February 1976. New York City.
Most of my friends know the story of how a transplanted New Yorker became a southern girl—after twelve impressionable years living in one of the largest cites in the world. My mom and dad loved the small markets, friendly neighbors, and the hustle and bustle lifestyle in the heart of New York City.
Sure we escaped to the mountains on holiday weekends throughout the winter and spring, but nothing compared to the freedom I experienced every summer. We called the Catskill area home from Memorial Day thru Labor Day. Fond memories of rock climbing, biking, hiking, fishing, and roasting marshmallows every evening plus strong family ties still provide lots of storytelling material.
I’ve said, “It’s where I belong—my favorite place, home away from home.” At such a tender age, how could I imagine where my spirit longed to be—or, what God—the true heart of hope, had planned for me?
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.Ephesians 3:16-21 NIV
The heart of a good father
Today, a few of those reminiscences bring tears along with smiles. I didn’t choose to leave the haven of friends and loved ones. My parents (mainly my dad) made a heart decision to move us to a place where crime rates registered near zero. If you ask why I’d have to tell you about that morning while walking to school, I saw an unconscious, fully exposed man lying on the sidewalk.
Frightened, I turned and ran for home—to the safety of my father. And yes, he walked me back to school. Although I never gave it much thought throughout my teen years, there came a time after I had my four sons when I did. I imagined what went through his mind weeks before he gave up a desirable career in the city, took his retirement pension several years early, and never looked back.
Within a week, all my Barbie dolls and accessories were packed—including the original Ken and his awesome camper—We set out on the adventure with hopeful hearts. I believed friends who promised to write letters every week. Surely we’d meet occasionally and go to the same college one day.
My oldest sister said, “You’ll make more friends and have lots of new adventures like your beloved Pooh and Christopher Robin. The only thing different is we live on a southern homestead. Don’t worry. It’s like a real-life thirteen-acre wood with chickens, cows, bulls, and horses.”
She forgot to mention snakes and alligators—and humongous spiders—and tons of other gross bugs too.
From hopeless to hopeful
I mourned for both the city and upstate lifestyles after we moved south…I’m not talking about a little jaunt—I mean way south, or as my mother referred to the beautiful state of Louisiana; “It’s a no man’s land. Where’s the meat market and corner grocery store? We left all New York State had to offer to live in the swampy boondocks.”
While living in Louisiana, we’d gather on the back porch at dusk to watch deer roam the property for clover, ryegrass, or a sip from the pond. Like clockwork, the Whippoorwill’s song signaled my sister and my bedtime. Did he follow us here from upstate New York?
When our plans don’t = God’s plan
These days, it seems free choice is all we hear about or aspire to attain. Good against evil? Blue versus red? None of this mattered to the twelve-year-old me. I’m sure it doesn’t matter to your child’s innocent heart either. Preoccupied with the upheaval of moving a pre-teen to a rural military town in Northwestern Louisiana took precedence.
The quiet voice that lived in my head kept me preoccupied and thankful. It always reassured or reminded me I could choose to move forward on another path that might lead to better things I couldn’t imagine or find my way back to attend the college I set my eyes on years before. The adventure began. It happened before I comprehended the thought; My plans weren’t God’s plan.
…For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.Jeremiah 29:11NIV
One true and everlasting hope
Time, choices, and broken promises clouded that dream and others. How would I know a million tears could lead me through much more than an adolescent’s broken dreams? Today, when I ask my masked self: Is there a true or integral part of the meaning of the heart of hope? Without a doubt I know the answer. Jesus.
It didn’t matter where we lived, or whether I had friends or not. If I sat alone with my teenage tears; he was always there holding me, speaking encouragement into my soul, pressing me on—And now, whenever deeper, darker circumstances threaten to overwhelm me, I know where my help comes from. My ever-present strength and hope in times of trouble—Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow. He is, and always will be the heart of my hope.
…Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.1 Corinthians 2:9 NKJV
When things we hoped for or futures we longed for don’t happen, perhaps it’s God’s way of leading us to something better, something we don’t see or haven’t even imagined yet. Do you believe in a steadfast hope? It’s not only for an abundant future—because the stuff of this world will fade away. But, there will be a day when all that remains is our praise. What if we aspire to leave a legacy of faith that does more than point to a beautiful life remembered? May it also point us forward toward the heart of hope and then onward to the incredible celebration that is to come.
Don’t forget to join the conversation here in the Inspire A Fire comments section of this post. I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories on this subject. May the assurance of His presence be with you, blessing you on all your unexpected adventures. Wishing you hope and joy for your journey.
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