Joy

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

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. 

 

Joy, More Posts

The Legend of the Yosemite Snow Banner

It was my first time in the Ahwahnee bar, that cold March night in quiet Yosemite Valley. We were lucky enough to know locals on that first visit, and they wisely advised us that an inexpensive way to enjoy the historic Ahwahnee Hotel was to linger over a nice cocktail. 

It was warm and dark in the bar, with a motif of dark wood and what I remember to be deep red curtains lining the floor-to-ceiling windows and back wall. It had the aura of a place that had hosted many conversations; many deep thoughts; and many bodies tired from a day of exploring and ready for a bit of rest. It felt like old friends and relaxation.

The cocktail menu featured warm drinks that my young self had never imagined. Hot cocoa and coffee drinks mixed with rums, liqueurs and splashed with whipped cream. After much studying, I settled on a Snow Banner: A hot chocolate drink with Irish cream, cherry liqueur and a generous dollop of whipped cream. The server brought it to our table in tall glass mugs. I immediately cupped my hands around it, lacing my fingers through the handle and felt the warmth seep into my cold fingers. I lifted it to my lips and tasted the sweetness of the cocoa; the bite of the whiskey and the delicate whip of the cream. It tasted to me like heaven itself, and it was torturous trying to make that single drink last…I wanted more from that very first sip, and I never wanted it to end.

Years went by, and the Snow Banner lived in my memory as the best winter drink that had ever crossed my lips. Each year, I went to the Ahwahnee, hopefully looking at their hot drink menu, but I never saw the Snow Banner again…

Until the year we took our staff to Yosemite for a Christmas party. 

Our small business was overwhelmingly busy before Christmas, and in January we’d have a party to thank everyone for their hard work, service and care. One year, we decided to take our staff members and their spouses ice skating in Yosemite, followed by drinks at the Ahwahnee. Though our business was located right outside Yosemite National Park, several staff members had never been ice skating at the Curry Village rink, with views of Half Dome, and none had experienced a hot winter drink at the Ahwahnee Bar (and we weren’t rich enough to take everyone to the Ahwahnee dining room for dinner).

As we settled in around a large table, we perused the menu, and I reminisced about the Snow Banner…how there had never been another drink like it; how its flavor captured all that was magical about my first trip to Yosemite, and like all first times, could never quite be repeated.

A waiter took our orders, and I began to tell him about the drink. He got an inquisitive look, and said, “Just a minute.”

A few minutes later, he emerged from the depths of the hotel with an Ahwahnee Bar menu from 1993. The edges had been nibbled by mice, and he informed me that he kept a filing cabinet of old menus, and the mice sometimes got into it.

As I looked at the menu, midway down the page, I saw the Snow Banner. I stared at the ingredients, feeling vindicated that this drink that I had never again seen on the Ahwahnee Bar menu, actually existed. It wasn’t a made-up fantasy.

The waiter looked satisfied, too…as someone who had worked at the Ahwahnee for decades, you could tell he was excited his memory was able to take my story, and stitch it back into reality.

Of course I ordered a Snow Banner that night. As I sipped it, looking at the faces of our staff members, it tasted different, but still amazing. 

It’s true that you can’t repeat first times, but sometimes reliving legendary memories during a new chapter of life makes it even sweeter. I felt like I had completed a circle. I was no longer a college student, engaged to my fiance, and visiting Yosemite for the first time. I was 15 years older, a boss, a mother and a wife, living the life of my dreams as we grew our home and our business just outside of Yosemite. 

That night at the Ahwahnee, with the mouse-chewed menu and the Snow Banner in my hands provided a new memory…the kind where, for just a few moments, you fully realize the full measure of your blessings, and it fills you with fresh thanks and awe.

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.

Faith, Joy, More Posts, Work

Changing The Landscape Of My Dreams

Life started out with great, big dreams…

When I was a teenager, I dreamt of being an anchor person for the Today Show. A small-town girl, I longed to live in New York City: a place full of nightlife, action and the endless possibility of being “discovered” and made instantly famous.

