Waiting is Hard

Waiting is Hard

“JUICE!” cried my tiny boss, when asked if she would like her purple butterfly cup refilled. Her little feet stamped and stomped, rambunctious with anticipation.

“BOD#%ZTX!”*

*(Translation: ‘bottle’.)

The volume of her demands was rising, as if controlled by an internal radio knob. She was almost in full meltdown when at last- the bottle of juice was in plain sight. Her whining turned to giggles when she realized that I had not made her any false promises and the object of her desire was just moments away. Suddenly the waiting for her became bearable, and she became content knowing that she would receive what she’d asked for.

(Photo credit: Brooke Lark)

– • – • – • – • –

Man, I can be a toddler. Waiting is hard, right? Whatever my proverbial juice bottle, I tend to want it when I want it, especially when it’s something big. I bow my head to pray about it, and then open my eyes half expecting it to already be before me. Even when I pray for God’s perfect timing, I still hold out hope that His timing might fit my schedule.

Our wish lists aren’t always fulfilled on the “Christmas Day” that we have imprinted on our minds when we ask for them. Sometimes the wait even dampens our faith or enthusiasm for our prayer life. It’s so much easier to hold onto that prayer of perfect timing when we see the juice being poured into our bottle right before our eyes because patience is just easier when a reward is promised and visible.

(Photo credit: Annie Spratt)

The comfort in waiting is that regardless of your request, God does promise a reward:

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭NLT

  1. Give your worries to God
  2. Pray- tell God what you need
  3. Express your gratitude

God’s peace- His perfect peace- is our promised reward when we do these simple things.

I myself am in a season of waiting. I stumbled into a closed door recently, mostly because I had a mask of expectation obstructing my vision. It made me realize that sometimes the blessings sneak in through the window, or the back door, or heck- parachute down from the sky. We don’t always see where God’s answer is going to come from or what it’s going to be. We can’t always expect to see someone filling our order and handing it to us. When we wait, sometimes the answer is an easy ‘yes’, sometimes the answer is ‘not yet’, and sometimes the answer is something even better, though we may not fully understand the entirety of that in this lifetime.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭55:8-9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

God is planning something big for your life. His plans are above yours or mine and so we have to keep an open mind for what our answer may look like.

(Photo credit: Annie Snow)

If you are in a season of waiting, I’m praying that this time develops your vision for blessings, and that you may see God’s goodness and answers all around you. I hope that your wait is made as short or long as is necessary for God to develop patience and perspective in you.

Guard Your Chocolate

Guard Your Chocolate

In my house, I have a secret, hidden stash. The chocolate kind. I cannot even speak its coordinates to you all because there are blog readers in this house who may or may not be trusted. 🤷🏻‍♀️

Photo credit: Jennifer Pallian

Let’s just say I have my reasons for keeping my stash undercover. You know- there are a million things I have and share in a day: my time, my resources, the food off my plate. And even though I would probably share my chocolate too if my kids gave me the puppy dog eyes, it’s better if I don’t. Those little pieces of Heaven create a moment in my day. It means more to me than it does to my kids and it’s something that keeps me going on long days (not to mention I’m avoiding sugared up kiddos.) I keep the location protected so my supply doesn’t dwindle, or get stolen away. Yes, it’s a small thing, but it makes a big difference for me, and so I do what I can to guard it.

But my chocolate stash isn’t the only thing in my life that is small and needs protecting. There is something else worth defending- (and it’s oddly synonymous with chocolate, if you ask me)- my heart.

We give so much from our hearts, and it’s easy at some point to find ourselves in a position where we’re giving too much, or giving to the wrong people or situations.

Proverbs cautions against wrongly depleting this precious resource:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭4:23‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I have been guilty of an unguarded heart. I have at times felt that if God is leading me somewhere I need to sacrifice all of my energy and resources into that one place. Sometimes that is what’s asked of us, but sometimes we’re not being asked to tend and harvest the whole field- only to plant a seed. While it’s imperative that we act when God calls us to, the way we approach the situation is also very important and needs to be accomplished with wisdom and tact.

