Ten years ago on June 20 we started this little blog. We thought maybe we would try it for a few months and stop when we felt like it. We didn’t expect to be around ten years later. But, by the grace of God, we’re still here.
We were surprised you came to read our words and we are still surprised. And grateful.
To mark our tenth anniversary we want to bless ten women with a small, hand painted sign from 52home. If you have read a post on the girltalk blog some time in the last ten years that provided you with timely encouragement, send us a few lines to tell us about it. Deadline is Wednesday, June 17. We will choose ten winners to say thank you.
Our thanks goes to all of you. Whether you found our blog this year or you remember when our big kids were toddlers, we are grateful to God for your encouragement and love for Jesus Christ our Savior.
“We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers.” 1 Thess. 1:2
Annual sleepover with Mom-Mom. The best!
If your dad doesn’t have one or more of these books, you know what to do…
by Erik Larson
by David McCullough
by James Bradley
by Candice Millard
by Neal Bascomb
by Hampton Sides
by Stephen Ambrose
by Daniel James Brown
by Roger Kahn
by Wade Davis
by Mark Frost
by Scott Ellsworth
by Hal Iggulden
by Lee Sandlin
by Joe Posnanski
Our dear friend, Lauren, recently shared this testimony at Grace Church and we thought it would be a great encouragement to many of you who are experiencing “trials of various kinds” (Ja. 1:2).
After over 2 years of trying to conceive, I was still motherless and crying out to God in the midst of the heartache of wanting a family but not knowing if He would ever make it happen. I felt like Hannah in the Bible, who desperately wanted a child but could not conceive. The Scriptures say that Hannah “was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly.”
Although I was happy for my friends who got pregnant easily, I struggled with hopelessness and loneliness each time I saw another pregnancy announcement. When I saw happy moms with their babies, it felt like a small stab in my heart. I wrestled with God over prayers that seemed to go unanswered. I was tempted to feel like God had forgotten me. I was humbled at my inability to make everything right. I struggled to believe that God was still good when my circumstances said otherwise. I had nowhere else to turn except to his Word where He reminded me of who He is.
Up until this point in my life, I hadn’t experienced much hardship or suffering. God used my inability to become pregnant to really humble me and show me his perfect sovereignty and wisdom. I thank God that he blesses us when we hide his Word in our hearts so that when trials come, we are not left to buoy out at sea alone. We have his Word as a strong and sure anchor for our soul. Charles Spurgeon says, “When you can’t trace God’s hand, you must trust in God’s heart.” I found that God’s heart for me, in his Word, was one of tender, compassionate love. He deals gently with those who are suffering and like Isaiah 42:3 says, “a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench.”
Scripture like Psalm 145 nourished my soul:
“The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made…. The Lord is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works. The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.”
When we began the process of adoption, I actually became pregnant a few months later! We were shocked and over the moon excited. But only a few weeks later, God called that baby home. I was faced with yet another opportunity to reaffirm that my foundation was on the one and only solid Rock, and that in His precious sovereignty, He knew what was best and good.
Lamentations 3 was a lifeline:
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth…. For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart.”
Charles Spurgeon also says, “Delayed answers to prayer are not only trials of faith; they also give us opportunities to honor God through our steadfast confidence in Him even when facing the apparent denial of our request.” When facing the apparent denial of my request, God gave me the opportunity to honor him by trusting His Word. There were many times when friends and family would send me Scripture or excerpts from books that were exactly what I needed to hear to remind me of God’s sweet promises. God utilized the body of Christ, his church, to remind me he was there for me and knew me intimately and would never forsake me.
Looking back, I wouldn’t change that season for anything because He taught me so much and I love Him and trust Him more now. And, because God is so kind, He not only satisfied me with Himself, He gave me the desire of my heart to be a mother. It wasn’t the way we planned it when we got married almost 9 years ago, but it is more perfect than we could have planned! As I look into the faces of my three beautiful children, and at the sonogram picture of our glory baby, I can’t help but thank God for being so much wiser than me and answering my prayers in His perfect timing in blessing me with all four of their precious lives. I echo Mary’s song of praise: “He who is mighty has done great things for me!” (Luke 1:49) And for those of you who might be in the place I was 4 years ago in wanting a child, or maybe you are in the middle of another perplexing and painful trial, may my story and the trustworthy words of Psalm 68:2 encourage you: “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.”
