Nicole Zasowski is a girl after my own heart–an old soul who wears her heart on her sleeve. As a marriage and family therapist, Nicole couldn’t see that she was living her own life outside the freedom she was passionate about helping others find, wrestling with the need to prove herself and earn her own way in order to feel significant and secure. It wasn’t until she confronted her own season of pain and loss that she discovered that our hope is not in fixing ourselves, but in shifting our gaze to a Savior who fixed Himself to a cross. In a season when we are all confronted with disruption of security and comforts have been pulled from our grasp, Nicole invites us to see our empty hands as open–open to receiving the Peace we’ve been searching for and to find transformation and redemption in seasons we would not have chosen for ourselves. It’s a grace to welcome Nicole to the farm’s front porch today…
“Well, I guess these belong to you.”
Our Realtor flashed a cheesy grin as he dropped a set of house keys into the palm of Jimmy’s hand. We both laughed nervously, aware of the responsibility that came with this tiny set of keys.
It was May 5, Cinco de Mayo, and we were closing on our first home. The only thing we knew about home ownership was how much we did not know.
In an act of defiance against our budget, I toured our little gray Cape Cod–style home during an open house one Sunday in January when Jimmy was out of town on business.
Wandering from room to room, I wrote this home’s next chapter to include us. Upon leaving, I promptly sent Jimmy a text that I found our house. He laughed when I told him the price, but I was undeterred. I convinced him to put in an offer, which we did with a hope and a prayer.
On the morning we planned to submit our offer, the sellers dropped their price significantly, taking our offer from offensive to aggressive.
After a tumultuous negotiation process and a comedy of errors on the part of the seller’s agent, the house was ours.
Circumstances had made it very clear that this house was a pure gift from God.
I insisted on sleeping in the house on the first night. As I lay awake in my sleeping bag like the Girl Scout I never was, I felt the full weight of our decision to purchase a home.
Putting down roots in Connecticut was in direct conflict with the daydreams I had indulged since moving here two years prior. I spent most of my time imagining our life elsewhere. My mind was a constant flight risk, making it difficult to properly invest in relationships and the possibility of a future here.
For most of my time as a resident of the Northeast, I realized I had been using the environment around me.
I was more interested in what I could take from our time here rather than asking myself how I could give of myself to this place.
I had been more focused on what I had lost and left behind in California than on seeing the joys that were waiting to be found here in Connecticut.
This house would change all that, serving as a tangible reminder that we had a future worth investing in here.
Sometimes we read Jeremiah 29:11 and, because of its familiarity, assume it has nothing for us. But the prophet’s words are deep and rich with meaning: “ ‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you . . . plans to give you hope and a future’ ” (NIV).
Previously I have understood this verse to be an encouragement that even when our reality looks different from our dreams in the moment, our prosperous plans are promised for the future.
And though we may have to wait, God does understand the life we long for and has plans for us that match the dreams we carry.
But the verses surrounding Jeremiah 29:11 tell a different story. When God spoke these words, the Israelites were in exile, calling a land they did not love “home.” In this particular passage we find them spending their time waiting for better days to come.
They camped, but they did not live.
They engaged only with themselves, hiding out among like-minded people.
They did nothing to bless their neighbors or influence the culture around them.
This approach was reinforced by false prophets who had told them that the days they dreamed of were just around the corner, which only served as further encouragement to put the business of living and blessing their neighbors on hold.
We can easily find ourselves camping instead of living.
I recognized myself as someone who was at risk of wasting the opportunity to find the gifts of the present in Connecticut as I waited for better days in the life I could so easily envision elsewhere.
The prophet Jeremiah confronted the Israelites’ lack of engagement by telling them to plant fruit trees—an investment that might not yield fruit for years. He told them to build houses and settle down.
His instructions were an invitation to stop waiting for better days and to live in these days in this place. Jeremiah also called them to “seek the welfare of the city” (29:7 ESV). He challenged them to not hide among themselves but to engage with their neighbors and influence the culture around them.
These seemed like odd instructions leading up to verse 11, which had always brought so much comfort.
How could God’s promise of prosperity and a hopeful future be found in a life they did not choose?
Many times in Scripture, God Himself claims to be our home—our shelter.
The Israelites may not have chosen their reality, but God was their connection between reality and a kind of prosperity that surpasses what we can dream of.
Seasons of exile, seasons we would not choose for ourselves and that do not match our dreams, are the seasons when we remember our home is in Him—a Person who cannot be taken away from us.
Perhaps the prosperity that Jeremiah was referring to was the transformation that can only come through finding our secure home in Christ.
And maybe it is only when we are changed that we can change the world around us.
Nicole Zasowski is a licensed marriage and family therapist, writer, and speaker based in the state of Connecticut where she lives with her husband and two young boys. As an old soul who wears her heart proudly on her sleeve, Nicole loves using her words to help others find an enduring peace and joy outside of circumstance.
It was only when she was confronted with her own devastating pain and loss that she realized her current way of life was failing her. She then discovered that sometimes God’s rescue looks like prying our fingers off what we think we want so that we can receive what we truly need. In her book From Lost to Found, she helps readers find that sometimes the greatest joy is found when we are drained of all misplaced hope and shallow identities, and that as we lose our group on comfort and control, we fall right into God’s grace.
God is writing a story of redemption in your life too. In the midst of pain or transition, discover a surprising path to healing as you lose your grip on comfort and control—and fall right into God’s transformative grace.
[ Our humble thanks to Thomas Nelson for their partnership in today’s devotion ]