It’s unexpected and unplanned but also a little beautiful

I don’t really  create so much as I copy and adapt.

Those pictures on Pinterest, the photos in that project book, the links on Facebook, all entice me to pull out the hot glue gun, some fabric or paper scraps and make a huge mess, take up far more time than I expect, and finally gaze with pride on what I created…..I mean copied.

I’ve been wrapping strips of fabric into flowers and covering my hands into a hot mess of “Liquid Stitch” and stabbing my fingers with the needle when I try to sew the button into the center.

I’ve taken someone else’s ideas and made them my own.

I’ve wrapped the fabric too loosely now and my flower unravels.  I begin again.  Twist, wrap, glue, twist, wrap, glue.

As I try and try (and try) again, I mediate on this:

God started from nothing.

 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters (Genesis 1:2 NIV).

No McCall’s pattern.  No Pinterest.  No step-by-step directions on the DIY channel.  No classes at Michael’s or demonstrations at Jo-Ann Fabrics.

He takes that void, that nothingness, and He brings the fullness of His plans and design with the power of His Word alone.

Then He “saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:25 NIV).

And when I long for His presence, I can join Him in His activity.  He is Creator.  It is who He is and what He does.   So I make this effort,  make these tiny  attempts at making beauty happen.

Sally Clarkson writes in The Mission of Motherhood:

Creativity is such an integral part of the image of God within all of us… Whenever we adapt an idea or try a different approach to an issue or give our personal spin to a particular endeavor, we are learning a little more about our God-given nature and the nature of our creative God.

God….He’s Creator.

God…He’s creative.

He creates beauty.  He brings light into the dark places and hope into the hopeless situations.  He brings order into chaos and joy from mourning.

I pause and examine the flower I’ve made with a critic’s eye.  It’s not exactly like that Pinterest picture.  Nothing I make ever really is.

But the beauty of its originality grows on me.  Maybe I like it well enough.  It’s perhaps a little unexpected, maybe a little unplanned, but it’s a flower and it’s fabric and in its own particular way, it’s created for beauty.

So, why do I insist that this Creator God who is able to do “far more than all I ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3) and can speak a few words out into a formless universe and create a planet of complex life and intricate and breathtaking beauty….

Why do I insist that He do things my way?

I do this.  I pray, “God, here’s my need.  I’m hopeless here without You. Please reach right here into this pit and save me and here’s how….”

I’ve given Him agendas, to-do lists, blueprints, and step-by-step instructions. I’ve given Him 5-year plans and 10-year plans and custom orders for the needs I face that day.

I cling to my plan and argue like a lawyer in a courtroom before an unyielding judge, and then with just a few simple words He creates and I am stunned into silence and worship.

What God does over and over is create an entirely unexpected solution for the mess I’m in.

Yet, it’s perfect.  It’s exquisite.

I think of Mary, loving Jesus as she did, the mother who rocked Him and sang to Him in the night.

She brought to Him a problem in John 2 at the Cana wedding feast.  No more wine for the guests, she told Him.  The host of the party would be so embarrassed, she told Him.

And that’s where she stopped.

She didn’t tangle Him all up in her expectations, her solutions, her suggestions or demands.

No, she laid that problem right into His hands and trusted Him to care for it in His own way.

She gave Him the opportunity to create.

I look at the stack of fabric flowers I’ve made and they form for me a prayer:

God, help me remember that You are the Masterful Creator and I can trust You.  You make all things beautiful in Your time.  Whatever need I have or problem I face, I leave in Your hands

Originally published: May 7, 2014

For the waiting, we need a little courage

I was five minutes early and already nervous.

A friend and I were meeting up so we could drive together to an event.

The plan was simple.  Meet in the parking lot at 5:00.

At 4:55, I started worrying.

Did we say 5:00 or 5:30?  Did I have the time right?  What if we had miscommunicated?  What if I told her the wrong day?  The wrong place?  The wrong time?

This could be a disaster.

By 4:57, I pulled out my phone to double-check our messages.

Okay, I’m safe.  This was the right day and time and place.

But what if she couldn’t see my car where I was parked?  What if she pulls in the other side of the parking lot and misses me completely?

