New Songs and Merle

I’m learning a lot of new songs lately.

It started when I rode in Guy’s truck that first time I visited him in Kentucky.  I remember him turning the radio on and stopping at what I would say sounded like a twangy, old, country song from decades ago that no one would know now.  I laughed at how horrible it sounded, mentally shaking my head that anyone would ever want to listen to this nastiness!

I looked over at Guy to laugh along with him.  But he wasn’t trying to be funny.

Crickets….

What?  He actually liked this song?!

I turned toward the window, not wanting him to see my eyebrows crinkle and my lips purse.  It was painful.  Oww!  No, I can’t possibly listen to this!  But we had just started dating, and I didn’t want to knock something he clearly loved.

So I sat in it, marinating in the sour sound waves of a type of country music that was nowhere to be found on the radio stations I knew.

But then Guy started to sing along, with whom I would later learn was Merle Haggard, and I sneakily turned my ear toward him.  I listened to the deep sound of his voice and the sentimental words he was singing, which were both quite charming.

First time we met is a favorite memory of mine
They say time changes all it pertains to
But your memory is stronger than time
I guess everything does change except what you choose to recall
There’s a million good daydreams to dream on
But baby, you are my favorite memory of all

 “They don’t write thoughtful love songs like that anymore, do they?” I said as I smiled and hummed along with the chorus.

Now, here we are a year later. We’re getting married next week, and doggonit if I didn’t just express disappointment over the fact that I didn’t buy that old Dolly Parton record we saw at Half Price Books last week!

 

Old country songs aren’t the only new songs I’m singing these days.  Thanks to a sweet 8-year-old girl and a sweet 11-year-old girl whose first action upon entering my car is to plug in the old phone with their downloaded music, I am staying up-to-date on the most recent girly pop music, too.  I can belt a little Meghan Trainor and Bruno Mars with the best of ‘em!

Even at church, I am learning new songs with new styles, new leaders, new people next to me in the rows.  The Audience is the same, and that’s why I sing them in the first place.

 

We can learn to sing new songs.  New songs have to be taught to us.  Slowly.  Or by modeling. For me, there’s usually a lot of repetition involved, and for years, I drove my sisters crazy in the car because as I’d learn a new song on the radio, I’d mumble along, even when I didn’t know the words.  But that’s how I learn new songs!

It’s been said that music is the language of the soul.  There’s something about music that goes deeper into us.  The music I listen to shapes me, and the words my ears hear my own lips proclaim become part of my belief system.

I think this is why the songs we sing are so important.  I think that’s why the Bible talks about songs and singing a lot.

The Lord is my strength and my song… (Ex. 15:2)

David sang this song to the Lord on the day the Lord rescued him from all his enemies and from Saul.  (2 Sam. 22:1)

And each morning and evening they stood before the Lord to sing songs of thanks and praise to him. (1 Chor. 23:30)

Instead, glorify his mighty works, singing songs of praise. (Job 36:24)

You surround me with songs of victory. (Ps. 32:7)

Our mouths were made to praise Him!  Our ears need to hear us praise Him.  Our souls are glad to praise Him.

 

Though we are not always in seasons of rejoicing, are we?  Sometimes it’s easy to sing happy songs, and other times we feel we have nothing to sing about.

But those are the times we know that God is about to teach us some new songs.

 

Three years ago this month, I was watching my son die.  Two years ago this month, I was watching my marriage die.  There were many tears and restless nights.  The thought of singing happy songs made my heart crumble.

So, I sang sad songs.  Sad songs are okay, too.  In fact, the greatest gift some of my closest friends gave me during those years is that they did not try to come in with a pep talk and tell me how it would eventually get better (even though they knew that it would).  Instead, they took the advice of Proverbs 25:20.

“Singing cheerful songs to a person with a heavy heart
    is like taking someone’s coat in cold weather
    or pouring vinegar in a wound.”

In those moments, they didn’t say, “but look at all the things you can be grateful for” and they didn’t come share their happy news of babies and marriages just yet.

The way my friends showed me love was by being willing to be sad next to me.  They learned the sad song I was singing in those months, and they sang along.

Because sometimes, even with Hope, you just need to sing a sad song.

And because He promises the darkness will not last forever.

“The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help.
    He rescues them from all their troubles.
 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
    he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

The righteous person faces many troubles,
    but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.”  Psalm 34:17-19

“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
    You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,                        that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
    O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!”  Psalm 30:11-12

“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
    and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
    out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
    and steadied me as I walked along.

He has given me a new song to sing,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
    They will put their trust in the Lord”.  Psalm 40:1-3

 

After all that pain, the Lord has turned my mourning into joy.  The Bible mentions the phrase “new song” nine different times, and I am so thankful that I no longer am singing only the sad songs.  I have seen how the Lord used the pain for good, and I have something to sing about – for one, I’m getting married next week to the man I love!  I have put my trust in God, and I am amazed.

This new song feels good to sing.  Really, really good.

 

I wonder what song God has given you to sing in this season.  Are you in a season of joy and gratitude?  Sing loud!  Are you experiencing grief?  Sing your sad song, whisper it even.  Perhaps you are in great moments of change.  Can you sing a trusting song anyway?  God has given each of us a song for today.  Are we singing it?  Are we willing to learn the new songs He wants to teach us, too?  Are we aware that the songs we are singing are being picked up and hummed along by those around us?  The songs we sing matter.

 

But life is not like a movie, is it?  I wish I could say to you, “…and Molly and Guy lived happily ever after.”  But happily ever after isn’t promised to us until Jesus returns.

In the meantime, there will still be life.  I will be learning many new songs even as we go from here.  Songs titled, “How Do Four People Produce So Much Laundry?” and “Ode to the Days When I Had Too Much Alone Time” and “Oh, Hey! I Found Another Pet Hair in my Food.”

I know the Lord will continue to teach me new songs as I take on the roles of wife, stepmom, and small town resident.  Learning these songs will take time, lots of repetition, and I’ll probably awkwardly mumble along until I get the words right.

I want to learn these new songs.  I want to keep learning new songs of joy, courage, and faith.

