Faith

Faith, Photography

Following God When It Doesn’t Make Sense

It doesn’t make sense to be an artist.

Exchanging a high-paying corporate job for camera gear and an altruistic assignment doesn’t sound wise, but I’ve known many who have done exactly that.

Moving across the country with no job, not much money, and three kids sounds irresponsible, but it was clear that’s exactly what we were supposed to do.

What if what God is telling you to do makes no sense, could financially ruin you, and seems to go against common wisdom?

Here’s what you do: You pray, you trust, and you go.

Here is what you don’t do: Doubt.

I’ve been thinking a lot about trust versus doubt lately. I used to think that considering doubts, worries and fear would make me more prepared for when the inevitable fall would happen, whatever that may be. It was as if it was part of doing due diligence; fully researching the pros and cons of each idea before I act.

Here’s what it looks like:

God puts a new idea in my head. It grows in my heart. I get excited, and start to think and dream into it even more, and imagine life in a new way…and then HARD STOP…I consider the doubts. I list the “What ifs”:

  • What if I fail?
  • What if this is harder than I think it will be?
  • What if this turns out to be a REALLY BAD idea?
  • What will people think of me? I mean it’s a crazy idea…
  • Am I crazy?
  • The list goes on…

I’m realizing that this train of thought does nothing to prepare me for failure OR the future. Instead, it quickly paves the way towards despair and giving up. It leads to complacency and a feeling of numbness…which makes me ask:

  • What if the cost of NOT following God is distancing yourself from His plans, His voice and your true purpose?
  • What if staying safely in the known entities of your life leaves you very comfortable, but increasingly dead in your heart?
  • What if there is something new, right around the corner, if only you let go of the voices of doubt that echo in your brain?
  • And who exactly owns those voices, anyway? Who are the people who speak light and hope into your life, versus doubt and fear? Notice the contrast, and what that does to your heart, your relationships and your inner thoughts. Choose who you open your heart to.
  • And perhaps most importantly: What if doubt is a form of disobedience; a way to delay doing what I know I need to do? What blessings are my family and I missing out on, because I’m following my own wisdom instead of God’s leading?

The Bible is full of people who initially doubted or resisted God’s call on their lives (Moses, Jonah, Gideon), as well as those who didn’t (Noah, Mary). I want to be like the ones who acted on faith, knowing that the One who called them would be the One who would work each detail out for our good.

What about you? Where do you feel the pull of doubt versus trust in your life? Do you feel God leading you in a new direction, but are afraid to take the next step? Or, do you feel God’s peace in your current situation, and instead of resting in that contentment, do you let doubt say you should be doing something else?

Let’s notice the voice of doubt versus truth, and choose to listen to truth. Let’s follow peace instead of fear. Let’s allow God to write our steps, and follow his still small voice as one day unfolds into another. Because the safest, most secure place we can possibly be is within God’s good and perfect will. That’s where you will find peace in your heart, no matter how crazy it may look to the rest of the world.

Matthew 21:21 – And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen.”

Faith, Joy

Leading Boldly In Overwhelming Circumstances

Leading Boldly in overwhelming circumstances I long for a good leader. 

I desperately want to find someone in charge who I can trust; a channel where the news reports just the objective facts, untainted by the political leanings of a news organization.

I want a hero, and selfless acts to celebrate.I want someone to stop the madness that is 2020.

In the midst of this chaos, I find myself reading my Bible more often than usual. Since the Corona virus started, my church has offered a weekly “Battle Plan” against the virus and the unrest in our world, which involves daily prayers and reading various books of the Bible. That week we were in the book of Acts, and as I read Acts 27, I found the leader I was seeking.

He spoke like he was in charge. He gave advice as if they might actually listen. He rebuked them with wisdom when they made dangerous decisions. He wasn’t the boss, or the captain of the ship, or even one of the guards. He was a prisoner: Paul.

Paul was imprisoned on a ship that had set sail, despite warnings, and became caught in the midst of a horrible storm. Before long, the crew was fearing for their lives, trying every possible solution to gain control, only to find themselves starving, with a ship on the verge of utter destruction, and no respite in sight.

Acts 27:20 says, “When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.”

