The Worst Thing That Can Happen

Our thermometer changes colors when it detects a fever, and it flashed red and beeped its little alarm at us last night.  My daughter hit the couch after school and by dinner the fever had come on strong.

Not too alarming.  Nothing to be afraid about.  Just an unexpected temperature spike at the end of a day when she had felt just fine.

She asks me questions with increasing concern, though.  What if I feel fine in the morning, do I really have to miss school?   Do I have to stay out the whole day?

I assured her that yes, fever tonight means no school tomorrow.  No question about it.

It takes a few questions of my own to root out the cause of her concern.  She’ll miss a quiz that she’ll have to make up  on Monday and that will take away time from something else she really enjoys at school.  Oh, and she’s supposed to get extra recess as a reward for some work  she did over spring break.  Plus her  friends will worry because they have a big project they are all working on together and she doesn’t want to let them down.

It all seems so “big.”  So very vital.  So much to miss out  on.  So much reason to feel pressured and anxious.

But I ask her this:   What’s the worst that  can happen?

It feels like I’ve been asking that a lot lately.  When we chat about scheduling classes for next year and my soon-to-be high schooler feels like she has to make every decision perfectly  or her whole life will be forever stunted, I  ask the question then, too.

What’s the worst that can happen?

It’s not a magic question that solves every problem, but it’s been changing our perspective a bit.  What’s the worst thing that could happen with these high school decisions?

High school goes terribly wrong and it’s all a mess and a nightmare,  so we do something else. We ask God for new direction and we leave that school and make another plan.  We have options and possibilities.  Nobody is stuck here.

So, we calm down.  We breathe a little deeper.  We know the worst thing doesn’t often happen,  but even when it does, God is with us.  He’ll take care of us.  We’ll be okay.

We have hope.

I asked it again last night of a little nine-year-old girl who is stressing out over missing a Friday at school.

What’s the worst thing?  You miss out on some special activities and you have to make up some work on Friday.  That’s disappointing maybe, but it’s something we can handle.

I don’t want to trivialize this in any way.  Mostly, we’re fighting back the enemy of anxiety, of worry, of fretting over every day situations.

Like when I’m waiting on one child to be dismissed from an activity and they are running late. Ten minutes late.  I’m starting to freak out a little bit and I’m catching my breath more than a little bit.

Then I think about what’s true. The worst thing here is that we’re 10 minutes late to the next activity on the night’s agenda.  And a few minutes late to the next thing after that.  And dinner is a bit rushed.

That’s not worth hyperventilating over in a pick-up line.

Even so, I know sometimes the worst thing actually does happen in life, and it’s every bit as hard and heartbreaking as we ever imagined.  I’ve walked through those seasons, too.   I’ve prayed “Anything but this one thing, Lord.  Please don’t let this one thing happen.”

Sometimes God answers prayers with a gentle “no,” and I have heard that “no.”

But I have also felt the sweetness of the Lord in the hardest seasons, His gentleness, His grace, His kindness, and His loving, faithful presence.  “Behold I am with you always,” Jesus promised (Matthew 28:20).

In Morning and Evening, Spurgeon wrote:

Faith’s way is to drop every care on the Lord and then to anticipate good results from the worst calamities.  Like  Gideon’s men, faith does not worry over a broken pitcher—it rejoices that the lamp shines unimpeded.”

Am I the kind of girl who frets over a broken pitcher or who rejoices over the clarity of light?

Maybe right now I’m mostly a girl who reacts to the broken pitcher.  I’m upset about the brokenness, maybe upset about the inconvenience, or the change in the plans.

Maybe I even worry so much about whether the pitcher will break that I’m afraid to be bold, to take risks, to walk in faith.

I ‘m learning, though, to see His Light and to let His Light shine even through broken places:

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5 ESV)

 

 

 

