I’m sharing today over at Women Leading Women. Please join me!

 

Earlier this fall, I sent in a little submission to the website, Women Leading Women, where I shared a little from my heart.  

I  wrote about in-between times, about waiting seasons, and about being hidden away.

Sometimes I need to be reminded how seasons of dormancy, seasons of rest, seasons of being hidden away, aren’t always signs of death.  Often, they are the prelude to new life.

The things we struggle most to endure can often birth beautiful things, if we don’t rush them.

This morning, you can find that little post over on Women Leading Women. 

Would you bless me and take a moment to visit their website?

Click here to visit the post.

As a bonus, you can leave a comment on their site and be entered in a drawing to win Sara Hagerty’s new book:, Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World That Loves to Be Noticed.  Doesn’t it look beautiful?!

As always, thanks so much for joining me here!

Loneliness and Darkness and how to Find Light

We have a nighttime wanderer at our house, a little traveler who visits others while they sleep.

My son has always slept in his own room and in his own bed, but after we moved into a new house something shifted in him.  He doesn’t want to be alone at night.

And he absolutely, positively does NOT want to sleep in his own bed in his own room.

We’ve set up a little futon for him as a consolation.  At first,  he insisted that his “little bed” (as he calls  it) remain in the upstairs hallway.  That was close enough to family traffic to keep his little heart happy.

I’ve been slowly trying to move him into his room, though, because school starting means his sisters are up  and moving and loud really early in the morning.  He’d sleep better (and longer!) in his own bedroom.

So, I’ve managed to get his “little bed” into his bedroom, but he wants it as close to the door as possible.

Then, after we’ve all snoozed for a few hours, he drags his blanket behind him and finds another place to sleep.

He climbs into bed with a sister.  He curls up and falls back to sleep under their bedroom window.  He tucks himself in  on a trundle bed.

We tell him each night that he needs to sleep in his own bed and he nods in agreement, but around 3 or 4 a.m. I suppose his heart’s desire overcomes all that.  In the morning, we find out whose room he decided to share for the night.

My girls never really  experienced that need.  All three of them shared a room until a few months ago so when they were  preschoolers, they didn’t have to sleep by themselves.

Being alone, after all, is hard.

I have sympathy for my little guy.  He loves his family.  He knows he feels more secure if he is near someone else.  So, he pursues that with determination, relentlessly returning night after night to  the same pattern, dragging his Star Wars blanket behind him.

Maybe we all need that assurance once in a while, that we’re not alone, that we’re safe, that we’re loved, especially in the dark times.

And Scripture does that for us.  The Psalmist gives us this beautiful reminder:

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you (Psalm 139:11-12 ESV).

Night and day are the same to our God.  Darkness, light:  Makes no difference.  Even the darkness is not dark to Him.

That means that even in our loneliest, scariest, darkest, most anxious moments, whether we’re lying in our beds or standing in our kitchens or driving in our cars or sitting at a desk, God brings the Light of His Presence right where we are.

No darkness is too dark for  Him to cut through.

Even if we feel forgotten, unloved, overlooked, or abandoned, we’re promised that God doesn’t ever fall asleep on the job.  Psalm 121 says:

He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

He never turns His head away or gets distracted.  He’s not so busy solving the crises of the world to  hear us and see us when we call to Him.

So, call to Him.

In his devotional, Morning and Evening, Charles Spurgeon wrote:

You may fear that the Lord has passed you by, but it is not so: he who counts the stars, and calls them by their names, is in no danger of forgetting his own children. He knows your case as thoroughly as if you were the only creature he ever made, or the only saint he ever loved. Approach him and be at peace.

In the night, in the times you can’t see, in the places where you feel lonely, in the moments when you’re so exhausted and overwhelmed that you just feel hopelessly lost, call to Him.

Drag your blanket behind you if you need to, and seek Him out.  It’s His very presence that you need to be your safe place, your refuge and hiding place, the security you need to help you sleep in peace and rest without fear.

Here’s the good news:  He is closer than you may think or feel.