That’s when Paul spoke up, not caring that he was just a prisoner, and unafraid of the consequences. He offered this encouragement he heard from an angel of God:

But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Acts 27:22-25

Paul’s continual guidance served as a single beacon of light on that ill fated boat trip, and voicing this hope boldly kept every single person alive. His words and undeniable leadership kept them going until they were all safely on land.

What if Paul had looked at the circumstances and said, “You’re right. This is hopeless. Let’s all just curl up and cry. On second thought, let’s just all jump overboard…why extend the misery?”

If the only thing Paul relied on was what he could see and perceive with his physical senses, an entire ship full of people would have died.

Paul was deeply in tune with God’s voice, and the Holy Spirit’s leading. That night on the boat, God showed him truth, and gave him hope, despite the circumstances…and his faith led others to have faith, giving them the will to press on.

My friends, isn’t it hard to press on right now?

As if the thousands of details of life aren’t complicated enough, throwing a global pandemic into the mix has led even strong people to a place of mental, physical and spiritual exhaustion.

And the fear…fear of illness; fear of family members becoming ill; fear of being quarantined; fear of losing a job; fear of school being cancelled; fear of school being open…It’s alarming how quickly fear breeds more fear.

But in my long struggle against anxiety, I’ve also learned that gratitude breeds more gratitude. The more you practice gratitude, the more your mind is drawn towards peaceful thoughts, instead of despair.

Being thankful for health; thankful for good doctors; thankful for people who put their lives on the line to save ours; thankful for teachers; thankful for food; thankful for a home that is cool on a hot, humid, southern night; thankful for a cat who likes to sit on my lap; thankful for a can of cherry seltzer…thankfulness in the little things helps push despair away, so you can hear that still small voice of peace and hope.

Just as fear and despair and worry is contagious, so is gratitude and peace.

Which will you choose?

Where will you put your hope?

How will you lead the people on your boat?

Read the full story to see Paul’s remarkable leadership in the midst of adversity: Acts 27

California Life, Faith, Living In Tennessee, Married Life

Pursuing Peace & Joy Inexpressible

I cannot count how many times I have settled down with my journal to pour out my frustrations and dashed dreams, and within a span of a few pages, find my writing shift into something like praise. It’s not because I’m holy or somehow divinely inspired. It’s because God shows up, time and time again, and speaks truth to my heart as I write. I recognize God’s voice by the sense of peace that comes along with it. It’s the sense that I am moving towards joy.

It was October 8, 2016 and our small business was slowly failing. The pressure of constantly meeting payroll, and rent for four commercial spaces, and the $10,000 metal print supply order that we had to place nearly every month, felt increasingly oppressive. I was homeschooling my two children and had a toddler. We were also residential landlords and land owners. The responsibilities were overwhelming.

A babysitter was coming so Rich and I could celebrate our wedding anniversary a day late. Neither of us felt like celebrating, but knew we should. We had limited funds, and decided on our favorite cheap date: a day in Yosemite Valley. We’d have the drive up to Yosemite and back to talk, and in between the drives we knew we could find someplace beautiful to wander.

That morning, I sat on the porch swing on our front porch with my Bible and told God I was sick of the stress of the business. I missed my sisters and extended family. I was tired of not having a church where our kids could learn and grow. I was exhausted from homeschooling, and the idea of continuing into high school felt overwhelming. I prayed an, “I’m at the end of myself, save us now!” kind of prayer…and then got ready to go to Yosemite.

We were exhausted and stressed driving up towards the valley, and as always, our conversation turned towards our business. Rich had ideas on how to downsize and streamline our services. We sat eating sandwiches, somewhat numb to the beautiful vista, and thought up new business plans.

We kept driving, and parked near El Capitan meadow. We walked east, and found ourselves in a part of the meadow where we’d never been, though we’d been walking in that area for 18 years. Suddenly Rich looked at me and said, “I think we’re supposed to sell our house. I think we need to sell our house and move back to our little blue house.”

I agreed. The cost of having a larger home was draining our pocketbook, and it seemed wise to downsize our living expenses so we could shore up our savings.

He continued, “We need to downsize because I think something big is about to happen.” 

My heartbeat picked up in excitement, and I felt like he was speaking truth I already knew, but hadn’t verbalized yet. “I agree!”