Because I can see there will also be songs titled, “Redemption” and “Belly Laughs” and “I Never Knew Love Could Feel This Good.”

And those are the songs I can’t wait to sing at the top of my lungs.

Well, those…and Merle.

Merle

 

 

Knobs and Hollers

 

My running route takes me through the Appalachian foothills and past Roger’s house.  Sometimes, he sits on his front porch and calls to me with a big, toothless smile and a wave as I run by, but usually he comes out to the road to chat.  Roger is a seventy-two-year old gentleman who told me he is “re-turd.”  It took me a few seconds before I realized he was telling me he was retired.

One day as I was rounding the corner, he met me in the road for what would be our third chat to date.  I stood eye-to-eye with Roger in his plaid shirt and jeans as we talked about the 8-inch siding on his house.  Then he suddenly commented, “well, my, you are very sweaty” as he literally wiped the sweat from my forehead with the tattooed knuckle of his index finger.

I was both aghast and touched by the unexpected gesture from a stranger.

Since then, Roger has stopped me from walking into the electric wire around his garden, and he single-handedly bludgeoned a snake to death who was sunning itself a little too closely to us on the warm pavement.  He also regularly warns me of the traffic that comes around his corner too fast, so I need to be careful as I run there.  That’s my buddy, Rog.

Sometimes, I do have to work hard to understand Roger, but I have begun to pick up on a few new or new-sounding words.  When I hear him say the word “hill” he means “heel” and when he says “heel” he’s referencing a “hill.”  I’ve also learned the word “holler” as in the hollow place between two hills – a valley, if you will – and the word “knob” in reference to the tops of those hills.

I am not in Flat Indiana anymore.

One of the tall points around here is Tater Knob (yes, that’s puh-tater without the puh.  No, actually I don’t know what the Tater comes from, and neither does the Internet.)  But it is one of the most beautiful views.   I made it halfway to the top of the lookout tower at Tater Knob before I lost faith in the shaky, man-made structure and had to claw my way back down the handrails to the safe soil below.  But I will conquer you, Tater Knob, you mark my words!

 

 

It’s been two months since I moved to Kentucky.  I now have a Kentucky driver’s license and license plate.  To be honest, which I always try to be, it has been a beautifully messy adjustment.  I wonder how long it takes to feel at Home in a new place?

Guy’s mom and step-dad, Madonna and Jim, have been incredibly gracious hosts to me.  I have full run of two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs.  Madonna even set up one room to be my office, and it has a little living space with a futon and a TV, too.  We’ve enjoyed baking together, and she just walked in with a bag of cashews from the bulk bin at Kroger for me because she knows how much I like them.  And Curmudgeony Jim is not a complete curmudgeon at all.  In fact, he makes us coffee every morning (well sometimes he heats up yesterday’s coffee), and we stand around the kitchen island talking about who knows what until it’s time for one of us to go on about our day.  I really like them.  Being around them feels like family.

Because I miss my family.  And friends.

 

The day my sister, Ellie, drove out of the driveway back to Indiana was the hardest I’ve cried in a year and a half.  I anticipated her leaving as she and I drove home from Diary Queen that evening, knowing she’d depart once we got back to the house.  The largest, painful lump formed in my throat just thinking about it, and tears seeped up into my eyes.

She looked over at me there in the driver’s seat, as I tried miserably to keep it all together, and then she said with a tone full of pity, “Oh…” And I was done.  Cried like a baby.

I kept crying to Guy, who told me it was okay to cry about it, so I kept at it.  Then, I cried on a walk talking to God about it.  Some time later, I finally quit crying, but then as soon as I thought of Ellie again, I cried some more.

I knew I’d miss the people most, but I hoped that maybe it wouldn’t be as hard as I thought.  I’m just thankful for cell phones and unlimited data, or I’d still be crying tears “like a tall cow peeing on a flat rock!” (I learned that phrase down here.)

 

 

But it hasn’t been all tears at all!  I’ve smiled big smiles and laughed belly laughs a whole lot more than I’ve cried.

There was the time Guy’s dog, Lincoln, who has vision issues, ran full-force into the table leg.  Bless him.

Or when Guy’s girls reach for my hand as we cross the parking lot or walk through a store.

There was the time when our friend Dorm, who manages the B-dubs, said he heard I liked rosé so he asked what kind he should order for me so they’d have it in stock.  Or another time at B-dubs (there aren’t many restaurant options here) when one friend left for a bit only to come back with a birthday cake for me.

There was the time when a couple of my new friends showed up one morning with this sign they made for me as a surprise.

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It’s a handmade wooden frame and a beautifully crafted canvas.  Contact @kindredspiritsandco and they’ll make you whatever you want, too!

 

But the time that put the absolute biggest smile on my face was one Sunday night when Guy took me out to the lake, the same place where one year ago he showed me the beauty of star-gazing in the country.  We stood down next to the water (me in my sweaty running clothes because I had no idea what was coming, despite his gentle nudge that perhaps I’d want to get out of them before we left) and watched the most beautiful full moon rise and glisten over the surface as we talked about the past incredible year that brought us to this place.  Then, he asked me to be his wife!

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As you can see by that smile, I said yes.  We’re getting married in October!

 

 

And so that’s how it’s been, this first summer in Kentucky.  A bunch of emotional ups and downs and ups again.

Just when I think I’ve gotten myself under control, I see a photo on Instagram that makes me feel I’m missing out in a dozen different ways.  Simply put: moving here did not magically take away my affection for the things I left in Indy like dining in downtown restaurants or my longing to be with friends.

But as I was reading this week, I was reminded that it’s not my feelings that control me, it’s my thoughts.  My thoughts determine my actions, and my actions determine how I feel.  As author Kay Warren says, “You can’t command a feeling, but you can command a thought and an action.”

Want proof we can control our thoughts?  Okay, picture a really tall tree covered in pink bow ties.  See.  You can command a thought.

That’s why Paul urges us in Colossians 3:2 to choose to “THINK about the things of Heaven, not the things of earth.”  We are invited to constantly bring back to our minds who God says He is and the life-giving truths found in His word and the reminder that He’s always working things for our good.