I crane my neck around, glancing from side to side.  Then I actually drive through the parking lot to make sure she wasn’t already there waiting for me and I’m just being ridiculous.

It’s 4:59 now, and yes, I am absolutely being ridiculous, but it’s taken on a humongous snowball life of its own and I feel powerless to stop it.

I am worrying about being late and about traffic and maybe we should have said we should meet earlier.

I am worrying about miscommunication and how I should have called her that day to verify the details one last time.

Then I start worrying about my friend.  What if she is hurt and in a car accident somewhere and she can’t call to tell me because she’s in an ambulance on the way to the hospital?

And then, just as I’ve worked myself up into frantic worry….my friend pulls in.

It’s 5:01.

She’s fine.  I’m fine.  We’re completely on time.

I really am ridiculous.

Every single day, I tell my son to ‘be patient’ about 20 times.  Maybe 50 times.

He wants juice.  He wants snack.  He wants Bob the Builder on the TV.   He wants to play a game.  He needs help with a toy.  He wants me to read a book.

What do I say?

Okay, in just a moment.  Be patient.

And, I act like he should just accept that.  I act like it’s a perfectly reasonable request for him to just snap on some patience.

But today, I’m recognizing that it’s hard.

I ‘m supposed to teach him patience, of course.  I still need to keep asking him to wait sometimes.  This doesn’t mean I need to answer his every whim and will immediately and turn him into a tiny tyrant.

No, I teach him to ‘be patient,’ but I do it with some understanding that what I’m asking him to do takes oh such a long time to learn.

Some days he’ll get it just right.

And some days he’ll fall to pieces just like his crazy mom does when she’s waiting for a friend in a parking lot at 4:55 p.m. and they’re supposed to meet at 5:00.

There’s something more, too: All these years, I’ve recognized how waiting takes patience (and who likes learning about patience?) and it takes trust (and who finds trusting without controlling easy?).

BUT IT ALSO TAKES COURAGE.

David wrote:

Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord! (Psalm 27:14 ESV).

and again:

Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
    all you who wait for the Lord! (Psalm 31:24 ESV).

I’ve missed it a million times.  I’ve read those Psalms and sang them and written them in my journal over and over again, but today it hits me in a new way.

GOD SAYS THAT IN THE WAITING, I NEED TO TAKE HEART.

I NEED TO BE COURAGEOUS.

I NEED TO BE STRONG.

And, that’s exactly what I need to hear in seasons of waiting because when I’m waiting, I’m full of doubt and questions and worry.

I think maybe I heard God wrong.  Maybe this is going to take forever and He’s never going to bring me through this situation.  Maybe the deliverance won’t come after all.  Maybe I’m in the wrong place.  Maybe there was miscommunication.  Maybe I missed God and He was already here and gone and now I’m outside of His will!  Maybe God is done with me and now He’s just left me here in this place.

I’m being ridiculous, I know it.

But it’s in the moments of waiting that I feel most abandoned and most afraid.

AND IT’S IN THE MOMENTS OF WAITING THAT GOD SAYS EXACTLY WHAT I NEED TO HEAR THE MOST:

Don’t believe the lies.  Don’t fret over the future.  Don’t question the calling.  Don’t doubt God’s ability or willingness to care for you.  Don’t think you’re alone.

BE STRONG, AND LET YOUR HEART TAKE COURAGE.

Originally posted February 12, 2016

Maybe the No is really just Not Yet

This week, we are teetering on a seesaw, trying to balance two things:

Squeezing out every last drop of summer fun

and

Getting ourselves prepared for school to restart.

That means letting the kids sleep in and finalizing reading logs one day.

It means final trips to  the water park  and the beach and getting back-to-school hair cuts.

Today, my son hopped up into the chair for his trim and the lady cutting his hair asked, “Are you going to preschool soon?”

He said, “No.   They don’t have preschool here.”

This is not  a good sign since he is in fact going to preschool for the first time ever and it starts in just two weeks.

At first, when  we had conversations with him about preschool, he seemed pretty excited.

We bought him a Lego Batman backpack and, after all, what more could you need when heading to school for the first time?  A favorite superhero on a backpack pretty much guarantees academic success.

But when we talked about school, I’d say, “You get to go to preschool this year! Yay!