Angela Thomas wrote:

When you are hurting, your head says that God is far away, but Jesus says, in fact, that God is closer than ever (A Beautiful Offering)

Not a servant, but a friend

“I am not a servant.”

My youngest daughter says it first in a matter-of-fact tone.

I can’t hear the other side of the conversation so I don’t know what request prompted this response.

I do know she gets her answer from me.

I say it sometimes to my kids when they ask me to hop up from the dinner table (before I’ve even taken a bite of my own food) to get them something they could easily get themselves.

I say it when they call out “Mom!” while they are watching TV and ask me to stop working to get them a drink of water.

I say it to remind them that, while I love them and I love to do nice things for them, sometimes they treat me like unpaid kitchen help.

And that’s not right.

So I listen in as my daughter repeats her response broken-record-style.

“I am not a servant.”

“I am not a servant.”

Then she sings it in a high opera voice, “I am not a servant…..”

Finally after what seems like the twentieth repetition of this phrase, her older sister bends over and picks something up off the floor.

The little ones around here have grown wise to this new trend, how older sisters think because you’re smaller, you must perform all tasks menial and low-to-the-ground so they can continue with whatever far-more-important thing they’re doing.

My Catherine is standing up for herself.

After all, what she has always wanted, what she truly desires in her little sister heart-of-hearts, is for these bigger girls to play with her.

She doesn’t want to fetch dropped Legos off of the floor.

She doesn’t want to get them a paper towel or find them a sharpened pencil.

She wants to be friends with them.

Shortly before His death, Jesus said something profoundly moving to His disciples:

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.  (John 15:15 NIV).

Not servants, but friends.

He offered them so much more than the menial tasks of mindless obedience, the fetching and finding and picking up of hired help.

He called them friends.

For the disciples, friendship with Jesus didn’t change what they did.   Jesus loved by serving sacrificially and humbly, and He told them to do the same.

But He invited them into His heart and His plans.

OF COURSE, IT DOESN’T MEAN WE AREN’T SERVING GOD DAY IN AND DAY OUT, LOVING OTHERS IN HUMBLE OF WAYS, EMPTYING OURSELVES SO WE CAN DRENCH ANOTHER IN THE COMPASSION AND MERCY OF CHRIST.

There is, after all, beauty in late night sessions with a sleepless baby and days spent tending to sick children.

There’s beauty in the ugly, the mess, the pain, and the exhaustion of caregiving.

There’s beauty–God-glorifying beauty— in heading out the door each morning to a job that demands everything you’ve got and more so that you can provide for your family.

The beauty isn’t in the act itself.  It’s not in the changing diapers or the washing away filth.  It’s not in taking out trash or sitting through mind-numbing meetings where supervisors pile on work.

It’s that you’re doing all of that for someone else.

Your labor on behalf of others may not earn you any earthly regard.

You may trudge through another day of work without a nod in your direction and a genuine ‘thanks.’

Your child may overlook the fifty lunches you’ve made for her and complain the one day you forgot that she likes Oreos, not chocolate chip cookies.

And you can feel absolutely invisible.

But right in that moment, Christ chats with you.

He tells you everything the Father taught Him.

He asks if you’ll take part in His agenda, in His passion and plan for loving others with grace, mercy, compassion, generosity, and humility.

Not because He only values what we do for Him.

Not because we earn His favor by going, going, going all the time.

Not because He wants us constantly to be doing at all.

It’s because He’s offered us His presence—in the moments when we’re sitting at His feet and the moments we’re stooping to wash the feet of another.

He desires friendship, and friends aren’t acting out of duty or serving out of compulsion.

WE’RE LIVING AND BREATHING AND SERVING AND LOVING BECAUSE HE’S GIVEN US ACCESS TO HIS VERY HEART.

OUR FRIENDSHIP WITH GOD MEANS WE DO AND WE CEASE DOING AT THE IMPULSE OF HIS LOVE: OUR LIVES, OUR HEARTS, OUR ACTIONS GUIDED AND MOTIVATED BY HIS VERY OWN LOVE AT WORK IN US.