Bible Verses for the Times We are Overwhelmed

  • Exodus 33:14 NASB
    And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”
  • Psalm 18:1-2 NASB
    “I love You, O Lord, my strength.”
    The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
    My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
    My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
  • Psalm 28:7 NASB
    The Lord is my strength and my shield;
    My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped;
    Therefore my heart exults,
    And with my song I shall thank Him.
  • Psalm 61:1-4 NASB
    Hear my cry, O God;
    Give heed to my prayer.
    From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint;
    Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
    For You have been a refuge for me,
    A tower of strength against the enemy.
    Let me [well in Your tent forever;
    Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings. 
  • Psalm  91:1-2 NASB
    He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
    I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
    My God, in whom I trust!”
  • Psalm 118: 5-7 CSB
    I called to the Lord in distress;
    the Lord answered me
    and put me in a spacious place.
    The Lord is for me; I will not be afraid.
    What can a mere mortal do to me?
    The Lord is my helper,
    Therefore, I will look in triumph on those who hate me.
  • Psalm 121:1-2 NASB
    I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
    From where shall my help come?
    My help comes from the Lord,
    Who made heaven and earth.
  • Proverbs 18:10 NASB
    The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
    The righteous runs into it and is [a]safe.
  • Isaiah 26:3-4 NASB
    “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace,
    Because he trusts in You.
    “Trust in the Lord forever,
    For in God the Lordwe have an everlasting Rock.
  • Isaiah 40:31 NASB
    Yet those who wait for the Lord
    Will gain new strength;
    They will mount up with wings like eagles,
    They will run and not get tired,
    They will walk and not become weary.
  • Isaiah 41:10 NASB
    ‘Do not fear, for I am with you;
    Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
    I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
    Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
  • Isaiah 43:1-2 NASB
    But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob,
    And He who formed you, O Israel,
    “Do not fear, 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 will not overflow you.
    When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
    Nor will the flame burn you.
  • Nahum 1:7 NASB
    The Lord is good,
    A stronghold in the day of trouble,
    And He knows those who take refuge in Him.
  • Zechariah 4:6 NASB
     Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.
  • Matthew 11:28 NASB
    “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NASB
    we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
  • 2 Timothy 1:7 CSB
    For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power,love, and sound judgment.
  • James 5:11 CSB
    See, we count as blessed those who have endured. You have heard of Job’s endurance and have seen the outcome that the Lord brought about—the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

Giving up or Hanging on to Hope

Giving up can be a curious thing.  I mostly gave up, but not completely, not all the way.

I was talking myself out of hoping and was preaching to my own heart about being realistic and practical.

But at the same time, I couldn’t stop the impulse to search and check and try just one more time.

Our cat escaped from our house on October 31st.  It’s a mystery how he accomplished this feat.  He had once been a master of slipping out the backdoor, but he was younger then.  Now he is over 16 years old and he’s lost all his speed.

My kids and I talked it all through.  Did anyone leave the door open?  Who was the last person to  see him for sure and certain?  Did anyone glimpse him nosing around the door?

We couldn’t figure it out.  No one saw him near the door.  No one remembered the door being left open.  And, we reminded ourselves, he is old and slow.

So, I searched inside and outside for our cat.

I fretted and worried, waking in the night to flick on porch lights and see if he’s returned.  But my inside searches also continued in case he decided at some point  to hide away for a nap and didn’t wake up.   I checked the same closets three and four times and then walked out into the woods behind our house searching for a flash of orange fur.

I worried about not finding him and also worried about my kids finding him if he wasn’t alive.  I worried about what in the world he thought he was doing outside all by himself in the woods somewhere when it’s raining and it’s November and he has almost no teeth left and has a thyroid condition and, by the way, he’s an old cat so what are the chances he’s surviving this?

My kids cried before they went to school in the morning because he didn’t come home in the night.  Then they cried when they get off the bus because he didn’t make it home during the day either.

It was a 48-hour worry fest, the kind that lingers in your stomach so even when you’re not thinking about it, you’re feeling the sickness of it.

Then the phone rang while I was making dinner Friday night.  She was driving down the main road outside of our neighborhood and saw a cat sitting by the side of the road.

She called me,  turned her car around for a better look, and said, “Heather, this is your cat.”

I grabbed my keys.  Pulled dinner off the stove.  Told my kids I was heading out to find our cat and left.

Sure enough, there he was–our Oliver,  hanging out by the side of the road.  After a chase through brambles and woods and around a small creek (he apparently didn’t want to be caught), I held my cat, my old man cat with missing teeth and a thyroid condition—the one I thought couldn’t survive and I had almost given up on.

He’s a survivor, though, this fellow.  He’s a fighting, hanging-on kind of cat.

Maybe, too often, I’m not a fighting, hanging-on kind of woman of faith.

I can so easily get talked out of hoping, too easily convinced that what’s unlikely is actually impossible.

I’m more likely to make exit strategies than to throw down an anchor of hope in the middle of any shaky situation.

But as I ugly cry in my car that night after seeing my cat safely at home again, I feel the clear reminder:

God decides what is impossible or possible.

I read that phrase in my Bible Study Fellowship lesson earlier this year and it’s stuck with me.