As it’s said, “everything you do” flows from your heart. What would that look like if you’ve poured out the last drop of that resource because you’d been trying to replenish what God never asked you to repair? An unbeliever who isn’t ready to hear the truth, a casual listener who refutes your every point, or a relationship not based on good moral ground could all be examples of heart-draining situations if God has not personally called you to those people for a purpose. Of course we will be led to encourage those who are distant from Him, but ‘who’, ‘when’, and ‘where’ are all details best left to the Lord. When we try to make up the details on our own without first seeking His will and guidance, we’re always left feeling drained.

I’ll put it like this: Have you ever left the lid open on the diaper wipes container? It doesn’t seem like a big deal. There’s a whole container of them so what does it matter if you get distracted and leave that top wipe free to dry out? If you leave them for a few minutes, no big deal. You pitch the top wipe. But if you keep leaving them unattended in that compromising situation, then before you know it the whole pack has gone bad.

Not guarding your heart dries you out.Little by little, when we devote our time and attention to the wrong things- or even when we are investing too much in the “right” things when we haven’t been led to do so- we end up feeling empty.

I can’t say I’m always an expert on the art of balance, but I can certainly admit I’ve left my heart unguarded and been drained a time or ten. In my experience, these are some things I’ve found to be helpful in that self-protection I believe Proverbs talks about:

Helpful Hints To Guarding Your Heart

1. Protect your time with the Lord. The task lists, the dirty dishes, the stack of paperwork- it will all still be there when you’re done. Don’t let those things steal you away from this time.

2. Make time for the Lord. Let’s backtrack a little. If you’re going to protect something, it has to be in existence first. One on one time with God in prayer is imperative to a God-filled, God-led life. Set apart time to be still and seek Him, and use this time to ask God for wisdom on all matters- big and small.

3. Take a step back and ask yourself- “Is this leading me closer to or farther away from relationship with God?” And act accordingly.

4. Don’t try to do it all on your own. Listen to Philippians 4:6-7 (emphasis added):

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

While we can expect hard work ahead in our mission to be a light to others, I hope it encourages you to know that we are all equipped with God’s peace to guard our hearts along the way. I hope if you are feeling depleted today that your spirit will be renewed through Him and you will stay steadfast on the path He’s set before you.

Happy Monday, friends!

Electrical Outlets, Toilet Bowls, & Knocking On Doors

Electrical Outlets, Toilet Bowls, & Knocking On Doors

“No, no!” I shouted as I looked up just in time to see my toddler inch toward the open outlet, fan’s cord in her hand. (How smart she is, I thought, to understand where that goes.) I took the cord from her and wrapped it up, then went back to my laundry.

“No!” I shouted again as I looked up to see that she’d moved on to other interests- in this case, unfortunately, the toilet bowl. I picked her up and took her immediately to the sink to scrub her hands. Then back to play for her while my heaping pile of laundry waited patiently to be hung and folded.

After a few short seconds of sweet silence, I looked up again, this time to see my 15 month old daughter running around with a bra on her head, her daddy’s shirt being dragged behind her, and an array of dish towels and socks scattered around on the floor. “Oh,” I sighed. This parenting thing takes patience.

(Photo credit: Chloe Skinner)

There’s a passage in Mathew that reminds me of my persistent child. It goes like this:

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:7-8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Have you ever prayed for something you really wanted, and didn’t get it? That thought is among the first in my mind when I read this passage. I didn’t let my daughter stick her fingers in the outlet even after she kept going back to it, and there have been some things I didn’t get to have even after asking God countless times. So what gives?

First of all- there is truth in these words. If what we are seeking brings God’s peace, wisdom, and knowledge into our lives and inches us closer to the Kingdom of Heaven- I’m confident God does provide those things after our persistent prayer and ongoing reliance on Him.

But what about when we don’t get what we ask God for? I think it’s no coincidence at all that the very next lines in Mathew are these:

“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:9-11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

When my daughter wants to play in the toilet I’m not going to let her because I know there are germs in there that cause sickness (and are the stuff of my anxiety-fueled nightmares.) When she wants to use her tiny, sticky fingers as a science experiment and see what happens when they get crammed into an electrical outlet, I stop her. When she wants to dine on dog food, I (usually) redirect her. And when I ask for things that God- in His infinite knowledge- knows are not good for me or derail me from my path in life, He pulls me away from them and sits me in front of something better.