Originally published 10/29/2016

Bible Verses for the Storms We Face

  • 1 Kings 19:11-12 ESV
    And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.
  • Job 38:1 ESV
    Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind…
  • Psalm 55:8 ESV
    I would hurry to find a shelter
        from the raging wind and tempest.
  • Psalm 107:25 ESV
    For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
        which lifted up the waves of the sea.
  • Psalm 107:29 ESV
    He made the storm be still,
        and the waves of the sea were hushed.
  • Proverbs 10:25 ESV
    When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more,
        but the righteous is established forever.
  • Isaiah 4:6 ESV
    It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.
  • Isaiah 25:4 ESV
    For you have been a stronghold to the poor,
        a stronghold to the needy in his distress,
        a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat;
    for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall,
  • Isaiah 29:6 ESV
    you will be visited by the Lord of hosts
    with thunder and with earthquake and great noise,
        with whirlwind and tempest, and the flame of a devouring fire.
  • Isaiah 32:1-2 ESV
    Behold, a king will reign in righteousness,
        and princes will rule in justice.
    Each will be like a hiding place from the wind,
        a shelter from the storm,
    like streams of water in a dry place,
        like the shade of a great rock in a weary land.
  • Isaiah 43:1-2 ESV
    But now thus says the Lord,
    he who created you, O Jacob,
        he who formed you, O Israel:
    “Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
        I have called you by name, you are mine.
    When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
        and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
    when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
        and the flame shall not consume you.
  • Isaiah 54:11 NLT
    O storm-battered city,
        troubled and desolate!
    I will rebuild you with precious jewels
        and make your foundations from lapis lazuli.
  • Nahum 1:3 ESV
    The Lord is slow to anger and great in power,
        and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.
    His way is in whirlwind and storm,
        and the clouds are the dust of his feet.
  • Zechariah 10:1 ESV
    Ask rain from the Lord
        in the season of the spring rain,
    from the Lord who makes the storm clouds,
        and he will give them showers of rain,
        to everyone the vegetation in the field
  • Matthew 7:24-27 ESV
    Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
  • Matthew 8:26 ESV
     And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.
  • Mark 4:39 ESV
    And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
  • Luke 8:24 ESV
    And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm.
  • Hebrews 12:18-19 ESV
     For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them.
  • James 1:6 ESV
    But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.