Who am I to survey a situation and decide that giving up is the best plan?  That it’s a hopeless mess and too far gone for God to redeem, restore, revive, refresh,  renew or resurrect?

I read this in Isaiah and I linger over the vivid picture of how He brings life in the most unlikely places:

The wilderness and the dry land will be glad;
the desert will rejoice and blossom like a wildflower.
 It will blossom abundantly
and will also rejoice with joy and singing. (Isaiah 35:1-2 CSB). 

A dessert full of wildflowers, blooming with grand and unexpected abundance–that is God’s intention, that’s part of His promise for ultimate redemption.

And He can do this.  He will do this.

In the meantime, for those of us who fear and tremble with all the uncertainty of life in the here-and-now, Isaiah also says this:

Strengthen the weak hands,
steady the shaking knees!
Say to the cowardly:
Be strong; do not fear! (Isaiah 35:3-4 CSB). 

Take heart because God can do impossible things.

Praying it Out on a Hard Day

Worry hits me like a sharp, shallow breathing,  right in the middle  of the Wal-Mart.

There I am, just picking the cereal for the week and mentally running through what we already have at home in the pantry, when I realize my breaths are kind of shallow, kind of pained deep in my stomach.

Maybe it’s not even worry; it’s more just thought after thought piling on over time.

Thinking about the to-do-list items, an upcoming  event, soccer and dance, rehearsals, families around me in need, relationships and friendships and peace, work craziness, and ministry decisions.

I  feel “off.”  Unsettled.  Worn down.  Tangled up.

As I push my cart around the store, I take some deep breaths and pray some quick prayers.

Dear Jesus, for my children….

Dear Jesus, for my own brokenness and sin….

Dear Jesus, for those around me….

Send peace . Be our peace, Lord.

I also chide myself.  How foolish, like a tiny child, stressing over things not worth stressing over, thinking and mulling over decisions that will  just come and work out and happen.

It all piles on in one day, though, my own problems to  sort through and a host of others for people I care about:

A family in need, a friend who is grieving, another awaiting medical test results,.

This is a hard day.  A hard day that is making me tenderhearted.

All that sorrow tumbles me into  a sweet place of just crying with Jesus.  I think maybe He weeps, too, just as He did when He stood outside of Lazarus’s tomb and saw how hard it is for all of us, how scared we are, how we mourn.

For a little while, I feel guilty for letting the smallest things in my own life land on my wimpy shoulders  like heavy burdens.

I think, “Count your blessings!  Buck up!  Get over it already!”

And, maybe that’s a little right. Maybe my perspective is off and I needed a little spirit-check, that what has me personally weighed down is foolishness compared to the deep concerns of others.

But I read this also, right in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus says:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? ( Matthew 6:25 ESV)

We’re no different than the crowd of people surrounding him on a mountainside that day.

We feel anxious over the daily things that pound at us.  The food we eat.  The clothes we wear.  The bodies we walk around in. The tiniest mundane details of our everyday life.

Jesus didn’t say, “Don’t be anxious about your cancer diagnosis or don’t be anxious about a divorce or a foreclosure.”

He said don’t worry about any of it.  Don’t worry about lunch and dinner and your outfit for the day and your body type.

And he was so gracious about it.   He didn’t tell  the crowd to get over petty concerns because He was actually going to–you know–be persecuted and die for them because they were, after  all, heading for  eternal  damnation.

Hannah Anderson writes:

“Jesus understood …that small things can unsettle us more than large things; so when He called  the people of Galilee to leave their anxiety–when He calls us to  do the same–He does so in context of very mundane, very ordinary concerns…  At the same time, He doesn’t shame us for worrying about them.  He doesn’t tell us just how to be grateful, to remember how much better we have it than other people…..Instead, He asks if our worry is actually accomplishing anything” (Humble Roots).

It’s not, of course.  Worry isn’t accomplishing  anything for anybody.

But it is a prompting to prayer.  It’s the catalyst that stops me from just standing nearby as a helpless bystander and instead rolling up my sleeves to get in the fight.

I can’t fix this.  Not any of it.  But I can pray.

I can pray it out.  Pray it like that’s our only hope because that’s exactly who Jesus is:  He’s our Hope and our Strength and our Peace and He is who we need when we’re worrying over our children and He is who we need when our friends are facing down death and despair.

So  as I stand there in the middle of the Wal-Mart and then in my minivan and then in my home, I begin to pray it out to Jesus.

Originally published 10/2017

How could I forget?

I am a postcard hunter.