 

In the moments when I let my lonely, unsettled, or insecure feelings determine the truth, I am easily tempted to believe I will remain empty.  But when I take those feelings to God and speak His truth into my own mind, I remember He has filled me with purpose and given me all I need to live out His love right where I am.

Here’s Jesus’ personal invitation to us:

“What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax…Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.  Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow.  God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”  (Jesus in Matthew 6:32-34, MSG)

 

But I won’t deny it has been hard to just sit in it.  To sit in the newness.  Nothing is going to dramatically change over-night.  It will take time to develop deep friendships, and it will take years to make new favorite traditions.  Often, I long for the comfort of being deeply known by the people around me, for not feeling like the new teacher who has so much to learn and knows only a few people at the district teacher breakfast, for a house that is mine and contains the people I love.

Feeling physically and emotionally settled feels so far out of sight from here.

Yet, then I remember this encouragement from our friend, James:

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.  So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” (James 1:2-4 italics mine)

 

There is purpose in the challenges.  Always.  And when we command our mind to think about THESE things instead of all the “buts” and “what ifs,” our feelings start to change.

So when I’ve sensed the anxiety creep in, I ask myself two questions: What feelings am I allowing to control me today?  And what are the things God has said that conquer that feeling?

This is the human condition.

We want paradise, but God says that’s coming later.                                                                  We want great comfort, but God says He wants great character.                                           We want to feel better, but God says He wants us to think better.

This is the life lesson I’m still learning right now.

 

Though this summer has felt like one big roller coaster of emotional ups and downs and ups and downs, I’m not surprised by this.  I know change is hard.  I know Christ promised us “in this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).

So just because something is hard or uncomfortable doesn’t make it wrong.  In fact, it might be the best thing.

This thought caused me to look up a verse in my head about the Lord making our paths straight.  How can we have ups and downs if He promises straight paths?  Isn’t that contradictory?

In Psalm 5:8, David prays to the Lord, “…make Your way straight before me.”  Another translation says, “…lead me in the right path.”

In other words, he’s talking about having an assured DIRECTION.

It’s not that there aren’t ups and down and a whole bunch of crazy along the way, but in the midst of it, do we know where we’re going?  Do we KNOW where we’re headed and why we’re choosing that way despite what’s happening around us and how it FEELS?

 

My very first run in Kentucky was depressing.  The hills were killer.  I longed for my flat rail trail more than I longed for my bag of shoes that was buried somewhere deep in the rented storage unit.  I remember seeing the hill named Jackson for the first time – tall and winding, steeper than anything I’d ever run before.  It looked awful.  It felt awful.  Five steps in and I was gasping for breath. I wondered if there would ever be a day I could run to the top without walking.

The direction was clear and straight: I knew exactly how to get to the top, but I also knew it would be rough.  Day after day, I would start…and then walk. The next day I might get a little farther, or I might not.

Until today, two months in.  I made it.  If I hadn’t known exactly what prize I was going for, I might have stopped.  But there was a direction – a straight path – that prompted me to push through the pain.  And now my legs and lungs are much stronger than they were that first day.  Watch out, Tater Knob….

 

As we journey the ups and downs of life, with our eyes fixed on Christ, assured that He is working in the midst of everything, we are given assured direction:

“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments”  (Matthew 22:36-40).

“Our great desire is that you will keep right on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true.  Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going in inherit God’s promises because of their faith” (Hebrews 6:11-12).

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Our direction is always certain, even when the road is long and rugged.

There will be knobs and hollers, highs and lows, our entire life.  But our path is always straight: Love God. Love others. Never stop seeking Him.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Eyes on the Coach.  Stay the course.  You can’t lose.

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Marching Orders

In less than two weeks, I’ll close the door of the U-haul and make my way to my new state of Kentucky.

I am ready and excited! Amazingly, I don’t feel anxious.  But it wasn’t until last week that could honestly say that.

 

A few weeks ago, when friends would ask me how I was feeling about the move, I would feel myself take a long, slow, deep breath and say, “Mixed emotions: excited and anxious.” I’m sure no one would fault me for having mixed emotions, but I could tell there was more anxiety in my heart than peace…I figured it was normal, but I didn’t like it.  Still, I wasn’t sure how to fix it.

 

Feeling anxiety makes us question if we’re doing the right thing. I heard questions in my head like, “What if I make this huge move and then I hate it there?  What if I don’t make friends?  What if I miss my Indiana life even more than I can imagine?  What if one day I wake up and feel stuck?  Lord, is this really what I’m supposed to do?  Please stop me now if it’s not!”

There’s nothing quite so refreshing as being honest with God. Whenever I tell Him how I really feel, the load gets a little lighter, and then I know He’s “on it.”  If I have an issue or a feeling that only He can fix, I know He will.  I just have to be on the lookout for Him to fix it.

 

Recently, I have felt a bit like Abraham as I’ve prepared to uproot and replant my life.  I remember what the Lord told him:

“Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” Genesis 12:1

It makes me want to say, Uhh…That’s not a whole lot of detail there, Lord.  You’re asking a lot of ol’ Abe to leave out the specifics, don’t you think?

But the Lord has His good reasons for not revealing the future.

I think the Lord has been telling me something similar. “Molly, go from your city of Carmel, Indiana, your life-long friends and your family to the land of Morehead, Kentucky.  I will show you more when you get there.”

For now, that’s all I get to know.

 

So for now, I will move into the upstairs of Guy’s mom and step-dad’s house. For now, I will teach 4th graders at the elementary school there.  For now, I will work on building relationships.

No matter what happens, our God always has a good plan.  Sometimes we just need to catch the vision.

For me, that first glimpse of vision came from my friend, Leslie.  She’s the one who set me up with Guy in the first place.  She grew up in Morehead and now lives in Indy.  As I shared my concerns with her one day, she responded, “Molly, I am so excited for you to move to my town.  I think you have something to offer.  God is going to use you there, just as He’s used you here, and I can’t wait to see what He does.”