Bible Verses about God Rescuing Us

  • 2 Samuel 22:17-20 ESV
    “He sent from on high, he took me;
        he drew me out of many waters.
    18 He rescued me from my strong enemy,
        from those who hated me,
        for they were too mighty for me.
    19 They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
        but the Lord was my support.
    20 He brought me out into a broad place;
        he rescued me, because he delighted in me.
  • Psalm 5:10 ESV
    All my bones shall say,
        “O Lord, who is like you,
    delivering the poor
        from him who is too strong for him,
        the poor and needy from him who robs him?”
  • Psalm  18:16-19 ESV
    He sent from on high, he took me;
        he drew me out of many waters.
    17 He rescued me from my strong enemy
        and from those who hated me,
        for they were too mighty for me.
    18 They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
        but the Lord was my support.
    19 He brought me out into a broad place;
        he rescued me, because he delighted in me.
  • Psalm 32:7 ESV
    You are a hiding place for me;
        you preserve me from trouble;
        you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah
  • Psalm  34:4 ESV
    I sought the Lord, and he answered me
        and delivered me from all my fears.
  • Psalm 35:17 ESV
    How long, O Lord, will you look on?
        Rescue me from their destruction,
        my precious life from the lions!
  • Psalm 43:1 ESV
    Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
        against an ungodly people,
    from the deceitful and unjust man
        deliver me!
  • Psalm 69:13-14 ESV
    But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.
        At an acceptable time, O God,
        in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.
    14 Deliver me
        from sinking in the mire;
    let me be delivered from my enemies
        and from the deep waters.
  • Psalm 71:2 ESV
    In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
        incline your ear to me, and save me!
  • Psalm 72:12-14 ESV
    For he delivers the needy when he calls,
        the poor and him who has no helper.
    13 He has pity on the weak and the needy,
        and saves the lives of the needy.
    14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life,
        and precious is their blood in his sight.
  • Psalm 82:3-4 ESV
    Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
        maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
    Rescue the weak and the needy;
        deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
  • Psalm 91:14-15 ESV
    “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
        I will protect him, because he knows my name.
    15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
        I will be with him in trouble;
        I will rescue him and honor him.
  • Psalm 107:19 ESV
    Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
        and he delivered them from their distress.
  • Psalm 140:1 ESV
    Deliver me, O Lord, from evil men;
        preserve me from violent men,
  • Psalm 142:6 ESV
    Attend to my cry,
        for I am brought very low!
    Deliver me from my persecutors,
        for they are too strong for me!
  • Psalm 143:9 ESV
    Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord!
        I have fled to you for refuge.
  • Psalm 144:7 ESV
    Stretch out your hand from on high;
        rescue me and deliver me from the many waters,
        from the hand of foreigners,
  • Proverbs 11:8 ESV
    The righteous is delivered from trouble,
        and the wicked walks into it instead.
  • Isaiah 41:10 ESV
    fear not, for I am with you;
        be not dismayed, for I am your God;
    I will strengthen you, I will help you,
        I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
  • Jeremiah 20:13 ESV
    Sing to the Lord;
        praise the Lord!
    For he has delivered the life of the needy
        from the hand of evildoers.
  • Daniel 3:17 ESV
     If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.
  • Daniel  6:27 ESV
    He delivers and rescues;
    he works signs and wonders
        in heaven and on earth,
    he who has saved Daniel
    from the power of the lions.”
  • Joel 2:32 ESV
    And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.
  •  Matthew 6:13 ESV
    And lead us not into temptation,
        but deliver us from evil.
  • 1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV
    No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
  •  2 Corinthians 1:10
    He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.
  • Colossians 1:13 ESV
    He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,
  • 2 Timothy 4:18 ESV
     The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
  • Hebrews 13:6 ESV
    So we can confidently say,

    “The Lord is my helper;
        I will not fear;
    what can man do to me?”

Making a Way Through the Impossible

My son wrestles with two large toy trucks on our way into the orthodontist.  He’s determined to carry them both inside himself.

One falls to the ground.  He stoops to pick it up and as he grabs hold of the digging arm on the one truck, the other crashes down next to it.

But oh, Mommy cannot help carry these trucks.  I offer.  I even finally grip onto that yellow bulldozer as a sign that he didn’t need to handle both trucks at once.

Instead of letting go, my son silently holds on tighter and lifts that heavy machine out of my grasp.

These trucks are his treasures.  He is not letting go.

Finally, after several crashes to the pavement, the trucks arrive in the dental office where they make paths through blocks, scale the sides of chairs and roll across railings.

At home later, they do what big trucks should do.  They push tiny objects off the living room table and onto the floor.  They blaze trails through toys and flatten ground.

As an infant, my son learned the names of these vehicles as some of his earliest vocabulary:  “Truck.  Car.  Digger.”  Now, he speaks with infinite more expertise:  “Bulldozer, Dump Truck, Excavator, Crane, Cement Mixer, Delivery Van.”

I don’t know what it is about these trucks that hold this little man’s attention so, but I know why suddenly, after a lifetime of not caring much about them, I find myself newly impressed.

They make ways.

They flatten obstacles.

They clear paths.

What  a reminder for those of us who need some “ways,” some impossibilities cleared and some mountains moved.

We can look at circumstances: at bank accounts and how the numbers don’t add up, at agendas and jam-packed calendars, at job expectations and the number of hours in a day.

We can see that and think ,”There’s just no way.”

No way for hope, for rescue, for there to be enough.  No way for the good and the beautiful to come out of this rotten mess.

But here’s the good news: We serve a God who makes ways.

He parts waters so his people can walk straight across a sea  on dry ground.

He leads the nation through the wilderness and all its enemies.

He strikes down evil kings and raises up righteous ones, He rescues His people from annihilation over and over again.