We wouldn’t give our child a snake if they ask us for fish to eat (as the passage from Mathew says,) we would give them fish to eat! But sometimes- often unknowingly- we actually pray for snakes, don’t we? So when we feel our prayer isn’t being answered the way we thought it should, sometimes we have to consider that God may be preparing the fish instead of letting us get wrapped up in the snakes. If even I know enough to withhold things from my children that don’t serve them well, then I can certainly trust that God does the same for me.

I remember a kindergarten lesson from my favorite teacher where she once told us that God answers every single prayer, some just not in the way you’d think. If we pray for a bicycle but He knows we’d be in an accident and get hurt, then His answer may simply be ‘no’ because His perspective is so much greater than ours. We may end up with a different blessing instead. God is patient with us when we make mistakes, and He’s also patient with us when we’re running after the wrong things. No matter the circumstances, we can trust that if we’re praying about it, He’s working on it. We just need to be patient with Him in return while He prepares the blessings we can’t yet see coming.

(Photo credit: Brian Harris)

Caution: Contents May Be HOT

Caution: Contents May Be HOT

(Photo credit: Alisa Anton)

I know the Bible talks about milk and honey being pretty great, but have you ever finished a hot coffee before your kids woke up for the day?

(Yeah- me neither! But a girl can dream!)

Coffee is one of the first things on my mind in the morning, and I like it a certain way: spoon full of sugar, enough creamer to make it just the right color, and piping hot. More often than not however, the day pulls me in different directions before making it too far into my favorite mug, and it ends up reaching room temperature before I can satisfy my caffeine craving. I end up popping it in the microwave once or twice (or five times) before I finally finish my cup and go about my day. But I always heat it up. There is just something about sipping lukewarm coffee that furrows my brow and turns me away.

My morning ritual seems to have something in common with scripture:

“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!”

‭‭Revelation‬ ‭3:15-16‬ ‭NLT

Lukewarm just isn’t enough. It isn’t enough for me in the mornings, and it isn’t enough for God.

Have you ever felt lukewarm?

A need arises within your small group from church, and you fill it. But you catch your older child disobeying and you snap at him. You volunteer in the children’s ministries on Sunday morning. But you indulge in trashy TV on Monday night.

It’s easy to do- to see our good deeds and believe it’s enough, or that it justifies the decisions we make that don’t quite line up with scripture. God created us and knows our humanness. He doesn’t expect perfection, but I do believe He intends for our motives to matter as we strive to live a God-filled life.

See, being a lukewarm Christian doesn’t just turn away opportunities for us to grow closer to God. Being lukewarm can turn others away from us, or worse yet, away from the Lord. Keeping alive that fire in your heart for Christ matters! Your temperature affects everything you touch.

There’s no room in our lives to hear and believe everything God says but then live how we lived before we knew His truth. If God’s way is hot and our old ways are cold, then guess what that would make us? Lukewarm.

Sometimes intentional sin can cause us to become that way- like dropping ice cubes in your hot coffee. But sometimes it’s not always willful acts that put the chill on our souls. Sometimes it’s just leaving our mug on the counter and getting distracted.

Whether you’re putting ice cubes in your “spiritual” coffee, getting distracted from that coffee, or just plain getting your real life coffee dumped on you by your wild little toddler, I have no doubt that God is working in you. As you gauge whether your motives and your soul are cold, or hot, or somewhere in between, know what God desires of you: He wants to be your priority, and for your soul to be on fire for Him and Him alone!

“Never let the fire in your heart go out. Keep it alive. Serve the Lord.” -Romans 12:11-13 NIRV

I know our days are busy, friends! But instead of opening the next app or tab on your browser, try instead to take a moment and ask yourself:

1. What in my life is putting the chill on my soul and my desire for God?

  • Is it a social media addiction?
  • A difficult child or relationship that is stealing your peace or focus?
  • A friend that encourages ungodly talk or behavior?
  • Your choice in indulgences (TV, movies, books)?
  • Gossip?
  • Excessive worry?
  • Comparison and jealousy?
  • Lust?