Hmm. Well.  I hadn’t ever thought of that perspective before.  All I could think about was what I was giving up.  I had never thought that maybe God wanted to do something in and through me there.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”  Ephesians 2:10

When I question the purpose of my life, I come back to this verse.  Not only was I created to be loved by God and to love Him back, but there are things He has planned for me to do, and things He’s planned for you to do.  The only way to find out what they are is to keep going in the direction He’s pointing.  Today, He’s pointing me to Morehead.

 

I recently read a quote from Elisabeth Elliot in The Path of Loneliness that said, “…a new set of marching orders.  That is what always follows loss of any kind—a mother’s loss of her child, a wife’s of her husband, a lover’s of his beloved, a man’s loss of his job, his health, his self-esteem, his home—if only we have ears to hear those orders, eyes to see the gain God intends to bring out of our loss.  Even when trouble stops our ears and clouds our vision, He goes on working in secret and perhaps years later reveals what we had not faith to lay hold of.”

The phrase “marching orders” is defined as instructions from a superior officer for troops to depart; a dismissal or sending off; orders to begin a march or movement; orders to start out, move on, proceed, etc.

That’s exactly what this new beginning is.  I am about to depart, to start out, to move on and proceed in a new direction.  It doesn’t mean it’s not a bit nerve-wracking at times.  I suppose marching orders always are.  Unsettled lands and uncharted waters are not predictable, and they’re certainly not comfortable.  But I am relieved that there’s always something for us to do, a purpose in every season of change.  I find no purpose sitting around twiddling my thumbs, and I’m glad the Lord doesn’t either.

 

Is this not the way He has constantly been working in my life?  With each loss, there have been new marching orders with gains and growth that I wouldn’t trade. There have been new roles and experiences that have changed me completely for the better.

For example, when I lost my mom, I began to work with a caring ministry at church that taught me listening and empathy skills I’ve used often over the past decade; losing my sisters when they moved out of state gave me time to invest in other people; losing my son pushed me deeper into Scripture and into writing and speaking.  Those are just a few of the many!

Every single loss brought some type of new marching order.  And as scary as they were, they never harmed me.

In fact, I can honestly say that the worst things that have happened to me have become the best things!

I know the Lord now in new ways and trust Him as I never had before, I have a greater understanding and love of His Word, I have more empathy and compassion than I used to, I can stare death in the face as it no longer scares me, I have an appreciation for how fragile life is, I am less judgmental of others, I have grown in my understanding and excitement for Heaven, and I live more purposefully and passionately now than I did when life was going as planned!

 

But even with all of that, there have still been moments of uncertainty.

My sister Marylou, who relocated to Minnesota some years ago, gave me great advice when I shared my concerns.  She said, “Molly, plant roots right away.  Get to know people. Get involved.  Don’t put that off, thinking you’ll move back to Indy in a few years. It took me three years to embrace life in Minnesota, and the first three years here were hard.  Once I started digging in, it became home.  Now, I love it!”

“I know,” I said. “I just don’t feel that way at all yet.”

“Yeah, sometimes I have to start by just praying for the willingness to be wiling,” she laughed.

 

Sometimes praying for a willingness to be willing is the hardest, most powerful prayer we can pray.  But as I’ve prayed that prayer, the Lord has changed my anxious heart completely.

Author Mike Mason says  “To embrace God’s point of view, however briefly, is to be joyful.”  And God’s point of view is always completely calm.  He sees what He’s doing, He knows why He’s calling us to each new place, and He knows He is going to go with us, so we have nothing to fear.  He has the plan, and we have marching orders.

Wherever we are, it’s about showing the glory of who God is.

This confidence has given me joy and a new perspective and purpose in Kentucky.

 

I will get to love Guy.

I will get to encourage and support his two daughters.

I will get to learn more patience with their very sweet albeit hyperactive, cross-eyed bird dog.

I will get to bring joy and an extra set of hands to the home in which I’ll stay.

I will get to build relationships with my new friends.

I will get to bond with the women in a book study that starts in July.

I will get to serve the community as a 4th grade language arts teacher.

I will get to help build a successful team with my new coworkers.

I will get to grow and support the church where we attend.

I will get to bring a little Light wherever I go.

 

And I think they all will do the same for me.

 

If nothing else, being a Christ-follower is not boring.  It is a calling to be brave, to serve, to share, to sacrifice, to demonstrate the ways of Heaven on Earth.  This is not just for me.  It’s for you, too, friend.

So, I wonder which of your marching orders are changing right now?  Perhaps you’ve recently experienced a death, or your youngest child moved out on their own, or a good friend moved away, a marriage ended, the fertility struggle is lasting much longer than you ever imagined, you are stuck in a job you don’t like, or that thing you’d been wanting so badly is just not going to happen.

All Hope is not lost.  God is working even in the midst of that, and He has good things in mind that He wants you to do with your current location, role, or time.

As we look at the long list of Heroes of our Faith in Hebrews 11, we read this excerpt:

“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.

By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.

It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith.

It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—“he disappeared, because God took him.” For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God. And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.

It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.

How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from death.”

All these people followed their new marching orders, not knowing the outcome, or how long it would last, or if they would even live.  But, in faith, they stepped out anyway and will receive “much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world” (1 Peter 1:7).

Author Beth Moore once commented that we are blown away by the faith of these people.  But that’s just what they are — mere people, average humans.  They are not any better than you or I.  They just obeyed what God was asking them to do.

Which makes us ponder: what if our name was added to the list of Heroes of the Faith: “It was by faith that Molly moved away from everything she’d known for almost 33 years…”  I wonder how that sentence might end years from now.  I get excited at the thought!

Now imagine if your life and name made the list!  Your turn: insert your name, “It was by faith that ______ did…”

What is it God is inviting you to do? What amazing things does He have planned for you if you would trust Him with what He’s doing?  What if His glory is going to shine so brightly though your life, and you don’t even have a clue yet?

With God, there is no need to panic.

Because sometimes, new marching orders are just the beginning of the best thing that has ever happened to you.

There are More Important Things than Target and Omelets

I am not brave.

Nor am I particularly adventurous or daring or thrill-seeking.

No, I prefer the predictable. I relish in routine.