He’d nod his head knowingly and say, “Yes.  I am.   I’m going to ride on the bus with Catherine.”

At which point, I would backpedal for some clarification.

His heart has been longing to get on that big yellow bus with his sisters for all his little life.   He’d sit on the front porch and cry and cry after his sisters left for the day.

Not just on the first day of school.

Not just for the month of September.

But months and months into the school year our mornings would still be a little sad.

And now, it’s finally his turn to go to school.  Hurray!

Only, not with the girls on the bus.  No, Catherine will go on the bus to  her school and Andrew will ride in mom’s minivan to his school.

After a few weeks of repeatedly having this exact same back-and-forth conversation, he finally came up with a new answer.

“Are you ready for preschool?”

“No.   They don’t have preschool here.”

He thinks that’s the end of the whole deal.   There’s no preschool, which means he doesn’t have to  go  anywhere different from where his big sisters get to go.

What this really about, of course, is timing.

To him, it feels like he’s waited an eternity for his chance to  ride on that bus and two more years of waiting is just too  long.

For  me, it feels like he should still be sleeping in a crib and drinking  a bottle.

How in the world is my baby going to preschool?

The truth is that his time will  come.  The season of bus rides and elementary classrooms, homework and  reading logs will be here.

It’s just not yet. 

And we all can probably relate to feeling oh so ready for the future promise that will indeed come, but is frustratingly not yet. 

We can strive and work our hardest to make the “not yet” happen right now.

We can do everything right.  Do what the “successful” people do.  We can check every checkbox and fulfill every requirement.

But:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV).

There is a season for rides to  preschool in the minivan and there is a season for bus trips to the elementary school.

It takes so  much pressure off of us when we accept our “now” and stop pushing for the “not yet.”

We don’t stress in prayer or nudge God repeatedly trying to get what we want.   We don’t have to feel inadequate, like we’re  not measuring up or accomplishing enough for our families or for our faith.

 

Even Jesus always walked carefully in God’s will and also in God’s timing.

When pushed to minister ahead of schedule, he’d say,

My time has not yet come (John 7:6) or “My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4)

Jesus knew that the when of God’s will is as important  as the what.

Maybe God has indeed told us “no.”

Or perhaps what He is saying is simply “not yet.”

Knowing the difference can change our heart.  We needn’t mourn or grieve.  We needn’t stress or grow weary fighting.

Instead, we  can rest and relax and allow God to give us the beauty of “now” while trusting Him with what is still  yet to come.

 

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

My perfect future

 

At least eight of them were going to live in big houses.

One of them wasn’t going to have a big house.  His house was going to be BIG.

They would compete in the Olympics, be world famous surgeons and vets and carpenters, play professional sports, write books, run businesses, and make a lot of money.

They would drive Jeeps or a Ford or a convertible.

They would all marry, have several children (whose names they already knew) and live incredibly happily ever after.

These were the futures my daughter and her fellow fifth graders described during their DARE graduation last year.

We parents in the crowd smiled and laughed and probably some of us cried.  What a wonderful, beautiful, sometimes humorous thing it is to hear eleven-year-olds dream.

My daughter jumped right in there, dreaming with the best of them about education, career, marriage, having kids, and making a difference in the lives of others.

Lovely thoughts, all of them.

But when they read her “My Future” paragraph at the graduation ceremony, I finally succumbed to the tears when I heard her concluding words: “My future is in God’s hands.”

Whatever happens…

Even when the plans don’t turn out the way she hoped or expected….

Even when life gets crazy or even just slightly uncertain…..

“MY FUTURE IS IN GOD’S HANDS.”

I take this to heart.  Shouldn’t we all?

My eleven-year-old self never planned or expected all that God has done and all that He has planned for me.  My life has twisted itself up into a thing of beauty that I never could have created on my own.

There were seasons I thought God was messing it all up.

He told me ‘no.’

He changed my direction.

He made me wait ‘forever.’

He carried me through valleys of darkness when I couldn’t see the next step right in front of my face.

Maybe now I already know the answers to the questions these kids were asking:  Where would I go to college? What would I study?  Who would I marry?  How many kids would I have?  Where would I live?  What would I do?

Yet, still there’s that constant compulsion to lay the future all out clean, perfect, organized, and bullet-pointed with measurable goals and a five-year-plan of how to make it all happen.