That dream came to a halt my freshman year in college when I worked at my college TV station. I found myself surrounded by cranky, stressed-out people who agonized to produce a newscast every night at six, only to have to do it again, and again, and again…a never ending production cycle that clearly left my colleagues burned out and bitter. That didn’t look like a fun life.

I switched my dreams from anchoring the Today show to editing one of the major lifestyle magazines I’d read on my childhood coffee table…maybe Women’s Day, or Family Circle, or Good Housekeeping, or Seventeen. That idea led me through the rest of college, and to a summer internship in New York City, where I found myself living my dream: I was in a big city; pursing something I thought would fulfill me; living a life beyond the confines of my small town…and I was shocked to discover, I was horribly, awfully lonely.

I was surrounded by a city of over 8 million people, and I knew no one; my summer roommates had exceptionally bad moral standards; and instead of feeling like I was constantly on the edge of being “discovered” I felt entirely unimportant, unvalued and unseen. Virtually no one made eye contact with me without a dirty look, for an entire summer. That wasn’t a fun life.

So I threw away those dreams, and embraced a new one…

With TV anchoring, living in New York, and working on a major magazine off the list…I decided to pursue quieter things like wilderness and exploration. I aligned my hopes and dreams with those of my boyfriend (now husband) who dreamt of exploring the Great American West.

We found ourselves living in Yosemite Valley for a summer that amazingly extended into three years…and then spent 19 more years in a town just outside the National Park. We owned a business, worked on our own terms (often odd hours, and really, all of the time), and again…we were living our dream.

Our company printed hundreds of thousands of prints and exhibitions for some of the best photographers of our time. Our prints were distributed in The White House, hung in The Smithsonian and many state capitals, and were regarded as being amongst the best in the world. It was a lifestyle that left us, and our staff, stretched thin. It was invigorating and exciting, and increasingly exhausting. In the end, it left us realizing that somehow the fun life we’d pursued had changed into something unrecognizable. We had to let go.

When your dreams fall apart, or aren’t what you imagined…It’s hard to let go.

When the relationships you imagined, turn out to be something altogether different than your heart’s desire…it’s hard to know how to continue.

When you imagine your life going a certain way, by a certain time, and you look up and are living the exact opposite life you envisioned…it’s hard not to despair.

It either makes you give up on dreaming, or it makes you change your idea of dreams.

And that’s what I’ve been working on, these past few years: Changing my concept of dreams. I found myself pondering things like:

What if life is a series of dreams, instead of one great, big, make-it-or-break-it dream?

What if we allow those dreams to be simple steps forward in a hopeful direction?

What if, instead of putting all of our hopes and dreams in the end result, we embrace each hope and inspiration, one at a time and treasure it like that first morning cup of coffee, cradled warmly in our hand?

Can we allow the destination to be something beyond our control?

Can we allow the dream to change along the way, without stamping “failure” on the experience when it doesn’t lead where we hoped it would?

What if my dreams weren’t about my own ambitions, but were focused on who I wanted to be, in my heart…how I wanted to live, in my attitude…how I showed love, in my actions?

What if dreams weren’t anchored in the hallmarks of success…fame, and money, and a big house with a new car…but in being encouragement to other people; offering hope, and truth, and light in a world that is increasingly troubled?

What if I laid down my expectations for life, and other people, and just said…enough already. I’m not okay, you’re not okay…let’s just have some coffee and hang out and laugh in this insanity that is life?

What if I truly allowed God to change my dreams into His dreams for my life, one decision at a time, and decided to be okay with my life being rewritten into something new?

I’ll tell you a few things that happen, when you begin to dream into life this way:

– God begins to rewrite your life for the better. You find yourself doing things you never expected to do, helping people you never envisioned, and feeling surprisingly fulfilled.