“I think God is going to move us. I think he’s going to move us to a city of some sort.”

I nodded, my spirit perking up like a dry plant drinking in fresh rain, as these words poured out of Rich’s mouth and into my ears.

“Suse, I think he’s going to move us to Nashville.”

Nashville? Rich had never been to Nashville. 

“I don’t know about Nashville, but I agree…I think God is about to do something. It’s like we’re on the cusp of a big change.”

October 8, 2016, the night we learned we were moving to Nashville. A candlelit dinner with a view of a pickup truck in the window sets the scene in Mariposa, California.

And just like that, the weight of the business; the worry; the angst that had plagued us for months lifted as God gave us a new vision, and a new dream. We spent the rest of the night feeling giddy and in love with each other, and with life. We had an amazing dinner at a little restaurant in a neighboring small town, wondering at what the future held, and for the first time in a long time, we felt a sense of freedom.

“And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” 1 Peter 1:7

It’s the rush of  inexpressible joy that keeps me coming back to Jesus, time and time again. That’s what we felt that day in Yosemite. 

And the time when we drove home after Rich’s cancer diagnosis, and stopped the car to look at the thousands of stars in the dark mountain sky and suddenly felt full of joy and peace, even though Rich was so sick and the prognosis wasn’t good.

And when our son was in the NICU after being intubated because he stopped breathing for unknown reasons, and Rich came into the hospital room with his face beaming because God had inexpressibly spoken to His heart and given him sudden peace and joy while sitting in the hospital courtyard.

Though I’ve experienced God’s peace in these trying times, one of my favorite places to find God’s joy is in the mundane moments. It’s so unexpected, and such evidence of His constant presence. I recently took walk by myself around our neighborhood. It was twilight and the sun had set. Bunnies were out collecting bites of flowers, and the robins were twittering. I began thinking about my friends far away. I was missing their faces, and praying for them, and my mood shifted from melancholy to being suddenly full of joy…joy inexpressible, as I walked in the middle of a typical suburban subdivision in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

These circumstances; this inexpressible and unexpected peace and joy, is living proof that God is present in all situations. He is constantly working good on our behalf, even when the circumstances are hard. Hard times cause us to lean on Him more fully, and to be more aware of Him and His voice…which refines us. The truth is that sometimes, to be rebuilt, things need to be torn down. Businesses close. Marriages fail. Relationships sever. But God is not done. He is still writing our stories.

“So that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable even though tested by fire; may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:6’

I’m 3.5 years past that prayer on my porch swing. We never moved back into our little blue house, but God did move us to Nashville, where I have a fulfilling job working at a ministry. My kids are in excellent public schools. We found a church that has stretched us and grown us, with the teaching perfectly coming alongside us as we began to rebuild our lives. Rich is pursuing his dreams in new ways that are inspiring both of us. It’s a good new life.

Are things perfect? No. There is a lot that is hard about this time. It’s possible to see blessings as curses sometimes…which leads me back to my journal, so He can transform the feelings in my heart into joy inexpressible, once again.

 

Faith, More Posts

Waiting for Easter and normal life to return…

I can’t imagine how disillusioned and disappointed they felt. In one day, their hopes, dreams and plans vanished, as they stared at Jesus, dead on a cross. The one they had given their lives, and their livelihoods, to follow: Dead.

In 2020, we have the benefit of knowing that the story doesn’t end with Jesus dying on the cross. That on Easter Sunday, He miraculously rose from the dead. But his disciples, friends and family didn’t know the full story during the long hours that spanned from Jesus’s death until they found His tomb empty on Easter Sunday morning.

And here, as we sit in the isolation of COVID-19, we are in a season of unsettled waiting, as well. Many are in despair. We bounce amongst the walls of our homes, and wait. We go for a walk, and wait. Those of you who are essential workers are working, working, and working and waiting for a chance to stop and rest.

We don’t know what is to come. We don’t know what is next. We don’t know if our very lives may be lost; or our livelihoods; or maybe both.

But God does.

Who would have imagined a virus could spread across the world and shut down nations, economies and everything within? That the entire modern world would be isolated in their homes, afraid to interact, and terrified of catching an invisible illness?