 

I have lived in Indiana all my life.  More specifically, I’ve lived in Carmel, Indiana all my life.  Today, I went shopping in the same Meijer my mom did when I was a kid.  I got my oil changed at the same Jiffy Lube where I purchased my first oil change when I was sixteen.  Sunday, I’ll go to church within the same walls I’ve been worshipping since I was five, and dozens of wide smiles and “Good Morning, Molly”s will greet me as I walk through the door.  I love it.

I’ve had the same friends, taught the same grade at the same school, and taken the same summer vacation every year.  I love that my Target is right down the road and that I can order the most delicious omelet at Patachou every Saturday morning, complete with cinnamon toast.

 

Many would cringe at the lack of adventure in my life, but for me, the safety of The Known is bliss.  I find great comfort in my seemingly predictable life.

This part of my personality is nothing new. After all, I was the 6th grade girl who bawled her way through the first few weeks of middle school in the counselor’s office because she just wanted to go back to her house (where it was safe and predictable).  I am also a girl who sat on the kitchen counter a month before high school graduation and bawled to her mom about not wanting to move away and go to college.  She listened as I cried and calmly said, “Molly, don’t worry about it now.  Enjoy today.  When the day comes, you’ll be ready.”

And I was.  But, ugh.  I hate change.

 

I thought I would be used to it by now.  There have been so many significant changes in the past few years: loss of people, of roles, of places.  A few called me “brave” as my son Tage was dying, and I marveled at that word.  I didn’t feel brave.  I had no choice in the outcome, and therefore, no choice to go along with it or not. I couldn’t stop death.

When I think of brave, I think of people making a choice.  Of choosing to go.  Of choosing to stay.  Of choosing to say it or not say it.  Of doing it or not doing it, without knowing the outcome.

 That’s bravery, because it’s risk.

Faith is a risk, too.  As much as I believe 100% most days that Jesus is God and He is returning for me one day, I don’t know it.  We can gather all the facts we want about the historicity of the Gospel and of His life and whether or not He really died then rose from the dead, but ultimately, we will have to take a leap of faith if we want to be on His side.  We will have to be brave.

We have to decide that being a Christian isn’t just about checking the box that we believe in Jesus and then doing our best to follow all the rules.  Being a Christ-Follower means that the final step is surrendering our lives to this Christ and trusting Him with what He’s doing, without knowing the outcome.  Surrendering — arms wide open with no expectations — is very, very brave.  That’s why it’s so hard.

 

In the midst of all the change in the past couple years, I remember thinking, I’ve lost this and this and this…but at least I am still in Indiana with my people.  That was the one thing that hadn’t changed, the one thing I still held after the whirlwind.  The one thing I hadn’t had to surrender.

So the following words are still a shock even to me:  At the end of June, I am moving to Kentucky.

 

Yep.  Kentucky. The one state we Hoosiers make fun of. (Sorry Kentucky friends. I didn’t know!)

As I’ve pondered this idea in recent months, I’ve felt my heart race at the thought.  I’ve thought about my Meijer, and my Jiffy Lube, my Target and my omelet, my friends and family and was certain, no, I could not possibly leave.  It wouldn’t be safe.

I’d tear up at the image of me driving down Keystone with  U-Haul on my way to a brand new state with a new home, new friends, a new church, a new job, a new grocery store, and many, many other new things.  Then, I get overwhelmed and ask the Lord, “Does a girl really need more change after all of this?  Are you really going to take away the one good thing she thinks she still has after all the pain?”  And He smiles as He radiates an I know what I am doing look.  And eventually, I nod back and think, yes, a fresh start in a new place could be really good.

I am so excited to get to be near Guy and his girls and see what a “typical Tuesday evening” looks like.  Because this long-distance relationship stuff is HARD.  They weren’t kidding.  I am not a phone-talker, I’m a face-talker – that’s why I’m always hanging out with my people. But the hundreds of miles I’ve put on my car, the ten pounds I’ve gained from fast food during said miles, and the constant feeling like I’m living a double life has definitely been worth it.  The one thing I know is that I want Guy in my life.

 

I just wish I didn’t have to leave my friends, my job, and my town.  I love them.  They’re comfortable and predictable, and I want to be near them.  But I am certain I want Guy to be near his daughters.  Girls need their daddy (and daddies need their girls).

 

But as I’ve processed this possibility over the past months, there are three things I still know:

  1. God loves me.
  2. God is trustworthy and so are His plans.
  3. God will give me what I need.

It is the treasure I discovered in the midst of my lowest moments, and now these beliefs go down to the marrow of my bones.

“Show me the right path, O Lord;
point out the road for me to follow.
Lead me by your truth and teach me,
for you are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in you.”   Psalm 25:4-5

More than anything, I want to go where He wants me to go. I want to follow His road for me, because I can see now that His plans are always good, even in the midst of the pain.  I can go anywhere and do anything He asks because He always goes right beside me as a friend, before me to clear the way, and behind me to protect me.  If He is there, I know I am safe.

“I will bless the Lord who guides me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I know the Lord is always with me.
I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.
No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice.
My body rests in safety.

You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of your presence…”  Psalm 16: 7-9, 11

The joy of His presence, not of my surroundings.

 

This morning, I saw my current life verse hanging there on the bathroom mirror:

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit.”  Jeremiah 17:7-8

I want to trust in the Lord in all things.  I want my confidence to be in Him, not in my city, or in being near friends, or in my predictable life.  In Him, I can be brave!  He is where I’m planted, not a city.  So, I don’t have to worry about what may come, or if I will feel lonely in Kentucky, or if I’ll find a job, or that Target is 50 minutes away and the best omelet in town is at the local version of Waffle House (though the truck stop also has a good breakfast, too, I’m told).

No, my leaves will stay green, because I know life is not about Target and fancy omelets.  It’s about God and people.  I already know God will be with me, and the people I’ve met so far are absolutely lovely and kind and even more welcoming than we Hoosiers!

And so, I can go right on producing delicious fruit.  The Lord is always ready to use us when we surrender.  He will use me to impact people in my new town, and He will use them to impact me.  That’s what I know.