The prophet Isaiah reminded his people that the Lord

... is the one who made a road through the sea
    and a path through rough waters.
17 He is the one who defeated the chariots and horses
    and the mighty armies.
They fell together and will never rise again.
    They were destroyed as a flame is put out.
18 The Lord says, “Forget what happened before,
    and do not think about the past.
19 Look at the new thing I am going to do.
    It is already happening. Don’t you see it?
I will make a road in the desert
    and rivers in the dry land. (Isaiah 43:16-19 NCV).

No way out of the mess you’re in?

No problem.  Not for our way-making God, the One who makes paths through the desert and springs up rivers from the dust.

Today, I read once again about the biggest impossibility of all.

Romans 3:20 tells us:

no one can be made right with God by following the law. The law only shows us our sin.

There’s the obstacle of our sin, that huge mounding imperfection blocking us from right-standing with God.

We can’t be good enough. Not ever.

So what are we sin-prone folks supposed to do?

Steep ourselves in rules, have-to’s, must-do’s, traditions, and legalism?

Or give up on holiness altogether?  Make excuses, justify, try to skirt the consequences?

These are our own “ways” and they are tangled up paths that lead us away from Jesus.

Paul says in the very next verse:

21 But God has a way to make people right with him without the law, and he has now shown us that way which the law and the prophets told us about. 22 God makes people right with himself through their faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21-22 NCV).

GOD HAS A WAY.

He bulldozes over the problem of sin.  He plows through the strictures of the law and he lifts into place the weighty foundation of grace in the form of a cross.

And if He can do that, if He can make this astoundingly miraculous path to forgiveness and grace even when I didn’t deserve such rescue, I know I can trust Him in my every impossibility, my every hopeless situation, my every closed door, my every mountain of a problem.

He can make a way.

 

Originally published June 24, 2016

The Place Where You Don’t Want to Be

One little dog was shaking, just trembling all over while her owner held her tight.

Another larger dog tugged and tugged on his leash back towards the exit. When the veterinary assistant came to walk the fella to the back, he shuffled backwards trying to escape.

Our own cat was settled in his carrier where he had tucked himself into a ball in the farthest back corner.

Every time I glanced inside the cat carrier, he darted his eyes around nervously and then mewed at me.

I think he was saying, “I don’t want to be here.”

Welcome to the crowd, buddy.  Nobody wanted to be there that day.

Of course, our vet’s office staff is wonderfully friendly and everyone there is gentle and considerate.  They patiently waited with animals and carried little trembling puppies back cooing at them all the way, “It’s all right, little guy.  This will be over in no time.”

And, of course, the vet is where these animals all needed to be that day.  It was for their own good and their own benefit.

Still, none of them came bounding into the waiting room all excited to hang out with the doctor.

The staff called my cat’s name and I toted him into the clinic and set him on the exam table.   The vet checked him all over and the whole time, my cat kept trying to climb back into the safety of the carrier.  He was persistent.  I’ve never seen him want to get in there before, but right at that moment, it’s the one place he wanted to be.

He wanted to feel safe.  He wanted the known.

I felt like saying, “I hear ya, buddy.”

Maybe we all know exactly what it’s like to be where we don’t want to be.

We can philosophize and speak truth to ourselves, knowing that God only sends us where He goes with us.

And He only takes us places that are for our own good.

That’s true, of course, but it’s nonetheless bewildering to end up where you don’t want to be and never intended to go.

When the apostle Paul boarded a ship headed for Rome in Acts 27, he knew the sailing would be difficult.

The timing was bad.  The crew had delayed too long.  The winds were against them.  The port was unfavorable for a winter stay, but continuing on their journey could be disastrous.

Paul tried to tell them not to sail ahead, but they didn’t listen to him.

So, where’d the ship end up?

Not in Rome. Not right away at least.

Instead, just as Paul predicted, they ended up shipwrecked on the island of Malta with the total loss of their vessel and cargo.

This wasn’t Paul’s destination or plan. He knew God wanted him in Rome.  He planned to head to Rome.

But here he was in Malta instead.

We’ve likely been to Malta before also.

Not the physical place, of course, but in Find Your Brave, author Holly Wagner describes Malta as the place you didn’t plan on being and that wasn’t on your map or itinerary or agenda.