– Relationships evolve, becoming richer and deeper as life moves to a more meaningful level.

– The million details of daily life become more profound, as you become more aware of all God is weaving together in your life, and in lives around you, even in the brokenness (and often because of the brokenness).

– Your spirit moves more freely; more peacefully and more hopefully as you anchor your idea of success to simply living each day as best as you can.

– You find yourself really, truly beginning to embrace the life you have, by intentionally filling it with the things that matter.

– You let go of the end-result, and allow the current of life to shift and change your dreams into something new, yet once again.

Phillipians 2:3-4
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Joy, Living In Tennessee

The Best Kind Of Inspiration? Fun!

After living in Yosemite National Park and the Sierra foothills for the past 20+ years, I’ve been spoiled by beautiful views and natural treasures. That’s why, when I recently took a walk around my neighborhood, I didn’t expect my subdivision with thousands of nearly identical houses to give me much joy. But it was a beautiful fall day, I wanted to be outside, and I didn’t feel like driving, so I ventured into my little piece of suburbia.

I didn’t find wildlife like turkeys or deer, but I found something else. I found people enjoying their lives on a Sunday afternoon; people so engaged in their pursuit of fun, that it left me a different type of contentment than I feel after walking in the wilderness.

There is something inspiring about watching a person immersed in whatever gives them joy. It doesn’t matter what it is: cooking a good meal; a dad playing with his child on a playground; a potter carefully carving intricate details on a cup; a photographer immersed in capturing autumn aspens…When someone is so lost in their fun, they forget about the world around them, it’s mesmerizing.

The first encounter on my walk came as a sound, not something I saw. It was the steady rumble of a skateboard, rolling down the middle of our busy street. I thought it must be a kid, and I glanced over my shoulder to make sure he wasn’t on the sidewalk, and that I wasn’t some kind of target.

His shirt was stripped off, his bare chest long and lanky, and his shirt was dangling from the back of his stretchy athletic shorts. His head was bald, he had wrinkles around his eyes, and he was riding that skateboard for all it was worth. I cracked a smile because THIS GUY WAS MY AGE. This middle aged guy was riding a skateboard down the middle of the busy street with the same gusto I’d expect from a teenage kid.

I kept glancing back at him…I was going to give him a “way to go!” nod… a smile that said, “you are middle aged, but you’re rocking it!” I couldn’t catch his eye. This guy wasn’t even noticing me, though I was the only other person walking on the road.

His eyes were focused firmly ahead, and I watched him skate right past me, then proceed to do a series of tricks up and down the curbs. He was clearly having a lot of fun…the kind of fun where you forget about everything else in life, and are totally immersed in the moment. He didn’t seem worried about pulling any muscles or what falling on his wrist would do to his day job. He was out rocking that skateboard, no matter the consequence.

It made me want to go skiing, or snowboarding, or try surfing…walking suddenly seemed so bland…

My walk continued after Mr. Skateboard left my sight. I rounded the corner and saw a couple in their backyard, intent on a project. The husband was digging a large hole in the dirt, and the wife was standing, watching intently with her hands on her hips. I initially thought they were burying a pet (my imagination tends towards the morbid). Then I saw a pot next to them. They were planting a tree; A sweet little tree. Was it a memorial for something? An anniversary present? Or did they just want a tree that would eventually block the view of the road from the living room window? Whatever the reason, they were doing it with such intention and diligence, and with a sense of togetherness, that it inspired me. Their Sunday afternoon was about planting a tree. And now we all get to watch it grow.

I decided to cut through the school yard on my way home, and came across a young boy driving a go-cart around and around the parking lot, his dad watching with a big smile on the sidelines. On the other side of the school, 20 or so men were in their grungy workout clothes, playing a game of football. They looked sweaty and hot and happy. Sunday afternoon was a good time for them, it seemed. I imagined them all coordinating their schedules to meet at 1PM, after lunch and while the kids napped. A little “daddy escape” amongst the craziness of life.