 

Today marks nine years since my beautiful, joyful mom went to be with Jesus.  My sisters and I texted today about how grief has changed over the years – it’s less of a surface sting and more of a deep, constant, dull ache.  We wonder what she would say to us in different joys and sorrows of our lives.

I wish I could call her in Heaven.  There is so much I want to share with her and ask her.  As I think about the next two months of preparing to move and all the change that will come with that, there are moments where I want to sit on the counter and talk to her.  But I think I know what she’d say.  As she stands there next to Jesus, she’d say, “Molly, don’t worry about it now.  Enjoy today.  When the day comes, you’ll be ready.”

And Jesus would nod and smile in gentle agreement with a little sparkle in His eye, because He knows exactly what He’s got up His sleeve.

And it’s way more important than Target and omelets.

FullSizeRender

 

A Promise in the Pain

 

I’ll just say it: yesterday was rough.

Like, really, really rough.

It was the day that should have marked my sweet Tage’s third birthday, but he lives in Heaven now.

 

 

The Lord has bolstered my faith in recent years – building supports and adding more layers, making it harder and harder to knock down – and for that, I am in awe.  Most days, I stand on that wall of faith with the determination to trust I’m safe no matter what comes and the peace of knowing what, or Who, gives me hope.

But yesterday was hard.

It didn’t help that the mid-March Indiana clouds are currently thick and low and smothering, and my skin and spirit yearn for sunshine.  My emotional pump was already primed to feel the darkness.

Then, I had had the privilege of getting to share Tage’s story with a group of women that morning, the morning of his birthday, and I was reminded that God continues to work in my story and in the aftermath of Tage’s death.  But with every sharing of my story comes the reminder of the pain.

At the event, I got to talk with one of my mom’s dear friends, who looked me in the eyes and told me as tears fell from hers how much she misses my mom.  Me, too.  Me. Too.

After speaking, I got to hear from women who told me their stories of miscarriage, child loss, divorce, and questioning God.  Their tears proved their raw pain.

Later, I had a hard conversation across a restaurant booth.  More memories of pain.

As I drove downtown to a birthday party that evening, my car hitting every pothole on the crudely patched and crumbling pavement.  I passed the home of another friend who had also lost an infant.  Then, my route took me through a rough part of town.  Windows were boarded up.  Toys and trash were strewn across tiny yards behind broken chain link fences.  I stopped at a red light and glanced to my left.  A man walked down the cracked sidewalk, his gate greatly altered by a physical condition.  I thought of all the harsh stares he must receive in a day as he simply struggled to walk.  He was clearly in pain.

 

That’s when I finally lost it.

 

The knot cramped up in my throat, and the tears poured from my eyes.

“When, Lord?”  I begged.  “There is so much brokenness.  It’s everywhere.  When are You going to come?  How long do we have to live in this mess?”

Sometimes I can’t hold back the brokenness anymore.  Sometimes I can’t handle seeing one more sad thing, one more broken family, one more child in a wheelchair, one more girl who thinks her beauty is proved when she bares her body on Instagram, one more elementary student of mine who needs to prove his toughness because no one tells him they love him, one more tear stained face telling me of their deep pain.

“When Lord?  When are you going to come fix this?  I can’t handle it today.”

I just left that those questions hanging in the air of my car.  I wiped my eyes, took a deep breath and went into the party.

 

 

The next morning, I stepped out to take Marty for a walk, grinning at the early light just above the horizon. A pink glow crept down the tall, barren trees of the park as the sun slowly rose higher in the clear sky.  Birds sang their joyful tunes, a chorus of life awakening from the long, winter slumber.

I inhaled the fresh air.  I had paused my conversation with God, and I knew He was right there when I was ready to start again.

“Thank you for this sunshine…and for the birds.”  I took another deep, soothing breath, hoping the light would get to the deepest places.  “Sometimes I just don’t know how to live among all the mess, Lord?  We are so broken.  This life, it’s like we’re swimming in a pool of bitter vinegar, but sometimes we don’t even realize it because we have just gotten used to it.  But today, I taste it.  It is so bitter sometimes.  What are we supposed to do?  How do we keep living like this?”

Then, He whispered a reminder to me of when He looked around and grieved for what He saw, too.   He was entering Jerusalem, just before His crucifixion.  As He got to town, He looked around and saw all of their brokenness and the mess.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.”  Matthew 23:37

Jesus looks at the town and the people around Him who He loves, and He grieves for them.  It breaks His heart to see them so lost and broken.  He expresses His longing to protect them.

He says, “I see the brokenness and it breaks my heart, too.  It was not meant to be this way.”     I think maybe He understands the mess we live in.  I think He’s seen it and lived in it, too.  He understands when we grieve for the brokenness around us.  He did, too.

He says He wished to gather the broken people, to protect them and comfort them.

 

 

My friend Katie has taught me how to hug by example.  Since the day I’ve known her, I have loved her hugs.  She spreads both of her arms out wide, wraps them around you, and pulls you into her with gusto.  She gathers you in and holds you in her embrace for many seconds, long enough to make you take notice.  You can’t help but take a deep breath and let your shoulders go down.  She doesn’t let go quickly.  It’s the best feeling in the world.

I’m pretty sure Katie hugs how Jesus hugs.  I see Jesus longing to do the same thing here, to bring us into a place of protection and safety and warmth when He said, “How often I have wanted to gather (you) together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.”

It does beg the question: Am I letting the Lord protect me? Am I letting Him comfort me?  Or am I running to other things?

 

But Jesus doesn’t stop there.

 

“ And now, look, your house is abandoned and desolate.  For I tell you this, you will never see me again until you say, ‘Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’”  Matthew 23:38-39

He sees that their house is abandon and desolate, just like the boarded-up homes I saw on my drive.  And He knows He is leaving them that way for a time.  He offered the people Himself, and in just a few chapters He will die for these people.  He knows He will be leaving them soon in this desolate, abandoned condition.  Yet, that’s not the end of story.  Because then He says that He will be coming back, and when He does, everyone will know He is who He said He is.

That’s the thing I have to always remind myself:  This is not the end of the story.