My own daughter’s wisdom brings me back.

Do I need to know all that?

Or do I need to just know this:  ‘My future is in God’s hands’?

I think of Joseph, the perpetual Old-Testament dreamer.

God gave him so much more than a fifth-grade perfect-life wish-list.  God gave him prophetic visions of his parents and brothers bowing down to him in homage and respect.

Then he was trapped in a pit while his brothers plotted to murder him.  He was sold to slave traders and carried off to Egypt.  He was falsely accused and thrown into prison.  He was forgotten and left to rot in the jail while others were freed.

It might have looked like one great big hopeless mess.  How could Joseph ever make those God-given visions work out?

The truth is he couldn’t.

And he didn’t need to.

HE JUST NEEDED TO KEEP LIVING, DAY AFTER DAY, MOMENT BY MOMENT, OBEDIENT TO GOD, TRUSTING THAT GOD WAS IN CHARGE OF HIS LIFE STORY.

Louie Giglio writes in his book The Comeback:

Maybe your dream is to go to school or get a degree or accomplish a certain task or find a certain spouse or start a business or move to a certain place or create a movement or carry the gospel to people who’ve never heard it before. Those may be great dreams, but there’s a bigger dream that overrides everything else: it’s that your life counts for the glory of God.

THIS IS THE CONSTANT DREAM WE CAN CLING TO AT ALL TIMES AND IN ALL SITUATIONS:  MAY OUR LIVES BRING GLORY TO GOD.

Yes, in the prison.

Yes, in slavery.

Yes, even when all the dreams come true.

Ultimately, Joseph told his brothers:

And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life (Genesis 45:5 ESV).

Joseph knew nothing happened just for his own benefit, personal comfort or ultimate happiness.

Everything he endured was so God could ‘preserve life.’

HIS LIFE WAS TUCKED INTO THE GRANDER STORY, THE GOD-STORY, THE STORY OF SALVATION.

That’s true for us, as well.

We can dream, plan, plot and strategize, but ultimately we return to trust.

WE TRUST THAT OUR LIVES CAN GLORIFY HIM. WE TRUST THAT HE HAS A GRAND, GOD-STORY FOR SALVATION, AND WE HAVE A PLACE WITHIN IT.

WE TRUST THAT OUR FUTURE IS IN HIS HANDS.

 

Originally published 1/15/2016

This, dear one, is for you

I thought the note was for some other mom.

Years ago, my daughter toted a note home from preschool.  Now that they had all learned their phone numbers, they were working on their address.  Could we please practice at home?

I reviewed our address with my four-year-old until she could rattle it off like a pro.

At the end of the month, we received a new note.  They’ll be studying spring,  plants, and working on their spring program and, by the way, some kids still didn’t know their address….could we please practice with them at home?

I asked my daughter to say her address.

She said it.

I nodded my head approvingly.

This note must be for some other mom.

In April, notes came home every few weeks…about spring break and final plans for the year and what they were learning now and preparations for Easter parties and the spring program and oh, one more thing, could the children who still didn’t know their addresses please make sure they learned them?

Tsk, tsk, tsk.  Some parents!  You know?

But then in May, I sat at the tiny table with my body squeezed into a preschooler-sized blue plastic chair and had a conference with my daughter’s teacher.  She hands me the assessment sheet with checkmarks everywhere.  Your child can do all of this….but she can’t say her address.

I’m sorry.  What?

Apparently, that note had been for me all along.  I called my daughter over to the table and she recited her address flawlessly in just over a second and then ran off to play.

I guess all along they’d been asking my daughter if she could say her address and she just told them, ‘no.’

So, the notes home could have had my name written all over them.  They were meant for me!  And I had moseyed along on my oblivious way thinking surely my child had gotten her little box checked off.

Sometimes, we need notes and faith and life to be monogrammed with our initials before we realize it’s for us.

We can look at the Bible, we can see what God did and what He’s doing and we can think He’s wonderfully compassionate, powerful and yet full of mercy, for the world and for everyone else in the world.

But then it gets personal.

The disciples tagged along after Jesus as He healed the crowds. Lepers and the lame, the demon-possessed and those wrecked with pain came to Him for rescue and He performed the miracles.