It’s still being single long after you thought you’d be married or mourning a miscarriage after the joy of a positive pregnancy test.

It’s unexpected unemployment or a failed business or a rejection letter.

It’s a prodigal child or a broken marriage or a job you just hate instead of the one you wanted.

It’s cancer.

It’s that place of waiting, still waiting, always waiting even though you thought the promise would be fulfilled long ago.

For Paul, Malta was the place where people ended up because they didn’t listen to wise advice and made poor decisions.

Even there, though, when it was their own fault, God was at work, allowing Paul to perform miracles and be a witness to the natives and the ship’s crew.

God redeemed the disaster and restored the journey.

And ultimately, Paul still ended up in Rome, but his time in Malta wasn’t a waste.

That’s the key for me: When I find myself in Malta, I can engage right there.  I don’t need to fret about getting to Rome.  God can take me where He wants me to go in His perfect timing.

For now, I can be fully present in Malta.

WHEREVER GOD HAS BROUGHT YOU, YOU CAN BE ALL THERE.

God is never surprised by our location or unable to use our circumstances.

Even if we don’t know how we got here, God knows.
Even if we don’t want to be here, God can use it.
Even if we don’t know how to get out of here, God does.

And even if we feel abandoned in this place, God is always with us and always at work.

 

Originally published 06/10/2016

Lessons from Living Among the Boxes

We are living among boxes.

Just  days after our home inspection was done and everything was set to move ahead with selling our house,  I started packing little by little as strategically as possible.

But that strategy didn’t matter in the end, because our move was delayed about 2-1/2 weeks,  so all those things I put in those boxes didn’t necessarily stay there.

For one thing, I didn’t expect to still be in this house when my daughter went off  to camp.   So, I had packed all  the extra flashlights.  And the sleeping bag.  And the extra bug spray.

At first,  it was a bit funny.

I packed up the extra school supplies one day and threw into the box a pink plastic protractor that I last used when I took geometry, oh about 23 years ago.

No one in  this entire house has used this protractor in over two decades.

That very afternoon, though, my fifth grader came home from school, pulled out her math homework and asked, “Mom, do you have a protractor I can use?”

For real.

So,  I did what I have become  an expert at doing.  I found the box, opened it back up, slipped my hand in and pulled out what she needed.

Box fishing.

I’ve been “box fishing” for two months.

Most of the time, I can find an item in just one try.  Every once in a while,  I need to open two boxes to find the one I want.

But one day, after being at peace through this whole process, my son wanted a particular toy from a box.  And I hunted.  And searched.  I opened box after box.

That’s what did me in.  That’s the day I cried.  That’s the day I told God, “This is hard and I’ve been beaten down.”

I  did finally find those micro-machine tanks and airplanes he was looking for,  but the emotional battle was a way bigger deal than any effort to  find the right box.

That was about the time I wondered if we’d have to open all these boxes back up and put everything back where it came from without moving at all.

But today we got the phone call saying it’s all  set.   Papers will be signed.  Money wired.  More papers signed.  Keys handed over.

This is it!

“Living among the boxes” is something I’ve done before just in different ways.

It’s about waiting rooms and transitions, about not knowing the outcome and not knowing the date on the calendar when a promise will be fulfilled.

It’s about leaving what you do know and stepping out into the unknown,  maybe stumbling along the way.

Living among the boxes is a daily lesson in needing Jesus.

How easily I can be toppled into a pit of worry from a place  of peace.

How easily discouragement and disappointment can wear a body right down.

But I think Jesus  knows that.  He knows how hard it is to hold  onto hope when everything looks hopeless.

He knows what it’s like when God asks us to travel  a road we’d rather not be on.

So when I cry for “mercy” and when I tell Him how another round of bad news has me reeling, I’m so thankful for His compassion.

He doesn’t always snap His fingers and fix everything perfectly in that second, but He does minister to my hurt with the encouragement I desperately need.

He did this for Jairus, too.  When Jairus asked Jesus to  please come and heal his daughter, Jesus followed him right away.  But there was a delay.