God works quickly, decisively, and resolutely sometimes. And often, ironically, those periods coincide with a season of waiting for what’s next. Like this season of waiting.

Here are some things to ponder, during this odd and unlikely time:

– What have you written off as being dead, that is actually in the process of being brought to life (or resurrected) in a new way?

– What areas have you let fall to the wayside in the busyness of your normal life?

– What things are you desperately missing (Church, Starbucks, chicken wings, your kids going to school, the novelty of a schedule) that you took for granted?

– Who are you missing that you cannot see right now, even if you wanted to?

I think this season of waiting is making me immensely more informed of the many blessings of my normal daily routine. Don’t you?

As for me, I’m living out this COVID-19 pandemic one hour a time. Some hours I feel like it’s the best thing, having more downtime with my family. Other hours, I feel I am on 2020’s hit list.

Today, however, one thing is very clear: COVID-19 didn’t stop Easter weekend from arriving; a weekend when we are reminded of God’s power. He brought Jesus back to life, and He will do the same thing for us, our circumstances, and our lives.

Our faith can be made stronger, or fall apart, during times like these. Let’s help each other stand strong, look up, and wait patiently.

It really is a matter of time until the miracle of a daily routine will be given back to us. Let’s be ready to embrace it with a new perspective, fresh gratefulness, and a full awareness of the blessing that comes from living “normal life”.

Faith

Renewing My View of Hope

I’ve been afraid to hope. I feel like my adult life has been full of so many overwhelming challenges, unexpected turns, and blows to my hopes that it has put me in a place where I am afraid to extend that fragile vine of light.

It’s not that I’ve been hope-less. There is a difference between being afraid to hope and having no hope.

Being hopeless looks like in-the-pit despair; feeling like there is no path forward; being at the end of yourself with no energy, gumption or will to move on.

Being afraid to hope feels more like disappointment; not wanting to take chances; being afraid of outcomes; and an inability to fully take hold of whatever is in front of me, because it may all fall apart anyway.

When I’m honest, my fear of hoping comes from not trusting God, and wanting life to go MY way, instead of HIS way.

If I put my hope in people, or outcomes, or the acquisition of things, then I will be disappointed. 

I hope to take a trip to Florida; I hope my husband takes me out to dinner AND has the kids fed before I get home; I hope this new plan I’m putting together brings in income; I hope work is easy today…

If I put my hope in God, and trust that His plan is better than mine, my hopes are rewritten in a new way:

I trust that God loves my kids even more than I do. I trust that He will use each experience to hone them, and form them…the good and the bad…just as He has done for me. I trust God loves my family, and has good plans for us, and will lead us in ways to come alongside each other, exactly as we need to each day. I trust that God has a plan, so I will do my work diligently. I trust him to provide exactly what we need.

My fear of hoping also comes from disappointment in the times that I hoped for things that did not come to pass.

I hoped for our small business to not go out of business, but it did.

I hoped for my children to be born healthy, but one spent three weeks in the NICU and then has had to endure many surgeries throughout his childhood.

I hoped for relationships to be restored, only to have them continue to be bitterly broken.

I hoped to be a writer with my books covering an entire shelf in the library…but God has had other plans, so far…

Why am I so quick to list my dashed hopes, instead of hopes that were fulfilled? Afterall, the Bible says “we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4

The truth is that there have been many, many times my hopes had great outcomes:

I hoped for a new piece of equipment for our business, and it came to pass, allowing us to continue to employ our staff for many more years.

I hoped for my husband to be cured from his Stage 3 testicular cancer, and he was healed and made whole again, even after being so very sick.

I hoped for three children, and, despite many odds, I now have three beautiful, healthy children…even though the doctors said we wouldn’t have a third, after my husband’s cancer diagnosis.

I hoped for a way out of running our all-consuming  business, and to pursue ministry work…and God led me out of our business, and into my current job at a ministry.

But what is amazing about both the hopes that came to pass, and those that didn’t, is that they all grew me, refined me, and made me lean on God in an entirely new way. So, when the things I am hoping for now, don’t seem to be going my way, I need to trust that God is working me towards something better.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jer 29:11

Now I’m working on aligning my hopes with God’s plan for me. I’m asking if the things I’m putting my hope in are things that will pass away, or if it’s in something deeper and more meaningful.

