person is difficult to be around, pushes your buttons and possesses many of the characteristics you find the most annoying. They might even lash out at you, manipulate you or hurt you intentionally. Sometimes he or she just plain drives you crazy.

The speaker then reminded us... "YOU are that person to someone."

Harsh truth moment.

None of us are exempt from this...and none of us are immune.

Romans 3:23: "We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God." I'm not perfect. I screw up. While I never set out to hurt anyone, I do so inadvertently just by being...human. I'm sure my personality, quirks, habits and tendencies rub some people the wrong way. I stretch myself too thin and take on too many projects, so I'm sure there are plenty of people who think I'm a flake. I'm an idea person and a creative so sometimes I talk too much or boss people around. I'm a "get 'er done" type and I've undoubtedly stepped on a few toes along the way. The list could go on (and on...and on).

John 16:33: "In this world, you will have trouble." No matter how closely we walk with the Lord, no matter how hard we try to keep the peace, no matter how much we try to keep short accounts and treat people kindly, nothing we can do can make us impermeable to attack. As long as there are people, there will be trouble. Thank God the second half of John 16:33 that says, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

When one of the "grace growers" in my life recently lashed out at me, I felt wounded for a while. After reminding myself of the above (sometimes it's reversed and I'm the perpetrator...and, such is life in this imperfect world), Galatians 6:2 came to mind where it says, “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." She later admitted she was having a bad day and may have overreacted. Maybe she also struggles with insecurity. Maybe she's been hurt in the past in a similar situation. Maybe she's lonely. Maybe she was just “hangry” (angry due to hunger). Whatever her reasons, those are her burdens and I am called to bear them.

I also thought about all the people in MY life who bear my burdens, the ones who see me as a "grace grower." I am so grateful to them for "bearing with me" with grace and kindness. So whether you're the victim or the perpetrator right now, continue bearing while grace keeps growing.

Tabitha Dumas
Writer

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