I’m joining once again with Emily P. Freeman’s seasonal practice of What We Learned. It’s a great way to review and reflect on the last three months – and I love reading others’ lists at this link up.
1) Short prayers are good prayers, too.
I’m rereading a book I read for the first time in 1998 – Seeking God by Joni Eareckson Tada (I think it’s out of print now, but you can find a copy if you Google it). In it, she tells of the agonizing months following her diving accident that resulted in her quadriplegia. Suddenly the active, athletic 17-year-old was immobile and reliant on others for nearly everything. Hospitalized and in rehab facilities for years, there were months she longed to die. God did not abandon her in her despair, and her prayers began to change to “God, if I can’t die, show me how to live!” This simple prayer began transforming her outlook when facing the impossible – for her, that was life in a wheelchair.
In Emily P. Freeman’s podcast, The Next Right Thing episode 102: Say Short Prayers, she echoes the power of a short prayer: “Sometimes it takes more faith to say less words.”
We can borrow short prayers from scripture, like these: Lord, help my unbelief (Mark 9:24). Jesus, remember me (Luke 23:42). Oh, Lord, help me dwell in safety (Psalm 4:8). Lord, help me (Matt. 15:25). When you’re stuck or overwhelmed, offer a simple heartfelt prayer to the God who listens.
2) Community makes life better.
In November, I attended my first-ever writers’ conference. I was a little nervous, wondering how I’d fit in and especially apprehensive that reality wouldn’t meet my expectations. I hate being disappointed when I’ve built something up in my mind – anyone relate?! I discovered that I didn’t need to worry.
The hope*writers co-founders, staff, and attendees exceeded my expectations. They were kind, generous, and real. They offered heart connections and head knowledge. I shared prayers, tears, and laughter with the other attendees – both with friends and people I just met. I’m so thankful to be a part of this friendly corner of the internet and the in-real-life connections I’ve made. You can read my recap of the conference on my facebook page here.
Another aspect of community is friendship, which has been on my mind a lot lately – how different it is now that my son is school-aged and most of my friends aren’t stay-at-home moms anymore. Seasons change, but friendship is a rich gift from God. Read my facebook post about three friends I’ve met in adulthood – and take time to reflect on your friendships that have grown and challenged you.
3) There’s enough of God’s goodness to go around.
During the hope*writers conference, I met another writer whose hard story has driven her to God’s goodness. When I saw Maria’s book titled oh, goodness, I knew I had to meet her. I bought her book – the last one she had with her – and we had a sweet conversation. Before hope*writers, I probably would’ve been discouraged that a book was already written with this theme (ahem, there have probably been hundreds over the years) – but since being a part of this community, I’ve realized that there is room for soooo many voices at the table. If there were a million books about God’s goodness, it wouldn’t be enough. I’m thankful to be one of many voices to say, “Oh, His goodness!”
4) Send the card or write the email. (but a hand-written note is best)
The book I mentioned above from 1998? In it was a typed note from a college friend who stuck it in my mailbox to encourage a stressed-out 20-year-old Erica. This friend is still in my life – well, online at least, we’ve exchanged several heartfelt messages over the years. She loved me well in college with her encouragement, hugs, and excitable cheerleading. I smile when I look at that note. Who can you make smile today?
5) Every fall holds all the feels – and it’s ok to make space for it.
November. Wow. Facebook memories won’t let me forget, nor will the physical scars I bear from November 2011. When our sweet miracle boy was born, it ushered in my VEDS diagnosis and a year of terrifying ups and downs. It was both/and – a celebration and a valley. Joyful and sorrowful. Lonely and full of helpers. Though I mourn a little bit each year (of the firsts I missed out on), I’m thankful for the reminders. I’m sad, but I also rejoice because the ICU is where I learned of God’s persistent goodness. In case you missed it, you can read about that difficult first Thanksgiving on the blog here. And eight years with this boy is reason to celebrate and remember – could that little turkey be any cuter?!?
BONUS: A Subtle Word Change
You probably didn’t notice the slight shift in my tagline. What used to read “finding God’s goodness in the happy and the hard” now states “clinging to God’s goodness in life’s impossible.” Originally, I didn’t want to be a Debbie Downer. I love quoting funny movie lines or doing silly dance moves in my living room – so I didn’t want to be pigeonholed into talking about All the Hard Things All the Livelong Day. But as I’ve been writing at Oh His Goodness, I’ve realized that hard things just keep on coming – not just for me, but for my faithful readers.
So along with the minor verbiage changes, the big shift has come as I’ve narrowed down my focus on my readers, sharing truths God has shown me that will best nudge us toward God’s goodness even when trials are overwhelming.
Readers with questions like:
“God, can you hear me? Where are you?!”
“God, if you love me, will you rescue me from this pain?”
“Do I have the faith or endurance to get through this?”
“Can God be trusted?”
“Is God good? Is He good to me?”
I’ve asked these same questions. And I’ve realized that trials on this side of Heaven will not cease, even for the faithful Christian who’s checked all the good-girl boxes. So I pray I can be the friend who helps others see that in the midst of pain we can have joy, peace, gratitude, laughter – and, yes, unshakable faith in God’s goodness.
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Megan Hall says
Handwritten notes feel more heartfelt in my opinion.
Erica Baldwin says
Yes, agreed! I have several stacks of letters/cards that are precious to me. I love an unexpected email from someone as well – it’s started new friendships or renewed old ones.