What does life look like if our hopes aren’t in things or people? What if we have hopes like these:

I hope to live my life in a way that is consistent and kind.

I hope to be a light to the people around me, and encourage them as they walk out the tough stuff of life.

I hope to let go of the things the world says I should be (or my kids should be, or my husband should be), and really see them and love them for who they ARE; for who God made them to be.

Learning to put our hope in God means valuing what God values, over what the world values. It means aligning ourselves with His plans, instead of our own plans. It means realizing that the outcome isn’t about more money or a bigger house, or a newer car, but about what He’s doing in our lives to grow us closer to Him, and closer to each other.

Afterall, where God is growing a heart, hope abounds.

Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Psalm 25:5

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people. Ephesians 1:18

 

Faith, Joy, Work

Reality Check: I am, indeed, a work horse

Most days, I feel like a work horse.

My life is full of obligations that live on repeat.

At home there is the never-ending cycle of laundry, cooking and cleaning, school drop-offs, shaken up with a doctors appointment every now and again. At work, it’s bookkeeping, reconciling checkbooks, onboarding and offboarding employees, and all of the details in between. Some days, it feels like I continually pour myself out, only to be left completely empty at the end of the day…and then I need to wake up and do it all again the next day.

On one such day recently, I was driving to work, feeling tired and like my recent Christmas break was full of more work than rest. I was thinking about years and seasons past…times I’d spent cross country skiing through fresh Sierra snow, instead of driving on busy highways; living in a house with a view of mountains, instead of hundreds of vinyl-sided houses. I was feeling melancholy and nostalgic…an exhausting combination to start out a busy day.

Then on my Daily Audio Bible podcast, I heard the following scripture:

Psalm 32:8-10 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him.

I instantly thought of how different the life of a work horses is from the well-kept horses I see in the barns scattered throughout the Tennessee countryside. 

The work horses have a daily objective and purpose. In the mountains, they carried heavy loads of  food and provisions to hikers and the high country camps. In the Grand Canyon, each day they carry tourists down the 5000 foot descent to the Colorado River; and then the next day turn around and carry the tourists back up.

The horses kept for pleasure have a different life…one that is far more focused on their wants and likes, than that of a work horse. 

I realized that what I most wanted in life, at that exact moment, was to be a kept horse, in a nice stable with acres of grass to graze at my leisure.

Instead, that day as I drove to work, I came to the undeniable realization that my current lot in life is to be a work horse. I am a hard worker who is diligent and thorough. I’m faithful and trustworthy and consistent. Just like so many of you who are reading this.

But, as the scripture references, I also tend to be a horse that needs to be controlled by bit and bridle. For the past four years, I’ve been engaged in a spirited battle of MY will for my life, versus GOD’S will. 

My will looks like mountain streams, and beautiful views and long walks along the Tuolumne River with my husband. God’s will currently looks like a 40-minute commute, wrangling with Quickbooks, and time away from my family…but it also includes helping to make a fantastic ministry even better, using my talents in new and interesting ways, and being part of a team who is engaged in actively serving and helping people in our community. 

Living out God’s will for my life requires faithful hard work and a dozen daily decisions to set aside my own ideas for my life, to fully embrace His. Because God has different plans, and they are always better than whatever I could imagine.

 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. 

God saw a ministry in Franklin, Tennessee, that somehow needed exactly what I’d learned while running our small business. God saw schools where our kids could thrive, and a church that would make us come alive in ways we never imagined. Each step of the way, God has revealed His will for my life, and my family’s life. And He continues to do so. 

Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him.

Trusting God, and really believing that his intent is to bless me (and you) and to love me (and you) UNFAILINGLY, is what transforms daily work into an offering to Him. It makes it, not about my talents and effort, but about showing up, saying “Here I am,” and allowing Him to use my life that day, however He sees fit. 

 

Faith, Married Life, Mom Life, More Posts, Work

Excellence Matters: Embrace Your Calling

Home ownership came with a lot of life lessons, especially concerning our septic system. As a kid, I’d always grown up with the convenience of sewer lines…you flush the toilet, and it all disappears.