My kids tease me about this and when I head into the gift shop at the art museum, they whine about my postcard search.  I show them what I’ve collected–one postcard for each of us, specially matched to our own interests.  Like the  Egyptian mummy cat for  my daughter who loves cats and the African giraffe sculpture for my son (giraffes are his favorite).

On our trip to Wisconsin, I search for four days for postcards only to finally track down a nearly hidden rack of them in the Minneapolis airport.

I’m pleased.  My kids are indifferent at best.  Postcards.  They don’t get the point or the value.

But for one  thing, I’m the one with the money and few souvenirs are as inexpensive as a postcard.

Plus, I have  a long history  of postcard memories.  I have some from my sixth  grade class trip to  Amish country in Pennsylvania and from the time I flew to visit my grandparents in Texas when I was  12.

I can flip through the postcards and remember  trips to  amusement parks and caverns and historical  sites and  museums. Those  help  me remember where I’ve been.

And I have  the collection of postcards others sent  to me.  Those  help me remember the people I’ve loved.

I have postcards  from  my dad, sent as he traveled with the military bands when I was a girl, and postcards from my grandmother on her trip to St. Petersburg, and even postcards from my great-grandmother  on her  travels in the 1950s.   They all  passed away so long ago,  and yet here in my collection I have their handwritten notes and a connection to their travels.

Maybe my kids don’t  really get postcards because they think  they’ll  remember.

But I know how often we forget.

How forgetful I can be.  Life pushes me faster and faster, rushing through this day and the next, and even those moments you most expect to remember blur into the fog of it all.

Memory isn’t passive, not the way we expect it to be.  No, remembrance is an active discipline, a choosing not to forget despite our humanness, our busyness, our moving on.

We think we’ll remember the miracles, the accounts of how God delivered us, the times He carried us right out of the pit, the stand-still encounters with God when it seemed like He cut through all the noise of this world and the cacophony of our own emotions and He spoke to us, God to person, one clear voice cutting through it all with a message we’ll never forget.

Yet, we forget it after all.

Psalm 78 shows how fickle remembrance can be.  Israel strayed from God.   He disciplined them.  Then:

They remembered that God was their rock,
the Most High God, their Redeemer  (verse 35 CBS).  

So,  they repented and returned.  He extended  grace and they followed closely for  a while,  until:

They did not remember his power shown
on the day he redeemed them from the foe (verse 42). 

They remembered and then they didn’t.

Asaph the Psalmist relays all the details of God’s miraculous provision,  the plagues in Egypt manna and water,  wilderness direction, victories  in the Promised  Land.

Still, they forgot all  that God had done. .

Could this be me?

Could forgetfulness  in my own heart lead not just  to apathy,  but to  waywardness?   And not just that, but to worry?  If  I forget what God has  done, I also forget all  that God  can do.

And He is faithful. He is so  faithful.  He is generous and gracious.  He is compassionate.  It’s not just that He provided, but HOW He provided that  I want to treasure and honor.

It’s been a year almost since we moved into our new home and people still  ask me, “How do you like your new house?”

I  tell  them the same thing all the time.  How I  drive into our neighborhood and round this one curve in the drive back to our home.  As I  do, I  see our house come into view and I breathe a  prayer of thanks.

It has been a year.  I am still thankful.  I keep breathing out that prayer of thanks because I do not want to forget.

And when I need new help  and new provision, , when there is trouble, when I am struggling, I remember the goodness of the Lord and how I celebrate every time I drive into this neighborhood.

We think we’ll  remember,  but how often we forget.

So we choose to remember.  We choose to  collect these postcards  of faith.  We choose to  commit over and over again to  gratitude and praise.  We choose to  give testimony to ourselves and to others:  Come hear what God has done.   Come know who our God is.

The desperate longing for something that doesn’t change

“I would like to stay to a kid forever.”

That’s my son talking.  He’s happy to be four.  Who wouldn’t  be?

Most of my kids have wanted to rush right on through childhood and into adult life.  They try to plan out their whole lives while they’re still in middle school.

I’ve had to reassure my 11-year–old repeatedly this year that she doesn’t have to  choose a career in sixth grade.

But my son gets it.  He gets all the beauty of being four years old.

Specifically, this week,  he’s been thinking about his “little, soft blue blanket” and how he’d rather not give it up.

It doesn’t cover his whole body any more.   He snuggles into his blanket as best he can, but his feet inevitably stick out, so he needs  a supplemental blanket to provide full coverage.