My Bible marks the book of Matthew with newspaper headlines:  Jesus Heals The Sick.  Jesus Heals Many.  Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand.

Jesus changed lives for lots of people.

But then it got personal for the 12 rag-tag followers.

When Jesus went off to pray, He sent them on ahead to cross the lake on their own.  In the middle of the night, he came out to them, walking on the water.

Peter jumped out of the boat and took steps out onto the sea….and then sank when he saw the wind and felt afraid.

But as soon as Jesus lifted Peter up and they slipped into the boat, the wind ceased.  The storm calmed.  The sea rested.

Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:33).

Then…they worshiped.

Max Lucado writes:

They had never, as a group, done that before.  Never…….You won’t find them worshiping when he heals the leper.  Forgives the adulteress.  Preaches to the masses.  They were willing to follow.  Willing to leave family  Willing to cast out demons.  Willing to be in the army.  But only after the incident on the sea did they worship him.  Why?  Simple.  This time they were the ones who were saved.”  (In the Eye of the Storm)

FAITH HAS TO BE PERSONAL AND INTIMATE.

Sometimes, I confess it, I slip into the humdrum and the mundane and the complacency of religion.

But then God rescues me from the storm.  He comes close and draws near.  He whispers my name.

This is for you.

Not just everyone else.  Not just other moms, other wives, other women.

Not just for the whole world.  Not just for the crowd.

This, dear one, is for you.

And the worship that I’d been offering by rote and by habit transforms into heartfelt praise and all-out abandon.

Because, after all, I am the one who is saved.

Originally published February 25, 2015

Hang on to the Vine (and do not let go!)

It was an epic battle.

I still even bear the scars all the way down both of my arms and it’s been a week since the fighting ceased.

Vines!

Vines, I tell you!

My husband and I have been cleaning out the overgrown hedges beside our home and tangled in these branches beyond our wildest expectation were these pesky, stubborn, unbelievable vines.

Some of them were spindly and fairly easy to yank out.  Others had grown into monstrous, tree-trunk-sized plants that had to be sawed out of there.

We had to untwist each of the branches where they wound around the bushes.  Then we had to yank out the roots wherever they had clamped down into the earth.  They splayed off into every direction and created one gigantic tangled mess.

I started calling them demon vines.  They certainly felt possessed with evil.

But they have given me an entirely different perspective on Jesus’s teachings to abide in Him like branches attached to a vine.

He said:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5 ESV).

Whenever I’ve heard people talk about “abiding in Christ,” it sounded so easy.

Worrying?

Just abide in Him.

Stressed out?

Just rest and abide in Him.

Struggling through a tough season?

Keep abiding and it’ll be fine.

It sounds like a fairly passive spiritual state.  Just hold on to Jesus and you’ll be just fine.

And I try to “abide,” I do.

But life has a way of stepping all  over peace and trampling over our joy.

There are these annoying stresses.  These unexpected pits that trip us up.  There are conflicts that derail our focus on Jesus and His love for us.

What if I re-consider what it takes to “abide?”

It’s not some relaxed, ideal state of non-worry and general passivity.

It’s active and full of effort.

After all, the branches on these vines in my yard are tenacious and unyielding.  They can endure fierce opposition without budging.

In order for me to get rid of these things, I’m having to hack at them with a machete and I’m digging down into the dirt and pulling them out by their roots.

So if I’m going to be like the branches on the Vine, I need to cling to Jesus for dear life, refusing to let go, making every effort to stick as closely to Him as possible.

I’ll put down shoots into the dirt to keep a solid foundation, so I can be fruitful and filled with life.

This is what Jesus said abiding looked like:

“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love (John 15:10 NASB).

The abiding life means obeying what God says, following Him wholeheartedly and recognizing that He is my Strength and my Source.

Oh, how my heart so easily slips into  anxious fretting.

Oh, how easily I get caught up into wanting to defend myself or in efforts to do things my own way, to fix problems in my own strength, to provide, to make the good happen and fend off the bad.

So as soon as I start making plans for my own salvation, I need to stop and hang onto the Vine.

I can’t do this–all of this and any of this–apart from Him.

As soon as I find myself  turning circles of worry, I need to get hold of the Vine!  Meditate on Scripture.  Turn up the praise music.  Anything to keep from getting my focus yanked off Jesus.