It turns out that septic systems require a bit more attention. Unfortunately, I didn’t discover this until four years into home ownership, when our septic lines started failing, leaking sewage into a nearby stream. It wasn’t good.

I don’t remember the name of the man who taught me how to take care of my septic system, but I remember one thing: He was passionate about them.

As he sat on the tailgate of his pickup truck, his dusty cowboy hat framing a nearly toothless mouth, he taught me that I had two septic lines, and I needed to manually switch them every few months. He taught me about things like bacteria and leach fields and sledge layers, and what happens when the sledge layer makes it into the leach fields (it’s not good).

I sat there, soaking in this new knowledge as if I were learning the most riveting subject matter, and walked away understanding how to take care of the intricacies of this system that I had purchased with my house, but had formerly known nothing about. Even better, he fixed our septic system.

Four years before that, I sat signing my mortgage papers with my friend, Terri. Terri is a fellow mom, with kids near the age of mine. We spent years in our Bunco group sharing the details of our lives. But seeing Terri in action in her job was inspiring to me.

At the time, she was a mortgage broker, and over the course of an hour, she distilled 30+ pages of contracts into easy-to-understand nuggets. She reviewed each page with a critical eye, showed us where to sign, and explained the subtle nuances of the fine print. That day, I gained a new appreciation for the gifts my friend brought to her job…and was again, amazed at what a well-embraced calling looked like in action.

I can think of countless times I’ve been amazed, watching a person’s gifts at work:

  • The surgeon who mended my son’s cleft lip into a complete smile.
  • The nurses who expertly guided chemo into my husband’s body, and watched over him with an experienced eye.
  • The photographer who decided sandhill cranes were something worth preserving, celebrating and documenting…so he spent a chunk of his life doing just that.
  • Another photographer who gave his time, talents and money to the Raw Sea, helping preserve the last untouched ocean on our planet, allowing scientists a space to study and learn, so they can help the areas of our planet that are anything but untouched.
  • The barista at the coffee shop who made a pretty picture in the milky foam during a particularly trying day.
  • The mom of four kids who somehow managed to keep a calm, steady voice, though her kids were running circles around her…

Excellence matters.

Deciding to be a master at your trade blesses people and our world.

I’ve seen so many people coast through life, giving a half hearted effort as they punch a time clock. What if we embraced our lives; our jobs; our roles in life; as more than a means of making money? What if we saw it as EXACTLY where God wanted us to be, at this point in time, for a unique purpose? What if we saw it as a divine appointment to make the world better, or to simply make someone’s day a bit better?

The longer I live, the more I’m realizing that embracing my callings, for all they are worth, is the one single thing I can do to improve our world. Because no one else has my unique background, skills or desires.

And no one else has yours.

Today, I challenge you to embrace your calling, wherever you are at this exact moment of your life, and use it to bless the world — whether it’s as a mortgage broker; or repairing septic systems; or protecting a corner of our planet; or a person or animal in need; or momming your kids; or making a good cup of coffee for the tired person in front of you.

If we do our life’s work with our whole hearts, it will make the world a different place around us — and beyond us, as we inspire others to do the same.

Colossians 3:23
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.”

Faith

Since Cars Don’t Fly…Learn To Be Patient…

At the top of Glacier Point Road, I gazed down at Yosemite Valley, 2,000 feet directly below and thought, “Gosh, if my car could just fly, I’d be down there in 30 seconds.” Instead, it took 1.25 hours to navigate the mountain roads down to Yosemite Valley, behind a long line of tourist traffic.

Similarly, on my morning commute, I slowed my car down to a painful 25 miles per hour to exit the highway, thinking, “if my car could just jump off the bridge, I wouldn’t be so bored, with all of this slowing down nonsense…” But I drove the clover leaf, turned on my left turn signal, and waited to turn onto the road below.

I am always looking for a shortcut; for an easier path; for something that takes less time. But I’m also not stupid. I know that my car can’t fly, and driving off a highway overpass may get me to the ground beneath quickly, but not in one piece…

So I slow down…and I do what I’m supposed to do. I do what’s wise, and calculated, and prudent, but gosh…sometimes, it’s just so boring!

Driving roads like this reminds me of how I look for shortcuts in other areas of my life. I get bored of the waiting, and the doing, and the praying, and JUST WANT TO MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN.