 

Sometimes it is really hard to see the light through the clouds.  Some days, or seasons, we wonder if Jesus really sees us.  Sometimes I wonder and doubt.  Sometimes I question whether this whole thing is made up and that I will look like a fool at the end if Jesus never comes.

But…what if I’m wrong?

What if there’s more and this life is not the end?

What if there’s a Hope we never even dreamed we could hope for?

What if Jesus really will come back and make everything right and new and beautiful?

What if He can even take the darkest parts of our lives and make them radiant?

 

And then I remember: He’s doing that in me.  He’s been doing that this whole season of suffering.

And I’m not special – He will do that in all of us if we ask Him.

 

 

As I rounded the back of the park, the birds chirped so loudly I had to raise my voice as I chatted to my dog.  Their song filled the acres of trees around me, all different tunes and rhythms.  It was glorious, and I couldn’t help but smile.

Then, suddenly I was aware of another sound in my ears.  It was the buzz and hum of the highway just on the other side of the trees.  It was as loud as the birds when I stopped to listen to it.

But I had been so taken with the chirping birds, that I wasn’t depressed by the sound of the highway.  I was focused on their songs.

I must remember and hold tightly to Jesus’ own words that remind me He is not leaving us alone in this condition forever.  He is making everything new:

“Then I (John) saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone.  And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

And the one sitting on the throne (Jesus) said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life.  All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.”

Revelation 21:1-7 (parenthesis mine)

 

Perhaps that’s what the birds chirp about.

 

There is beauty amid the pain.  There is hope amid the mess.  Because as every Hoosier knows, an Indiana March never lasts forever.

And in our pain there’s a promise: the brokenness won’t last forever.

Spring is coming!

 

Bird

Hearing God

kidlistening

There was a moment in my fifth grade classroom today when I gave up.  It happens most days around 2:00pm, just thirty short minutes before all twenty-four of them will go home and the room will be blissfully silent again.  By 2:00, they’re tried and watching the clock, and therefore, so am I.

Then this afternoon, in the midst of a review game on the Declaration of Independence, I turned into King George.  With my arms across my chest, I heard myself bellow like the tyrant himself, “Well, I am just going to stand here until you are ready to listen.”

What is it with the whole human race and listening?  (It’s no better in our staff meetings.)

 

Recently, I wrote about seeking God’s direction for 2017.  A friend of mine bravely responded by saying, “Oh, but the LISTENING. And discerning. And searching for clarity. THAT’S the hard part (for me)!”

Isn’t she exactly right?  Very often the listening and hearing is the hardest part.  What does it look like to listen for His answers?  What does it sound like when He does answer us?

It seems like such a BIG thing to try to listen for the God of the Universe to answer our little cries for help and direction.  There must be a cosmic formula that makes sense in our human brains.  Something like 1) ask Him and 2) He will answer in some mysterious and difficult-to-decipher way and 3) we scrunch our noses and scratch our foreheads as we try to hear His spiritual code words.

And we are left stuck. Still.

 

I went to my favorite source for taking big Biblical concepts and making them understandable:  The Jesus Storybook Bible.  Faith like a child, they say.  His ways are not meant to be understood by only the most theologically-minded, but rather by the simple-minded, like little kids, for instance.  I love how the author put it:

“So one day, Jesus taught the people how to pray.  He said, ‘When you pray, don’t pray like those Extra-Super-Holy People.  They think if they say lots of words, God will hear them.  But it’s not because you’re so clever, or good, or so important, that God will listen to you.  God listens to you because He loves you. 

‘Did you know that God is always listening to you? Did you know that God can hear the quietest whisper deep inside your heart, even before you’ve started to say it?  Because God knows exactly what you need even before you ask Him,’ Jesus told them.”

[Jesus continued] “‘You see, God just can’t wait to give you all that you need.  So you don’t need to use long words or special words.  You don’t have to use a special voice. You just have to talk.  So when you pray, pray in your normal voice, just like when you’re talking to someone you love very much.’”

“You see, Jesus was showing people that God would always love them – with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.  So they didn’t need to hide anymore, or be afraid, or ashamed.  They could stop running away from God and they could run to Him instead.  As a little child runs into her daddy’s arms.   (p. 225,227)

With a loving God like that, how could we not run to Him with our concerns?

 

“[The Lord Himself says] Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”  Jeremiah 33:3

The first part to hearing God is to call out to Him.

I must confess that sometimes I want to hear what a Genie-God says regarding my concern, but I’m not willing to take the time to slow down and actually talk to my Relational-God about it.  He wants so much more than simply our requests.  He wants US.  He wants a relationship with us.  It’s when we call out to Him in trouble that we get to see this characteristic of Him.

David poetically captures this answering characteristic of God well:

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;

I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

He will call on me, and I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble,

I will deliver him and honor him.”              Psalm 91:14-15

 

So, there we are.  We’ve expressed our concerns to our relational God, and now what?

In my experience, God seems to respond with one of three answers: “Yes, now,” “Yes, in a little bit,” or “No, but I’m going to do something else good with this situation.”

 

The last six weeks of my son, Tage’s, life were the absolute hardest.  We had just been sent home from the hospital and toward hospice care, and he was suddenly eating through a g-tube, something that caused me a lot of anxiety at first. Many visitors came by the house in those weeks so I was rarely alone, but when I was alone, the anxiety sank its teeth into my neck and shook me like a dog’s chew toy.  I could not escape its grip.

At first, fear entangled me. I forgot that “the Spirit of God, who raised Christ from the (freaking) dead, lives in (me)” (Romans 8:11).  My friend, Kathryn, reminded me of this, and sent me the song A Mighty Fortress is Our God by Christy Nockels.  She told me, “Play this song in your house, and sing it out loud when you need to be reminded who your powerful God is.”

Later that day, my heart rate started to rise again, and I could feel the anxious pounding in my chest, hot blood racing through my body, my breathing tight, tears forming in my eyes.  I started singing the first words to that song, and felt my neck tighten even more at first as the words struggled to escape my lips.  I was trapped, held down against the ground by an invisible, strangling grasp. I was overtaken.

I knew it was my enemy. I had never been so scared.