2. What sets my soul on fire and nurtures my relationship with God?

  • Regular Bible time, or regular time in prayer?
  • Reprogramming every car preset to Christian radio?
  • Building a relationship with a Christian friend?
  • Joining a small Bible study group?
  • Praying about what worries you rather than just talking about it?
  • Deleting an app that distracts you from spending time in prayer or has ungodly content?

The lists are personal and go on for each of us. Wherever you’re at in your walk with God, I hope you will be encouraged and hold on to this truth today:

“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

P.S. Is there anything you can add to the lists above? Share your thoughts!

Minivan Rebel

Minivan Rebel

“Well, I can add changing a diaper in a princess castle to my list of things I never thought I’d do,” I thought.

I looked around at the flower-clad walls and down the purple tunnel. I looked behind me at the demolished bag of chips my toddler had stolen from the pantry, with its thin plastic folded and wrinkled every which way. I mentally accepted all these things as normal and thought briefly about scanning the classifieds for a nice used minivan. “I will not do the stick figure family stickers on the back though….. or maybe. Whatever, I won’t rule it out,” I thought.

There are a lot of normal things in my life these days I never thought I’d find myself doing.

I never thought I’d go from listening to angry hard rock bands to having K-Love as my go-to commute music (all whilst transporting sticky-fingered, Hot Wheel throwing sleep stealers from A to B.)

I couldn’t have imagined laying in bed on Saturday night (at a reasonable hour no less) looking forward to church service the next morning (and even driving almost 40 minutes to get there.)

And I certainly never thought I would be writing a faith based blog.

But here I am. And in some remote corner of the world I imagine pigs are probably coming in for a landing.

So today, know this: God changes things. He changes the hearts of His people.

I fully admire people who were raised in the faith and never strayed from it but I openly admit that I am not one of those people. Although I was raised with a strong religious background, I’ve always had a restless and rebellious spirit. I believed in God but didn’t feel like I could relate to the life of Jesus. That is, until I came across this one single verse:

“He was counted among the rebels.” -Isaiah 53:12

We always think of Jesus as being perfect- and he was– but have you ever stopped to realize that he was so radically different from the norm of his day that he was actually considered a “rebel”?

Needless to say, the first time I came across this line, I connected. If Jesus was a rebel, he could know and understand my own rebellious heart. If he could navigate life as an outsider, he could teach me how to walk the less traveled path I’m meant to walk.

And if Jesus was a rebel, he could show me how to be rebellious in a different way.

These days my idea of rebellion comes largely in the form of saying no to friends, situations, and world views that are widely accepted but are misaligned with God’s truth. Rebellion doesn’t always have to be loud and intrusive. Sometimes rebellion looks like teaching Sunday school, or packing your husband’s lunch. Sometimes it’s zipping the lip instead of sharing the details of someone else’s personal business, or offering to help even when it doesn’t fit into your schedule. Sometimes rebellion looks like scattered Lego’s, purple princess castles, and a quiet life- lived well in the light of God’s grace.

Be rebels, my friends. ❤️

Changed

Changed

My prayer for today:

Lord, I want to be changed! I don’t want to live like this world lives, but I want to live like Jesus did. I invite your Holy Spirit to dwell and work within me, and change me from the inside out.

Please don’t let me cave into the pressure to be a woman of this world. Don’t allow me to think it’s OK to listen to certain music, watch certain movies, use inappropriate language, or develop habits that do not align with the principles you call us to live out just because that’s what others are doing.

Help me to be encouraged by the friends I trust who are also seeking to live a life led by you, but ultimately, let your words be the words I live by, and not the words of others.

I don’t want to look, walk, talk, or act like the norm in this world. I want my words and actions to set me apart and point the world to You.

I love you and thank you for this beautiful life! Amen.

Inspired by the song Different by Micah Tyler

Even Jesus Took Naps

Even Jesus Took Naps

Jesus healed, traveled, served, and performed countless miracles in his lifetime- and he still took naps.

Grab your favorite blanket and that cute sleep mask you’ve never taken out of the package because you know I’m going somewhere with this….