So, I do something drastic…like the time I cut my hair super short in college, because I didn’t want to look so young; or the time I decided to repaint my living room at 9PM at night because the white walls were making me that nuts…

Or I lash out, becoming suddenly irritated and bitter over things that don’t normally make me flinch.

Or I quit…because I’m just so tired of trying, and waiting, and trying, and waiting, and trying, and waiting, again…

In those times, it’s so hard to stay the course. To do the next good thing. To persevere…Because I just want to be off the stinking road, and at the final destination…

Yes, I know “the joy is in the journey,” but for Pete’s sake, can’t the journey include a side trip to Hawaii, or at least a Mai Tai on the house, every once in awhile?

But here’s the reality: If you don’t navigate the roads in Yosemite carefully, you’ll end up driving over a 1,500 foot cliff. If you don’t slow down on the highway exit, you’ll cause a 20-car pile up, and do much more than ruin the morning commute.

And if you take short cuts in life, because you’re tired or bored or lazy…it often leads to disaster.

So, despite myself, I’m learning to cultivate this thing called patience. As I told my 5-year-old son, patience is a super power. Having peace in the waiting is 99% of the battle, isn’t it?

As you wait for the diagnosis…

As you wait to see if the offer on your house was accepted…

As you wait to see if the business idea will succeed or fail…

As you wait to see if the college will accept you..

What if, instead of worrying and feeling like life was out of control, you rested?

What if, instead of planning and strategizing and thinking, you trusted?

What if you believed that waiting is not only okay, but is an essential part of the process?

What if you expected to wait?

As we learn to wait, God shows His peace and His plan, in an entirely new way…in His own good time.

Psalm 27:14 Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.

 

Faith, Living In Tennessee, Mom Life, Work

A New Plan: Be Hope

“Where do you work?”

This simple question has a way of turning into a serious discussion, when you work for a nonprofit organization.

“I work for an organization that fights the sex trade in Cambodia,” the woman said to me.

Just like that, the small talk was over, because how do you say something trite like, “How interesting!” when you realize that someone is taking their very best talents and applying it to helping…truly helping…helpless people?

She told me American businessmen go to Cambodia to have sex with children. When the founder of her organization first went to Cambodia, a little boy ran up to the plane and tried to sell his sister for sex.

“The couple who founded the organization…they came back to America and knew they had to try to do SOMETHING, so she started our organization,” she told me in a calm, even voice. I could tell she had this conversation all of the time. That the story no longer shocked her because fighting the horrid reality was a part of her daily life.

A man joined our small circle, and I asked, “How about you? Where do you work?

“I work for a nonprofit that provides beds to orphans in Uganda.”

Orphans in Uganda.

I found my vocabulary to be limited, and my ability to share stories to be non-existent. So I just listened, and asked questions, and felt somehow like I had stepped onto foreign, holy ground…ground Christened with the time and talents of people who gave up pursuing monetary riches, for pursuing something profoundly deeper.

I didn’t expect this.

As far as I knew, my afternoon was going to be spent attending an HR conference on harassment, and how to protect your organization. It sounded like a dry meeting, and I was more excited about the Starbucks latte I bought on the way than attending the actual class.

I learned a few things from the class, but what I learned most came from listening to the other participants. Within the first five minutes, I felt something change in my heart…and as I walked out of the church where the meeting took place, I knew something had fundamentally shifted in my life focus.

For twenty years, I spent my time and talents growing a business. I was aggressively pursuing and living the dream my husband and I had set out to achieve…working for ourselves; traveling; having a solid income to provide for our family; being able to afford a house, a business and all of the things that go with it. We had built a life that provided us with a huge amount of control over our family and our time.

When that life faded away, I was left wondering what God’s next plan was for us; for me; for our children.

That day at the HR conference, I felt the solid confirmation that I was meant to be working in a Christian nonprofit. That God had put me in the exact place, for His exact purpose, in this exact time for a reason. I felt profoundly grateful to have a job where I am paid to help carry out His plans and His blessings for our community. Instead of investing my time and talents in growing riches, I want to lavishly invest it in helping people who cannot help themselves. I want to be hope, and light and an answer to someone’s prayer.

