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So much of my life has been lived in safety, comfort, stability. So in the tumult of the last couple years, I have spent time leaning into the tough stuff, dissecting it, asking questions of it, searching for meaning in it. I have focused intently on the hurting, wanting to put words to it so that others might come to know and understand the aches. I keep rehearsing the twists and turns of the hard roads I’ve traveled, hoping it might help me avoid the pits and falls ahead.

Rather than preparing me for the journey ahead it keeps me stuck in fear. Not just fear of the unknown but fear of the perpetuation of the hard stuff I have known. The disappointments, the shattered expectations, the tears and unfulfilled desires. Preparing for the worst and hoping for the best hasn’t proved helpful. Instead, it’s left me expecting the worst and missing out on the best. How can I learn from the hard things and not allow myself to harden? How can I reflect on the lessons with hopefulness, not dreaded anticipation?

“What you pay attention to, is what you will remember, and what you remember is what you will anticipate in the future.” Curt Thompson

I can’t recall the origin, but recently I was challenged to scroll through my photos on my phone and revisit some of the good times I had captured. We usually take photos of the highlights, the beautiful moments, the funny scenes unfolding, the moments that make us smile. In doing so I was quickly reminded, that in the midst of some of these tougher experiences in my life have also been times filled with joy, goodness, gifts, blessings, time, community, rebirth- so many holy moments hidden in plain sight. Life is never either or, but both and.

So what if these were the things I spent time paying attention to? The glimmers of hope and the reminders of God’s faithfulness, redemption and sustaining grace in the midst of life’s highs and lows? What if I remembered his mercy? Instead of merely dreading the hard things that could be ahead of me, might I expectantly anticipate his rescue of my soul time and again?

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have HOPE. Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions NEVER fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:21-23

We may try to fool ourselves, but we have so little control in how our lives unfold. What relief it is to know that I have choices in the midst of all the uncertainties.  I can choose to dress-rehearse HOPE and not tragedy. I can choose to set my heart on things above, to think on the One who saves me, who never abandons me, who will never allow me to be swallowed up or consumed by any trial. And those are the things worth paying attention to, worth remembering and worth anticipating in every season.