Hard Lessons to Learn
Written by: Anna Hammill from And Hope Designs
It was a sunny Saturday afternoon at the end of June. I stood in the kitchen, chopping carrots to add to the dinner. As I quartered the carrot slices and put them in the pot of boiling water, my husband and our 4 children came home from an afternoon walk. Bethany, our eldest aged 6 at the time, got in first and burst through the door. Seeing me beside the worktop, she said with a tear stained face and a wobble in her voice: “Mummy, I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that I lost Owly and the good news is that I found 10p!”
The day had arrived. Owly, Bethany’s special blankey toy had been lost.
I gave her a cuddle, squeezed her tight and stroked her hair. While James, her younger brother said “That’s why you don’t take him out” I was able to gently say “Some lessons need to be learned for yourself.”
Repeatedly for the last 3 or so years of her life, we’d been reminding Bethany to leave Owly in her bed, because he was a bedtime friend and we didn’t want him lost.
Honestly, I’m surprised she was so old when he got lost. He’d been her faithful friend for six years, moved house 3 times, been packed in suitcases and travelled across seas and country borders. Ironically, Daniel, Bethany’s youngest brother dropped him from the buggy a mile or so from our house. Retracing steps was futile and while we always keep an extra sharp eye out every time we travel along the road on which he was lost, that sunny day in June was the day Owly was to be seen, hugged and stroked for the last time by his faithful and loving owner, this six-year-old girl who made him beds of grass in cardboard boxes and wouldn’t go to sleep if his ear wasn’t between two of her fingers, his blanket body draped across her face.
When the children were in bed, Iain, my husband recounted telling Bethany similar words to mine – some lessons you need to learn for yourself. Bethany’s response to him was “Yes, but this is a really hard lesson.”
How right she is. This small phrase has come to my mind often in the last year. While we need to learn lessons for ourselves and go through things to come out the other end more Christ-like, some lessons are really hard.
“You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” James 5:8
Upon reflection, my hardest lesson is waiting patiently and trustingly. I have had to wait for good things many times in my life, often not knowing if they would ever come.
Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. – Corrie Ten Boom
From my youngest years I have wanted to be married and have children. I had my first boyfriend when I was 24 which felt really old to me – I went all through school and university single while I watched a lot of my friends date and even get engaged and married. When I broke up with my boyfriend, I panicked thinking that I may never get married and if I did, it would be too late to begin a family.
But in His great kindness, I did get married. God knew what he was doing, and because my husband is 5 years younger than me, there had to be waiting. While I was finishing university, he was still only 16!
Here I am at 36 with four young children and I find myself waiting, still learning patience, still finding that I need to trust God. It is a hard lesson to learn. It is an active, conscious decision. I need to remind myself, take my thoughts captive, pray against the worry and the concern that can sometimes consume me.
These days, my waiting involves being patient through stages of toddlerishness I wish I didn’t have to deal with.
It involves making the conscious decision to put photography on hold until I am in a season of life that allows for entire Saturdays spent working at a wedding.
I am seeing the good in these seasons of waiting. God works for the good of those who love Him. He brings himself glory in these circumstances.
I design cards and gifts for my creative small business. I have cards that have quotes that have spoken to me in these seasons of waiting and uncertainty. Because looking back with hindsight, I know he was there and working it all out and doing things in a better way than I could have ever planned or imagined.
Without this current season of waiting and unknown, I would never have started a stationery business, I would not have made the card with that Corrie Ten a boom quote on it, and 70+ people would never have received it from a caring friend. I’m sure there are many other reasons God has put me in seasons of unknown and of waiting, and many other reasons He has guided me through this little venture. But that is just one reason, and one way that these circumstances have brought Him glory.
“Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring” James 5:14
I have witnessed friends go through infertility and while that is a path I wouldn’t wish on anyone, I have seen God’s hand at work in ways that would not have been possible had they been able to start a family when they first desired to. I have seen orphans be given a loving, godly set of parents. I have seen unreached people groups reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ (to be clear, missionary work is possible with children, but often with time and priorities divided it can be harder). I have seen people drawn so much closer to the Lord, and I have seen this cry of Come, Lord Jesus be a true and desperate cry of the heart.
Through lockdowns, corrupt governments, hypocrisy and restrictions, moved goal posts and false hopes, this has been my experience too. We have now been waiting for 16 months to come out the other side of a pandemic and my heart has been overwhelmed with this desire to see Jesus come back. I want nothing more than to see his face, the one, true King who holds us in His hands and knows our unknown future. We have a Hope. A true Hope. One that doesn’t change. There is strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.
“Do not fear anything that is frightening.” 1 Peter 3:6
Life is full of hard lessons, and we begin to learn them from a young age. Pray in to them and let God mould your heart and your life – he is the good shepherd. He is gentle and kind in his dealings with us. In all the hard, Jesus is with us. He allows us to go through things for our good, and for His glory.
Anna Hamill lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland with her husband and their four children. She runs a small creative business, And Hope Designs (www.andhopedesigns.com) making quality cards and gifts to bring joy using watercolour, lettering and often a bit of humour.