But this blue blanket is loved.  I  dare to suggest he might be too big for it soon, and his answer is quick and clear:  “I would like to stay to a kid forever.”

He’s my resident Peter Pan, not wanting to grow up, and the comfort of the blue blanket makes never-ending childhood oh so worth it to him for now.

I appreciate his happiness with the “now,” the willingness  to  just enjoy all that life offers in the present tense.  He’s not worrying about the future or even trying to escape to the past.  He’s four and he’s pleased to be four.  That’s a beautiful thing.

But I also see in his little heart this desire for permanency, to cling maybe a little too strongly to  what is good but what won’t last.

The truth is he’s going to keep growing out of this blanket.  That day will surely come.

I understand his struggle, though, because I’ve been longing myself for something permanent, some reassurance that I won’t wake up to a new day and find life all shaky and unsure or find my feet sticking out of my favorite blanket.

I have this longing for peace,  peace in all  the places.  Peace in work and ministry and home and friendship.  No relational conflict.  No disappointment in people.  No workplace surprises.  No undercurrent of trouble unexpectedly rising to the surface.

But “in this world you will have trouble,” that’s what Jesus told us, and just when peace settles into one place, it seems it shatters in another.

That’s bad news for a girl like me who longs for the comfort of a perfect plan and knowing all the details in advance.

But here’s the good news.

All that shakiness in the world around me and all those times I’m tumbled headlong into another season of change or uncertainty makes me desperately long for solid ground, for a permanent, unshakeable place to stand.

This longing drives me right to Jesus.

Scripture tells us that we can have that safe place.  We can have an unmoving,  never-changing, solid, trustworthy foundation that we can count on no matter what earthquake rattles the ground beneath us.

Even if we get the phone call, the email, or the bad news, we can always return to this safe place, this refuge.

We can be confident in God’s character.

Hebrews tells us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (13:8 CSB) and James reminds us that our heavenly Father “does not change like shifting shadows” (1:17 CSB).  The Psalmist prayed, “But you are the same, and your years will never end” (Psalm 102:27 CSB) and reminded us that God’s “faithful love will endure forever” (Psalm 138:8).

God has been strong in the past and He will be strong.  He has been able and He will be able.  He has been mighty  and He remains mighty.

No circumstance and no conflict changes His goodness or His compassion, His sovereignty or His power.  His love endures.  Right in the middle of whatever has tossed us into uncertainty or fear or fretting, God’s love remains steadfast and sure, and we can hide ourselves away in the shadow of that unfailing love.

 

We can be confident in God’s Word.

Jesus promised that “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35 CSB) and the Psalmist declared, “Lord, your word is forever; it is firmly fixed in heaven” (Psalm 119:89 CSB). 

Peter said,

All flesh is like grass,
and all its glory like a flower of the grass.
The grass withers, and the flower falls,
25 but the word of the Lord endures forever  (1 Peter 1:24-25 CSB). 

Forever. 

Forever is what I need on the days my feet stick out of the blanket and I realize change is in the air.  Forever is what I need when I long for peace, but it seems elusive.

I can hide myself away in God and His Word without fear.

Please join me over at (in)courage today!

WILL YOU JOIN ME?

Today I’m posting in an amazing community for women called ‘(in)courage’  to remind us of this:

Here at the start of a new year, may our prayers be simple and true: “Your will this year, not mine, Lord. Your will, not mine.”

Then, we open our hands to God, allowing Him to exchange His best plans for our faulty ones. We hold lightly to our own hopes, goals, plans, resolutions, and dreams for the year, and we hold tightly to the God who loves us so much He chose the cross.

I’m thrilled and honored to be sharing this message with the (in)courage community and I hope you’ll take a few minutes to click this link and join me over there today.  It would be a true joy to ‘see some familiar faces!’

You can click here to read the whole post over on the (in)courage page.  I’d be truly blessed if you’d leave me a comment on their site!  I’ll be popping in throughout the day to reply.

If you love the (in)courage site as much as I do, you can also sign up here to receive free daily encouragement from the writers of (in)courage, right in your inbox!

While I’d love for you to visit me over at (in)courage today, I ask for your prayers above all. May God be glorified and His people be encouraged by this message of hope in His faithfulness!

Thanks so much for the prayers and the help in sharing this message with others!