So, Jairus’s daughter died.

 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”36 But overhearing] what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe. (Mark 5:35-36 ESV).

Jairus received the worst possible news, but Jesus’ words were what he needed  to  hold  onto hope even in the impossible:

Do not fear, only believe.

We all have hard days.  We have worn-out days and sad days and I-just-want-to-give-up-days.

Jesus told the disciples what to do on those days and it echoes with familiarity:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1 ESV).

Do not fear, only believe.

I don’t think Jesus meant this as a “buck up and just have some faith kind of speech.”

I think He knew what Jairus needed, what the disciples needed, and what we truly need: Comfort. Reassurance.  Hope.

Don’t be afraid. 

Yes, this is scary, but do not fear.

Just keep your eyes on me and believe.

Well friends, with the move finally here I’m signing off for  a bit until after we’re in our new place.  I’ll get back to posting in a week or two!  ~Heather~

Finding peace when it’s hard to see

Here’s my primary job at the zoo as a mom.

Sure, I help break up fights over who will hold the map.

I plan our itinerary so we don’t bounce from the lions on the one end of the zoo, to the goats on the other end of the zoo, back to the giraffes way back where the lions are.  No, we take an orderly path.

I make sure no little hands slip into the fences and no children wander off in search of wild animals.

I decline to pay for every souvenir, snack, and photo booth that we see.

I take pictures of children giggling at the baby monkeys.

But mostly I do this—I point so that my youngest child at the time can actually find the animal in the tank or grass or exhibit or whatever.

I’ve been doing this for years for all four children at one time or another.

See the lizard? 

No.

See, right there.  Look where I’m pointing.  See?

No.

See that leaf?  The big one right there?  Look under that.  See the lizard?

No.

Every so often, we struggle to find the tiger or the bear, but mostly it’s these camouflaging reptiles and miniature frogs that have us standing at the cage for more than five minutes squinting our eyes, pointing our fingers, and eventually giving up.

But when I started taking my son to the zoo back when he was just learning to talk, I discovered he has super-sight.

He could spot a hidden reptile or amphibian the moment he walked up to the glass.

Snake. Lizard. Frog.  He pointed and said the name like this was the easiest exercise on the planet.

Hiding under foliage?  Didn’t matter.

Blending in with the pebbles?  Not a problem.

Hanging from a tree at the top of the cage?  Couldn’t fool him.

He sees what is hard to see and notices what is hard to notice.

I need vision like that.  I need spiritual super-sight.

Sometimes I’m searching through my circumstances and situations for the peace God promises.

Still, I can’t see it, not through the murky glass, not with my limited vision.

I need God to give me eyes that see His peace, even when it’s hidden, even when I don’t have answers, even when trouble looms, even when the waiting lingers and the uncertainty remains, even when I need the impossible.

Sheila Walsh writes:

In the last major conversation Jesus had with His closest friends, He spoke about peace–but not as we might have expected Him to (5 Minutes With Jesus).

We’d expect perhaps to find peace in the moments of calm or peace in the seasons of blessing.

We have peace when we’re at rest or peace when our relationships are happy and healthy, no one’s mad at us, we’re financially stable and physically well.

Isn’t that when peace comes?

Yet, Jesus told the disciples,

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace (John 16:33a ESV).

What things had He said to them?  Had He been talking about heaven, miracles, salvation, grace?

Not at all.

In John 15 and 16, Jesus tells his dearest friends about sorrow and His imminent death, about persecution and martyrdom, and how the world will hate them and harm them.

Then He gives them hope.

Then He promises them peace.

We seek peace in answered prayers, resolved situations, the end of conflicts or the arrival of provision.

We seek it in chocolate, bubble baths, getaways, and running away.

But peace isn’t found there.  Peace is found in Jesus Himself right where are in the middle of the pain, before the answers and the fixes and the resolution.

He told the disciples “in me you may have peace.”

PEACE ISN’T FOUND IN A POSITION OR A PROVISION; IT’S FOUND IN A PERSON.

Jesus is constant, unchanging.

He is faithful.

He is able.