I’ll end with yet one more quote from my hero, Charles Spurgeon:
“Why yield to gloomy anticipations? Who told you that the night would never end in day?.... Who told you that the winter of your discontent would proceed from frost to frost, from snow and ice and hail to deeper snow and yet more heavy tempest of despair? Don’t you know that day follows night, that flood comes after ebb, that spring and summer succeed winter? Be full of hope! Hope forever! For God does not fail you. Do you know that God loves you in the midst of all this?.... You will yet, midst the splendors of eternity, forget the trials of time, or only remember them to bless the God who led you through them and works your lasting good by them. Come, sing in the midst of tribulation. Rejoice even while passing through the furnace. Cause the desert to ring with your exulting joys, for these light afflictions will soon be over, and then forever with the Lord, your bliss shall never wane.”
A big congrats to these young scholars (and their moms!!!). Dairy Queen for the win!
“It is a bad policy to forego the regular vacation” wrote the wise and witty Charles Spurgeon, and with that quote my dad, CJ Mahaney, kicks off a series of articles on the family vacation. No one is better at leading a family to enjoy being together to the glory of God and I hope you’ll be inspired by this series. Writing to fathers, he reminds us all:
[T]here is no vacation from the gospel. No successful family vacation is possible without the gospel and being reminded of its implications. Our joy, gratefulness, generosity, and service are all informed and inspired by the gospel.
Vacations provide unhurried periods of time where in the shadow of the cross a husband/father realizes afresh that he is doing much better than he deserves. Instead of wrath and hell God has been merciful and kind, pouring out his wrath on his Son so that sinners like you and me could experience forgiveness, justification, redemption, reconciliation, and adoption.
And because of the cross, evidences of grace abound in our lives, beginning in our families. We should be specifically grateful to God for each member of our family and express his gratefulness to them. Vacations are opportunities to discern and celebrate these unique gifts from God that we don’t deserve.
Her mommy’s daughter.
When my mom graduated from high school, she had a plan. She was going to Bible college. She resigned her job as a secretary for a Christian ministry, enrolled in school, and packed her bags. Then a few days before she was set to move, she met my dad. It was love at first sight.
Mom never made it to Bible college. She got her old job back and a few months later married my dad. On May 17 of this year, they celebrated forty years of marriage and they are more in love than ever. Needless to say, her life didn’t go as planned.
What are your plans after graduation? Whether you have a five and ten year plan or are a fog about the next step, there’s something about life you need to understand:
Life is unpredictable, and that’s on its best days.
If there’s one thing you can be certain of, it is that this is an uncertain world. Your life won’t go as planned. Sometimes the unexpected is exciting—like when my mom met my dad—but it can also be discouraging and bewildering at times.
We find a mini-commencement speech of sorts on this topic in Ecclesiastes chapter eleven. It contains valuable wisdom for graduates and everyone considering their future plans. Four times in six verses we find some variation on the phrase “you do not know.” Basically, there is a whole lot you don’t know about your life.
“You know not what disaster may happen on earth…” (v. 2) Only a few weeks ago we marked the anniversary of the Boston Marathon and witnessed the devastating earthquake in Nepal. You do not know what disaster, near or far, may change the course of your future.
“You do not know the work of God who makes everything…” (v. 5) You cannot explain God’s providence in your life so far, or predict what he may call you to do in the future.
“You do not know which [effort] will prosper…” (v. 6) The economy is unpredictable. People and trends are unpredictable. You cannot know for sure what path will lead to the most success.
Life will surprise you, and not always in a good way. It’s uncertain and unpredictable.
Not only that, the only thing we can predict in this uncertain world is that it will be hard: “So if a person lives many years…let him remember that the days of darkness will be many” (v. 8).
In other words graduating class of 2015, you don’t know what will happen with your life, but there’s one thing you can know one thing for sure: you will have many bad days.
Hardly the inspiring message you were hoping for, I know. But Ecclesiastes doesn’t just give us the bad news, it tells us how to live in an uncertain world. When we face up to the unsettling reality that life doesn’t go as planned, we learn from Ecclesiastes how to make new and better plans.