The passage from Mark chapter 4 (verses 35-41) tells the story of Jesus stepping away from the crowds and seeking rest in the back of a boat, even in the the midst of a raging storm. It brought a very realistic image of motherhood to mind:

It’s after 3 P.M. Loud and overwhelming ‘To Do’s” loom in the evening busyness of my household. Ready or not, the after work and school hours have begun, bringing on more demands than downtime. My husband asks where to find an obscure item which has faded from the landscape of a cluttered countertop over time, and has suddenly regained an urgent purpose. My 7.5-year-old son finds new sources of energy just as mine seem to be dwindling. I end up chasing him from room to room reminding him that socks don’t belong in couch cushions, and the dog needs to be fed. My 11 month daughter crawls and climbs the terrain of the living room and squeals for my full attention. Dinner needs cooked, pajamas need tiny people sprawled out within them, and after long days, a mama’s mind needs to be quieted.

Now. What happens in the midst of all this?

Is my response to,

A. Stand up, and use my calm presence to quiet the storm, or

B. Panic, lose my peace, and let my outward expression be determined by my inward unresolved struggle and weariness?

I’d love to tell you that I’m an option A mom, but I don’t always have it so together. As it turns out though, I’d be in good company because the disciples didn’t have it all together that day on the boat with Jesus either. When the storm threatened to sink their boat it says,

“Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

‭‭Mark‬ ‭4:38‬ ‭NLT‬‬

It sounds like they had the tendency to stress, just like this mama does.

But not Jesus. In the raging storm he calmly stood and dealt.

“When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

‭‭Mark‬ ‭4:39-41‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Now where do you think Jesus found that incredible calm? He was rested. His faith was in God, his unfailing Father, with whom he’d built a strong relationship. And so, even in the face of looming disaster and other priorities on the shore that begged for his time and attention, he protected his time alone and his time spent in prayer. Though it doesn’t specify, I can just imagine Jesus praying as he laid down, falling asleep while talking to his Father in Heaven. The Bible gives examples of his time away:

“Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.” – Mark 1:35 NLT

“But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” -Luke 5:16

So friends I have to ask- how often are we withdrawing to the wilderness?

Whether that wilderness is a Pinterest-worthy nook in your home complete with a plush designer chair and a built-in bookcase, or it’s the driver seat of your car because your kids finally fell asleep in the back, it’s calling for you. And it also requires something of you- the ability to say “wait” or even to say “no” altogether to certain things.

See, it wasn’t that Jesus had free time on his hands- but that he did what he had to in order to protect his time alone to rest and to protect his time in prayer, even when it meant stepping away from other things temporarily. (Kind of like trying to sneak off to use the bathroom even though tiny fingers will undoubtedly slither under the door within seconds. Hey, it’s a priority- you’ve just gotta do it.)

Jesus fully saw the need for his service out in the world, but he also recognized his inner need to recharge and speak with God.

Now here’s where I stumbled all over myself when I started considering this whole thing:

How important do I think I am that I can’t (won’t) take time out for God, when even JESUS HIMSELF made it a priority?

Do I not have faith that He will help to accomplish what’s asked of me in His perfect timing?

(If you’re slipping on your sunnies and sliding down in your seat right now, I’m going to guess you can relate to the grounds for those questions.)

As moms and wives it seems as if we are often the most in demand people on the planet. There is constantly someone calling our names, or something needing done that others think only we can do.

“Mom, I need toilet paper!”

“Honey, there’s toothpaste on the ceiling.”

“Mom, sissy’s diaper smells terrible!”

Oh, the demands of the job. How easily, then, can we relate to Jesus? He was highly sought after and often surrounded by great crowds of people seeking his attention. (In my mind, the equivalent must have been like having thousands of kids…. 😳) And yet, he understood the importance of rest and of his own personal time with the Lord.

I’m not suggesting we abandon our responsibilities to squander our time. Instead, let us prioritize where we will carefully place our attention before our attention is stolen away. We live out crazed days and we need rest, too. The best rest, I find, always comes after I give God some prime real estate in my daily schedule. If I want to be able to take a nap in my boat, I’ve got to make sure I’ve spent time in prayer in the wilderness first. That’s when I find the strength to remain calm in the storm. That’s when the sweet, restful moments come and are more fulfilling than ever before.

What’s your “wilderness” like? Where do you run off to when you need to spend quality time with God?