This is what keeps me alive.

This is when He gives me abundant life and fruitfulness.

Abide.

The Legend of the Missing Pizza Slice

It was a few summers ago when the legend of the missing pizza slice began.

On one of those summer nights when we arrived home late from an all-day activity, my husband stopped for pizza and brought it home for us.

But when he opened up the pizza box, he gasped in mock-horror and surprise.

“Hey,” he said, “there’s a missing slice!”

My girls jumped right in with theories and finally settled on this:  Someone at the Papa John’s had eaten a slice of our pizza.

We played along.  My husband said maybe they were just testing it to see how it tasted or maybe we should get our pizza elsewhere.

The girls all nodded as we happily ate the remaining pizza slices.

So then, we just kept up the tradition and the joke.  Every time my husband brought pizza home that summer, he ate one slice in the car before he brought it to us for  dinner.

And the girls marveled that every single time there was this missing  piece.

What was wrong with the people making our pizzas?

After a year or so of this, my husband really pushed the limits.  Instead of Papa John’s, we got Pizza Hut…..and he ate a slice before bringing it home to see what our kids would say.

One of my kids announced that maybe the Papa John’s worker had quit and gone over to Pizza Hut and was now sampling our pizzas there, too!!!

It’s my youngest daughter who eyed her dad suspiciously and then started interrogating him to see if maybe, just maybe, he was the culprit.

Really, I think she knows the truth.  She knows that her dad has been secretly eating one slice out of each of our pizzas before bringing them home for at least two years now.

But she doesn’t want to let the joke go.  Or maybe she doesn’t want to accuse her dad of pizza slice-sneaking.  So she pushes right up to the point where she almost announces the truth and then backs off and lets everyone keep the mystery going.

She dismisses what’s true because she’s distracted by the noise around her.

And that can be me. That can be us.

 

I’ve been feeling this longing lately, this deep desire to believe, really and truly believe God and His love for me, to grip hard onto this truth.

But then I get distracted.  I get worn down.  I get forgetful.  I get weary.   Life is noisy, after all.

And then I let go, slipping right down into the waters of unbelief and nigh-on drowning in all the stress I carry around when I don’t trust God to care for me instead of doing everything on my own.

I don’t  want to wrestle with my puny faith or trample down my nagging worries all the time.

When Jesus says, “I Am,” I want to rest in that.

When He says, “I Will,” I want to trust Him.

Instead, even though He’s always been faithful, I foolishly fret that  maybe this one time, maybe in this one situation, maybe in this one seemingly impossible instance, He’ll fail me.

Maybe He provides for others, but not for me.

Maybe He came through in the past, but not this time.

So I’ve been praying the same thing as the father in Mark 9:24

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

The moment that worry creeps in, the moment I hear that first nagging cynicism, the moment I start running through possible scenarios in my mind and I feel the crushing weight of “what if,” I go back to Jesus.

Help me believe.

This week, I once again read in Romans what it says about Abraham:

No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised (Romans 4:20-21 ESV).

No unbelief?  No wavering?  He was fully convinced that God was able.

Not only that he grew strong in his faith.

Waiting wears me down.  I grow doubtful over time.  But Abraham grew stronger instead.

So, what’s the secret?

Maybe it’s that he was giving glory to God (verse 20).  Maybe if I just keep  returning to praise, I’ll become less forgetful, less prone to wander, question, and doubt.

This is where the faith-building happens, with our hands raised in worship, with our mouths singing His praise, giving Him glory for who He is and all that He’s done, tuning our hearts to trust Him with our future and believe He is able to care for us through it all.

You can click here to listen to Audrey Assad sing, “Help My Unbelief.”  This is a song I’ve been singing often lately.

We’re Singing Star Wars in the Supermarket

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One of my son’s favorite shopping activities is singing the Imperial March from Star Wars while stomping down the aisles.

Dum Dum da-dum da-da-Dum Dum da-Dum

For a three-year-old, my son is remarkably good at singing this while swinging an imaginary light saber.   Even the frozen food employee is impressed.  He always stops to chat with us about the latest Star Wars movie.

This is, of course, not my son’s only grocery shopping habit.