Pressing past the fear, I struggled to break the surface, to take a breath in the midst of my drowning. “Jesus….help…me,” I barely whispered.

His powerful voice resounded like roaring water in the heavens. “Yes, now!”  Even still, tears come to my eyes while I type this, because suddenly peace seeped into my soul as I continued to try to sing.  My heartrate slowed, and I cried gratefully as I felt the grip let go.  I had defeated my enemy!  I can only imagine what unseen battle was happening in my kitchen in that moment.  But our God reigns!  When we call on Him in trouble, His presence is immediate.

 

But sometimes, His answer is not always, “Yes, now.”  A few years prior to that day in my kitchen, after experiencing the pain of miscarriage, I had prayed that God would give me another baby.  I wanted to be a mom so desperately.  I prayed that prayer many times, and now, only in looking back, do I know that each time, His answer was, “Yes, in a little bit.”  Almost two years later, baby Tage was born.  I held him with even more gratitude than I could imagine.

 

When Tage was six months old, we received the terminal diagnosis.  I remember standing in the hospital shower that night, water and tears running down my face, hands pressed against the shower walls as I begged God to miraculously heal my son.  I begged Him every day after that.  Yet our loving God, who hears each prayer and sees each tear, looked at me tenderly.  His gentle answer was, “No, but I’m going to do something else good with this situation, Molly.”  And He wrapped His arms around me as we both cried.

And He HAS done something else good.  He’s done many good things because Tage went to Heaven much earlier than I had expected.  Most importantly, He’s given me the opportunity to share this unshakable peace, hope, and joy of Jesus with thousands of people.

I desperately miss Tage most days, but I know where he is, and that he is safe.  And I know I will see him again, and when I do, it will be for eternity.  And not only will I hug Tage, but as I stand next to Tage, we’ll hug all the other people that are in Heaven for eternity because Tage left Earth when he did.

Now, tell me that’s not good.

 

We know He will always answer us.  But what about when it’s hard to hear His voice?

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”  –Jesus in John 10:27

A speaker I heard once said that when she traveled to the Middle east, she passed a large hill where dozens of shepherds were bringing their sheep to a barn.  Hundreds of sheep walked freely down a rugged cliff toward a barn, following only the sound of their single shepherd’s voice.

They know his voice, and they trust him completely.  So they follow Him.

Can the same be said about us?

 

It was easy to see that the “Yes, now” answers were immediate.  But only hindsight allows me to see when He answered with “yes, in a little bit” or “no, but…”

In the moment, He just seemed silent.

Perhaps he feels silent to you right now, too.

 

Patience might be the hardest virtue.  Nowhere in the Bible are we promised immediate answers.  We’re not even promised a timetable.  We are just promised that His answer is always the best answer, and He is never too late.  We are directed to seek Him and then trust Him.  That’s all.  And yes, many times that is very hard to do.

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘They are plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.’”  Jeremiah 29:11

 

If it’s obvious His answer to our prayer is not “yes, now,” then it must be “in a little bit” or “no, but…”  As we wait to for the answer to be revealed, the time is not wasted if we use it to get to know our Shepherd’s voice even more.

Then, perhaps it’s in His words, or in song lyrics, or in a friend’s note, or when the house gets sold to another buyer, or in a sudden thought that hits you in the middle of the bread aisle when it comes – the whisper in our soul, His voice, the answer which allows us to trust Him a little easier next time.

Never according to our timetable, and rarely in the way we pictured it, but He is alway answering us.  So keep praying, keep seeking, keep listening.

We don’t have to search desperately and figure out some cosmic code.  Our loving God longs to answer our prayers.  As we seek Him, we can know that the answers will come in His perfect timing.

I know this to be true: God is not a tyrant. He’s not holding out on you.  He’s just working something good.  Every. Single. Time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ask This in 2017

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I’ve sat down to type so many times lately. I stare at a blank screen, cursor flashing, trying to think thoughts….but nothing.

It’s a new year. What should I proclaim as the first post of 2017?

Can you hear and feel all that pressure? Ugh.

 
Then, on a run today, I told Him that I was stuck. I was drowning.  I needed His help. “What do YOU want me to do, God?”

Yes, He smiled. Exactly.

 
Each year brings new joys and new sorrows, new experiences and the end of experiences. We are turning new directions this year. We are going to be doing new things this year,

meeting new people,

starting new jobs,

and wearing new hats

as we play new roles.

 

God does not lead our lives the way I like to decorate: set it all up and leave it that way for years.

No, He creates new scenes for us, scenes of beauty and laughter, tears and growth — just like a good movie.

For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?   ( Isaiah 43:19)

 

New things scare the heck out of me. Even new paint colors sometimes. What if what’s coming is not something I will like? What if I will absolutely hate this new thing?

I’ve already begun it, He said.

But if I’ve learned anything in 2016 – through an unwanted divorce, an unwanted move, more unwanted loss – it’s that I don’t have to be scared. In the joys and the sorrows, the unknowns and the expectations, our God is so good.  I see now that in the midst of the painful, shredding experiences of my heart in recent years, He was simultaneously weaving parts of even those pieces together for what I’m doing now in my joy.

He says:

You have been chosen to know me, believe in me,
and understand that I alone am God.
There is no other God—
there never has been, and there never will be.

I, yes I, am the Lord,
and there is no other Savior.

First I predicted your rescue,
then I saved you and proclaimed it to the world.
No foreign god has ever done this.
You are witnesses that I am the only God,”
says the Lord.

“From eternity to eternity I am God.
No one can snatch anyone out of my hand.
No one can undo what I have done.”    (Isaiah 43:10-13)

Do you hear how safe you are with Him? How unlike any other He is? How nothing surprises Him? Do you hear the love in His voice when He talks about rescuing us and saving us and how He chooses us?

Completely loving. All-powerful. There is no safer combination.

 

So despite the unknowns in our lives — where will I be this year, what will I do, who will come in or out of my life — we can rest. He’s good, and He’s got 2017 in His pocket.

New is not scary if He’s in it.

I can securely unclench my fist and simply ask, “God, what do YOU want me to do in 2017?”

And when you ask that question, you know it will be a good year.