He is compassionate and abundant in His love.

We can rest in Him, deeply rest.  We can entrust our lives to Him, every care and concern, every worry that keeps our thoughts churning at night as the clock ticks down hour after hour.

Jesus finished the promise to the disciples that night:

“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b ESV).

This is our courage.  Our reason to ‘take heart’ and have hope!  He has already overcome our every enemy and our every battle.

So, we look to Him and we ask for His vision right here when peace seems hidden and hope hard to see, when we’re staring at circumstances and not seeing the light for all the darkness.

Lord, help me see you!  Help me not lose sight of who you are.

Originally published March 11, 2016

Praying with a Penny Cup

The penny plinked into the cup and I walked away.

It was such a simple thing.  The penny pressed into the palm of my hand and then a quick release, a letting go, and I was done.

Before my penny cup, I thought that I was just persevering in prayer like Jesus told His disciples to do in Luke 18.

There was the widow who came before the unfair judge day after day to demand justice, and finally he gave in because he was annoyed and tired of hearing her complain about it.

There was the neighbor awakened in the middle of the night by obnoxious and persistent knocking at his front door.  He finally opened up the door and stood there in his pajamas listening to his neighbor’s plight—an unexpected guest, no bread in the house, could he share?  Yes!  Take it!  Take anything as long as you stop that knocking, knocking, knocking so I can get some sleep already.

So, Jesus tells us, if an unrighteous judge and a sleep-deprived neighbor gave into requests just because of tenacity, wouldn’t God who loves us respond when we pray and pray and pray and don’t give up praying?

Don’t stop praying.  Even when you’re weary and exhausted and hopeless and think it doesn’t do a bit of good, keep pushing and pushing on in prayer.

But my idea of persevering in prayer wasn’t really prayer any more.  It was more like fretting in front of God’s throne and worrying about a problem before a divine audience.

All night long, I mentally paced in prayer: Lord, here’s my problem and here’s what I need You to do to fix it.  

I plead and argued and orated and then when I’d run out of things to say, I started all over again.

Hour after hour ticked by on my bedside clock and still I continued.

God loves when we pray. We can bring anything and everything to Him in prayer and He never tires of hearing us and never turns us away.

But I never released my need to Him.  I was talking at Him without ever letting go or pausing for even a second to listen or be still.

I was wallowing in anxiety and putting a holy ‘stamp of approval’ on it by calling it prayer.

John wrote:

 Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for (1 JOhn 5:14-15 HCSB).

I was praying as if He couldn’t hear me.

….as if my will mattered more than His will.

….as if only my solution to the problem was acceptable.

….as if He wasn’t sovereign or compassionate—wasn’t able or didn’t care to rescue me.

… as if He was against me instead of for me.1 john 5

It was a prayer of unbelief.

Then, I read the idea in a discipleship magazine: a penny cup.

It’s not the cup that mattered or even the penny.  Writing a prayer on a slip of paper and slipping it into a prayer box would do just as well.

What matters is a physical reminder to release my white-knuckled grip on my problem and give it over to the God who loves me so.

Every time I  found a wayward penny on a dresser or on the floor, I picked it up and prayed with a quick whisper, “Lord, please take care of this need.  I trust You to deliver me.” Then I released the prayer to Him as I dropped the coin into my penny cup.

I didn’t tell Him how to fix the problem.  I didn’t wrestle with Him for hours every night over the need.

I prayed day in and day out (you’d be surprised how many pennies you find when they become part of your prayer life), but always I gave the problem to Him instead of holding onto it myself.

When the penny cup filled to the brim, I poured out the coins and started again.  For years, I prayed about this one issue, giving it over to God one…..penny….. at….. a….. time.

For the first time, I really prayed.  I didn’t fret and argue and run endless circles of desperate pleading around God.

I persisted in prayer by expressing my need while leaving the solution in His hands.

And God rescued me.  Not in the way I expected.  Not in the timing I expected.  Not without hardship and hurting or obedience or faith in the hard places.  But the deliverance was miraculous and beautiful and perfect in the way only God’s deliverance can be.

Originally published 02/11/2015