There is also pretending to fly like an airplane and also making superhero fighting noises while acting out an epic battle.

We have rules, of course.

Star Wars singing and marching is okay.

So is superhero pretend and airplane flying .

Crawling on the nasty floor like a puppy dog, however, is not acceptable.

Also on the Not Allowed List:  Walking directly in front of the cart and stopping every two inches or so….touching everything we see….putting things in the cart without Mommy knowing….and running too far ahead or lagging too far behind outside of Mommy’s line of vision.

So, I do a lot of guiding in the store, holding his hand sometimes.  Or guiding him with my hand on his back because he’s too engrossed in his superhero game to actually walk forward.

And almost 100% of the time you can hear me narrating our adventure: “Okay, now we need to go to the cereal aisle.  We need to stop here for  a minute and look.  Alright, let’s get going, go all the way to the end of the aisle without stopping.  Let’s go faster.  Let’s slow down.”

These are my Mom-skills, my guidance techniques to keep us both on the same page in terms of purpose, direction, and timing.

We are imperfect.

Some days we ace this and I’m tempted to pat myself on the back as if I’ve got it all together and have finally (after four kids) figured this whole deal out.

But inevitably the next time we shop, we forget something, or we take forever, or I lose my temper, or there is a tantrum.

So, we go with grace.

I’m so thankful for such grace.

I’m thankful for something else, too, because I know what it’s like as a parent to lovingly guide  and direct.  I know what it’s like to be listened to and what it’s like to be ignored.

I know what it’s like to “know best….” and to understand the grand scheme of things:  the meal plan, the budget, the true needs versus the cavernous wants.

Maybe these weekly shopping excursions are a little hint of God’s heart for us.

He knows the big plan:  the layout of the store, the timing, the provision, the needs.

Sometimes He says, “no,” even when we really want to hear “yes.”  Sometimes he hurries us past aisles where we want to linger.  Sometimes he slows us down for the opportunity to consider.

Sometimes He lets us dance in the aisles and sing our hearts out right there in the middle of the bread because He’s so crazy about us and we bring him such joy.

But I can be so wayward.

I can try to rush ahead one day and drag my feet the next.  I can try to sneak things into the cart and perhaps I even throw a tantrum every once in a while.

I’ve been reading in Exodus about Israel’s long and winding trek through the wilderness, and how God guided them every step of the way, providing for their needs with manna and quail even when they longed for the food in Egypt.

What would have happened if the Israelites had pushed on ahead of the cloud that God used to guide them by day?   What if they guessed at God’s potential direction, balked at His delays, and set out on their own?

What if I do the same, trusting in my own wisdom and strength rather than in God’s?

We are all simply lost without Him.

So I’m trying to trust Him and trust His heart, even when there are diversions and delays, even when there are annoyances and “no’s” and restrictions.

In Exodus, God actually gives Israel a glimpse into His heart:

 I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you. 30 Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land.  Exodus 23:29-30.

Conquering the Promised Land wouldn’t be some quick and painless affair, which is probably what they wanted.

But God’s purpose was for their protection.  His timing was for their good.

He promises us this, as well:

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
    I will advise you and watch over you (Psalm 32:8 NLT).

12 Bible Verses about Trusting God’s Timing

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  • Psalm 31:15 ESV
    My times are in your hand;
        rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
  • Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV
    For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
  • Ecclesiastes 3:11 ESV
    He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
  • Ecclesiastes 8:6 ESV
    For there is a time and a way for everything, although man’s trouble[a] lies heavy on him.
  • Isaiah 40:31 ESV
    but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
        they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
    they shall run and not be weary;
        they shall walk and not faint.
  • Lamentations 3:25-26 ESV
    The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
        to the soul who seeks him.
    26 It is good that one should wait quietly
        for the salvation of the Lord.
  • Habakkuk 2:3 ESV
    For still the vision awaits its appointed time;
        it hastens to the end—it will not lie.
    If it seems slow, wait for it;
        it will surely come; it will not delay.
  • Acts 1:7 ESV
    He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.
  • Romans 5:6 ESV
    For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
  • Galatians 4:4 ESV
    But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,
  • Galatians 6:9 ESV
    And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
  • 2 Peter 3:8 ESV
    But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.