Bible Verses on Peace

  • Numbers 6:24-26 (NASB)
    The Lord bless you, and keep you;The Lord make His face shine on you,
    And be gracious to you;
    The Lord lift up His countenance on you,
    And give you peace.
  • Psalm 29:11 (NASB)
    The Lord will give strength to His people;
    The Lord will bless His people with peace.
  • Psalm 119:165 (NASB)
    Those who love Your law have great peace,
    And nothing causes them to stumble.
  • Isaiah 9:6 (NASB)
    For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
    And the government will rest on His shoulders;
    And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
  • Isaiah 26:3
    You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.
  • John 14:27 (HCSB)
    Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful” (HCSB)
  • John 16:33 (NASB)
     These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
  • Romans 5:1 (NASB)
    Therefore, having been justified by faith, [awe have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
  • Romans 8:6
    The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.
  • Romans 14:17-19 (NASB)
     for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.
  • Romans 15:13 (NASB)
    Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Galatians 5:22-23 (NASB)
    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law
  • Philippians 4:6-7
    Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
  • Colossians 3:15 (NASB)
     Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:16 (NASB)
    Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!

Praying it out on a hard day

Worry hits me like a sharp, shallow breathing,  right in the middle  of the Wal-Mart.

There I am, just picking the cereal for the week and mentally running through what we already have at home  in the pantry, when I realize my breaths are kind of shallow, kind of pained deep in my stomach.

Maybe it’s not even worry; it’s more just thought after thought piling on over time.

Thinking about the to-do-list items, an upcoming birthday, field hockey and dance, rehearsals, families around me in need, work craziness, and ministry decisions.  I’m thinking about playground woes with mean girls for one daughter and tween emotions for two others and preschool for my son.

I  feel “off.”  Unsettled.  Worn down.  Tangled up.

As I push my cart around the store, I take some deep breaths and pray some  quick prayers.

Dear Jesus, for my children….

Dear Jesus, for my own brokenness and sin….

Dear Jesus, for  those around me….

Send peace . Be our peace, Lord.

I also chide myself.  How foolish, like a tiny child, stressing over things not worth stressing over, thinking and mulling over decisions that will  just come and work out and happen.

It all piles on in one day, though, my own problems to  sort through and a host of others for people I care about:

A child with heart disease, a family missing loved ones in the aftermath of a hurricane in Puerto Rico, a dad’s death and a hard hospital visit.

This is a hard day.  A hard day that is making me tenderhearted.

All that sorrow tumbles me into  a sweet place of just crying with Jesus.  I think maybe He weeps, too, just as He did when He stood outside of Lazarus’s tomb and saw how hard it is for all of us, how scared we are, how we mourn.

For a little while, I feel guilty for letting the smallest things in my own life land on my wimpy shoulders  like heavy burdens.

I think, “Count your blessings!  Buck up!  Get over it already!”

And, maybe that’s a little right. Maybe my perspective is off and I needed a little spirit-check, that what has me personally weighed down is foolishness compared to the deep concerns of others.

But I read this also, right in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus says:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? ( Matthew 6:25 ESV)

We’re no different than the crowd of people surrounding him on a mountainside that day.

We feel anxious over the daily things that pound at us.  The food we eat.  The clothes we wear.  The bodies we walk around in. The tiniest mundane details of our everyday life.

Jesus didn’t say, “Don’t be anxious about your cancer diagnosis or don’t be anxious about a divorce or a foreclosure.”

He said don’t worry  about any of it.  Don’t worry about lunch and dinner and your outfit for the day and your body type.

And he was so gracious about it.   He didn’t tell  the crowd to get over petty concerns because He was actually going to–you know–be persecuted and die for them because they were, after  all, heading for  eternal  damnation.

Hannah Anderson writes:

“Jesus understood …that small things can unsettle us more than large things; so when He called  the people of Galilee to leave their anxiety–when He calls us to  do the same–He does so in context of very mundane, very ordinary concerns…  At the same time, He doesn’t shame us for worrying about them.  He doesn’t tell us just how to be grateful, to remember how much better we have it than other people…..Instead, He asks if our worry is actually accomplishing anything” (Humble Roots).

It’s not, of course.  Worry isn’t accomplishing  anything for anybody.

But it is a prompting to prayer.  It’s the catalyst that stops me from just standing nearby as a helpless bystander and instead rolling up my sleeves to get in the fight.

I can’t fix this.  Not any of it.  But I can pray.

I can pray it out.  Pray it like that’s our only hope because that’s exactly who Jesus is:  He’s our Hope and our Strength and our Peace and He is who we need when we’re worrying over our children and He is who we need when our friends are facing down death and despair.

So  as I stand there in the middle of the Wal-Mart and then in my minivan and then in my home, I begin to pray it out to Jesus.

 

 

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.