How do we make good decisions in uncertain times? Ecclesiastes gives us three ways.
“In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good” (v. 6).
Young people often spend a lot of time worrying about their life. They hesitate to commit to one direction or another. They worry about finding the will of God. They flounder.
But Ecclesiastes would tell you that the surest way to succeed in an uncertain world is to get to work. Work as hard as you can at whatever work God has put right in front of you. And you never know, it just might work.
Instead of “thinking of may-be’s and might-have-beens…our business is to grapple with what actually is, and what lies within reach,” advises Derek Kidner: “Few great enterprises waited for ideal conditions; no more should we.”
Coming to grips with uncertainty frees us to take risks for Christ. These words from Phil Ryken make an outstanding mission statement:
“It may be true that, to paraphrase this passage, ‘you never know,’ but it is equally true that ‘you will never reap if you never sow.’ So work hard for the kingdom of God. Live boldly and creatively. Try something new! Be a spiritual entrepreneur. Even if you are not completely sure what will work, try everything you can to serve Christ in a world that desperately needs the gospel. Work hard from morning till night, making the most of your time by offering God a full day’s work. Then leave the results to him, knowing that he will use your work in whatever way he sees fit.”
Be a spiritual entrepreneur. Work hard from morning until night. Try everything to serve Christ in a world that desperately needs the gospel. In an uncertain world, this is the certain path to a useful life.
“Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth” (v. 2).
Trying to control our lives or predict the future makes us stingy. We won’t spend time on a “hopeless case.” We won’t serve the ungrateful. We won’t stay in that small church. We won’t volunteer for children’s ministry or the cleaning crew. We won’t give our all to a boring job.
But the woman who understands life’s volatility gives generously, almost recklessly, of her time, her love, and her service to others. She seeks out the lowly and the outcast. She listens patiently to the troubled. She serves in secret, and has what Zach Eswine calls “the stamina to go unnoticed.” Because who knows what may happen tomorrow?
[T]ime and chance can overturn our finest plans. If that can be a paralyzing thought, it can also be a spur to action: for if there are risks in everything, it is better to fail in launching out than in hugging one’s resources to oneself. We already catch a breath of the New Testament blowing through the first two verses, a hint of our Lord’s favourite paradox that ‘he who loves his life loses it’, and that ‘the measure you give will be the measure you get’. ~Derek Kidner
Give of yourself to others and don’t count the cost. Lose your life. Lose it now and you won’t worry so much about losing it later. You won’t have a mid life crisis or what I heard about the other day, a quarter life crisis (for real?). Don’t react to the uncertainty of life by hoarding your time and talents. You do not know what will happen tomorrow, so give your life away today.
“So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all” (v. 8).
If it’s true that you will have many dark days—and it is true—then Ecclesiastes tells you to rejoice today.
Sure, you may have troubles today. You may have fears about the future, trepidation about your new job, despair about difficult circumstances, frustration that you are not yet where you had hoped to be yet. But don’t let the specter of the dark days of the future rob you of the joy of today.
Enjoy this moment, the grace of graduation, for it is an astounding grace! Be grateful for the privilege of learning, revel in the godly relationships you have forged, laugh over the memories. Relish every moment of the graduation experience with gratitude in your heart to God.
We lose so many of the good moments of our lives trying to prevent the bad ones. When we know that they will come, no matter how hard we try to avoid them, we are free to give God thanks for the evidences of his grace today.
When we enjoy each day, one day at a time, we will look back and realize that we had a happy life. There may be many sorrows, and many dark days, but when we deliberately rejoice in God every day, we will find we are a happy person in the end.
Life is unpredictable. My mom could not have guessed how her life would radically change one summer day in 1974. And neither can you know what tomorrow holds. So how do we respond to life’s unpredictability?
Derek Kidner drives the lesson home:
“The true response to uncertainty is redoubling of effort…It is a stimulating call, with no thought of faltering, yet no trace of bravado or irresponsibility. The very smallness of our knowledge and control, the very likelihood of hard times so frequently impressed on us throughout the book, become the reasons to bestir ourselves and show some spirit.”
Class of 2015: May you not falter or boast, but armed with the knowledge of how little you know, may you rise up, show some spirit, and make the most of your life for the glory of our risen Savior.