This road is not easy.

I don’t have control over my family the way I did before…which means I am learning how to trust God; that He loves my children even more than I do, and He has a unique plan for each of them, that is NOT ALL ABOUT ME, and my dreams for them…

As I drive to work each day in NASCAR traffic; or walk across the parking lot at work and look at the large storage silos of the concrete company across the street, I wonder HOW THE HECK DID I GET TO NASHVILLE, and WHY AM I HERE? I miss the mountains, the dramatic beauty and MY FRIENDS!

I always envisioned myself being at home with my kids while they were growing up…I honestly didn’t expect this plot twist, half way through parenthood…

But I also didn’t expect that half way through my life, my eyes would be opened to the world’s great need in such a dramatic and undeniable way. I feel like I have only seen the smallest glimpse of the amount of true need in this world, and it leaves me breathless. Truly, the harvest is great, but the workers are few.

Matthew 9:37-38 “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”

My plan is to be one of those workers, wherever God sends me.

 

Faith, Joy, Mom Life

Sowing and Collecting Seeds of Hope

I sprained my ankle in Memphis, which meant my life in Tennessee began with a large black boot on my left foot.

As I hobbled around our house, trying to unpack, I lifted a box of bubble wrapped dinner plates from a box, and was suddenly struck by a searing pain in my lower back that felt like I was being stabbed by a knife. The horrible, guttural scream that erupted from my body brought my family running to my side, one grabbing the stack of plates from my hands, the others trying to move me to the couch.

I spent the next two weeks unable to bend from the waist, down, and resigned myself to weeks of living surrounded by boxes and having my children be my hands and feet.

2017 contained so many truly challenging days.

But then there were the seeds of hope.

Like the checker at Walmart.

With my back out and my black boot on, my family and I navigated the local Walmart to buy groceries for our empty kitchen cupboards. It was the first big shop after our move…the kind where every condiment and spice needs to be purchased. As we stood in line, I suddenly found I just couldn’t stand anymore. I hobbled over to a bench and collapsed down, and I must’ve looked very miserable.

As Rich checked out, he began chatting with the cashier. She told him she moved to Murfreesboro from Australia…that God had randomly given her and her husband a vision of a church in Middle Tennessee. So, they left their comfortable, well-established life, and moved across the world. Within days, they found the church they had envisioned, and were settling into this new calling, and this new life, in Middle Tennessee.

She was working as a checker at Walmart, and said she felt like she was working exactly where God wanted her to be, because it gave her the chance to see so many people.

She looked over at me, and asked Rich, “What’s wrong with your wife?”

He explained that my back had gone out. She looked at her line of waiting customers, looked at me, then said, “I will probably get in trouble for this, but I can’t see a sister in so much pain and not pray for her.”

So, she prayed for me…and though the pain didn’t leave, I suddenly felt so much less alone. I felt seen, and as if someone actually cared.

When does something like that EVER happen at a Walmart?

When I think about it, my life has been speckled with those types of incidents…those seeds of encouragement that got me through.

Like the guy at Dollar Rent A Car who gave Rich and I a ride to a hotel the night our car broke down…he had moved to San Jose from Chicago, and was a Cambodian refugee. His family was brought over from Cambodia in the 1970s, and a church sponsored them, paying their rent, teaching them American customs, and helping them learn a new way of life in a new country. He said he wasn’t really into religion, but he always looked for ways to help people, because of that church, and what they did for his family. He drove us, perfect strangers, from the air terminal to our hotel a few miles away, in his personal car, at the end of his shift. When does that ever happen at an international airport?

On a Proverbs 31 podcast, Founder Lisa Terkheurst talked about her husband, who vowed one Christmas to do something each day to help or encourage someone mentally, physically or emotionally.

I loved that vow because if you do that every day, it means that 365 people will be blessed by the end of a year. That’s 365 people walking around, feeling seen, and valued and loved.

That’s what the Walmart checker did…and the guy from Dollar Car Rental…and many, many more friends and family who have served as little points of light and hope during the many seasons of my life.

There is power in one person’s encouragement.

Sometimes a smile, a prayer, a car ride, or someone who offers to sit with your kids while you order your Chick Fil A…is the little seed of hope you need to get you through.

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