Whelp, 2016 has come and nearly gone.
I typically love to reflect on the past year and I get excited about what's to come in the next, but some years---this one included---I must first overcome an overall sense of disappointment. There were some things I really hoped would happen but they didn't; in fact, a lot of things that I thought would be resolved have only become worse. There has been some really bad news some of my friends have had to deal with lately. I'm just...bummed.
Sometimes I get this same feeling when I reach milestones or anniversaries that I feel should look different. Especially since I tend towards pessimism and discontentment, I really need to train my mind to fight for joy.
Enter: the Ebenezer box.
I started this box in our first year of marriage. I had read Spurgeon's devotional for December 29th (so perfectly timed) which was on 1 Samuel 7:12 - "Thus far the Lord has helped us." God had given Israel victory over the Philistines, and Samuel set up a rock and called it "Ebenezer", which means "stone of help."
It is good to reflect on what God has done for His people and for you personally, and more importantly it is good to remember who He is. This helps us march forward when we are tempted to paralyze ourselves with the fear that next year will be even worse than this one.
Here's my favorite part of Spurgeon's comments on the "Ebenezer" moment:
But the word also points forward. For when a man gets up to a certain mark and writes 'hitherto,' he is not yet at the end, there is still a distance to be traversed. More trials, more joys; more temptations, more triumphs; more prayers, more answers; more toils, more strength; more fights, more victories; and then come sickness, old age, disease, death. Is it over now? No! there is more yet-awakening in Jesu's likeness, thrones, harps, songs, psalms, white raiment, the face of Jesus, the society of saints, the glory of God, the fulness of eternity, the infinity of bliss. O be of good courage, believer, and with grateful confidence raise thy 'Ebenezer.'
I need to remember that though more disappointing---or even downright devastating---times may come, it's all from the same good hand of the Father who holds me and has brought me through in the past. He's not going to start giving up on me now. All of biblical and church history serves as proof.
So I began collecting a box of special artifacts from my very own life that are reminders of God's faithfulness even in relatively small things. This might look like a shoebox full of trash to some people, but to me the Ebenezer box has helped me rejoice when I've wanted to cry. I'll share some of these items with you so you can rejoice too and maybe be inspired to set up your own Ebenezer box to pull out of your closet when you're feeling some despair about the future.
The box itself is a reminder of God’s faithfulness because a friend’s mom gave me some really wonderful gifts (that she packaged in this box) when she found out I was pregnant with my first child. She had been a young mother as well and her thoughtfulness, care, and support meant so much to me, especially since I wasn’t getting a lot of support at that time and I really, really needed it. I felt loved by God by how she loved me.
In December 2010 Peter got into a pretty bad motorcycle accident and had to lay his bike down. His body was tossed around like a rag doll and his motorcycle was totaled. An ambulance came for him, but after they looked him over he was able to go home with only road burn and some visits to the chiropractor. God really protected him…and this stopped his risk-taking motorcycle career in its tracks, which was a relief to everyone. You can see the scratches on the pen that was in his pocket.
Results from an ultrasound:
When I got a routine ultrasound for Piper when she was in my womb, it showed that all her measurements were at 34 weeks, except her femurs, which were at 30 weeks. My midwife wanted further testing. It’s usually quite concerning when an infant’s legs are a whole month behind! I made the mistake of Googling “isolated short femurs” because instantly I saw that this could indicate a bunch of issues, along with words like “fetal demise” and “25% chance of being stillborn.” In those scary weeks of preparing myself for tragedy, God did a lot of work on my heart. But He also was gracious to give us a completely healthy baby; the ultrasounds were completely wrong.
A letter from Patient Services:
In our first year of marriage, Peter had a pretty bad mountain biking crash and we had to go to the ER. That was the year we made less than $20,000 and we didn’t have insurance so we had no clue how we were going to pay for the hospital bill. But one day we got a letter that said “A charity discount has been applied. The account is now closed.” That was such a blessing.
My first paycheck from writing a book:
I self-published a book a couple years ago and I made a whopping $1.07 in royalties. (Granted, I hardly told anyone about it.) I put this is in the box mostly because it’s amusing.
Bag with used tissues and a note:
Through a difficult season of marriage, I remember one night Peter stayed up late so he could pray and read the Word. He wept as he wrote me a letter of apology, and a weeping-and-repentant man is the most beautiful thing ever, so I kept his tissues in a Zip-loc (I know that’s gross, sorry, ha!) I love when God brings His people to brokenness.
A necklace that helped fund my cousin's adoption:
My cousin brought her youngest daughter home from China a few years ago, and I bought this necklace to help her raise funds for the adoption. I love it for objective reasons (LIME GREEN!) but it also helps me remember how God carried my cousin's family through the long process it took to get her sweet daughter here and what a blessing it is that she's in our family now.
A chunk of the New Testament:
When Peter was in his upper teens, he studied and memorized scripture so ardently that all of Paul's letters + Hebrews literally fell out of his Bible. He’s still able to quote much of the scripture that he memorized, and he was so shaped by the Word from that season of intense study and devotion. I could never quantify all the ways that the Word shaped my husband during that season of his life---but it made him attractive to me then, and it spills over into how he disciples our kids today, and I'm so grateful for it.
These are just a few of the tokens I’ve kept along the way to remind me of the times when I felt like God had forgotten me but then he showed me He clearly hadn’t. I do look forward to filling this box with even more such tokens in the future, even if they come from seasons of pain and difficulty...which they probably will. But I also know that God is doing a perfect job writing my story, and I trust Him. You can too. :)
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a rad guy, and raising three little people ages 1,3, and 5...and I'm now expecting my fourth. I like lime green, Coke icees, and I wear my Crocs until they have holes in them...or melt.
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Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today