As I continued my walk home, I thought about how having fun releases the spark in people that makes them come alive; how everyone has a different definition of “fun”; how, for many people, having fun stops being a priority at some point; and how life does its best to reduce fun to something of a luxury, instead of soul-level need.

Our brand of fun has changed a bit, living in Tennessee, versus the mountains in California. We’ve been exploring museums and parks and interesting stores and quaint downtowns. But we’ve also been out doing the same thing we’ve always done: exploring the forest, and the natural world around us, looking for hidden places (caves!) and pockets of beauty to be immersed in and refreshed by.

I walked home, and Rich and I loaded the kids in the car. We drove to the Stones River National Battlefield and hiked a back trail that was full of autumn leaves, and deer, and interpretive signs about the battle. Though we were 2000 miles away from Yosemite, something about it felt like hiking in our favorite national park. It smelled like the fresh scent of fall, the air was warm, we startled a deer in the forest, and the kids bounced and sang and we talked about the random things families discuss when wandering in a forest for an hour or two. As the sun began to set that Sunday afternoon, we found ourselves lost in time and transported to a place of joy. It was good for our souls.

Tell me now, what brings you joy? What things make you come alive? And, perhaps as important…how do you make the time in life to find fun?

Faith, Joy

Learning To Choose Joy

I am waiting for the certainty. I am longing for the guarantee.

It’s been well over a year since we’ve had a predictable paycheck, and in that time, we watched the business we spent 19 years building, be systematically disassembled.

In the face of starting over mid-life, we moved across the country. We placed our homeschooled children into public school. With more changes on the horizon, I continue to wait for some semblance of normal to return to my life. Instead, all I see is the open space of time…and the frustration of not being able to see beyond the very next step.

As a natural-born planner, it’s been a struggle to live this life of daily faith God has called me to, time and time again. Owning a business, we didn’t have the luxury of planning many aspects of our lives…there was almost always an unexpected need, or expense; some fire that required our full attention. We learned to grab pieces of time and last-minute trips, whenever the opportunity presented itself.

As I examine the lives around me, I see that for all people, life is uncertain. Most just don’t realize it until it sneaks up on them, unexpectedly.

I didn’t expect my son to be born with a birth defect requiring a childhood speckled with surgeries.

I didn’t expect my 37-year-old husband to present with Stage 3 Testicular Cancer, requiring aggressive chemotherapy.

When I was a little girl, I didn’t expect to live in California…and I certainly didn’t expect God to move us to Tennessee midlife…

All of these life surprises tend to initially fill me with a feeling like panic; like my body is full of soda or a million ants marching…then the breathless and torturous waiting until the uncertain becomes known, and then finally a part of my past.

It’s easy to declare God’s faithfulness after the trial…but why is that feeling so illusive when I’m in the midst of it? How can I grasp the freedom of KNOWING I can rest in Him, and trust in Him, even when I don’t know the final outcome? I’m realizing it requires a deeper level of faith than I knew before.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for” (Hebrews 11:1-2 )

I’ve been hoping for a guarantee. Something tangible. I’ve been waiting for my husband to go to work, and come home, and have a “normal life” with normal stresses. The truth is that we are starting a new business, so we are a long, long way from that happening. I need to become comfortable living in this new form of uncertainty, once again. I need to let go of my concept of what constitutes a “normal” life, and instead embrace my actual life.

Instead of focusing on the things going wrong…the problems, the unresolved issues, the troubles, the struggles…God wants me to focus on Him, and His promises.

He is good. He is faithful. He holds me by my right hand. He is always with me. He started something good, and will finish it. He has not finished writing my story yet.

Several months ago as I was praying, I saw the shambles of my life like the ashes left over after a house fire. You could recognize some key pieces of the home…the chimney; the brick facade; random pieces of pottery that were fire resistant…but the rest was gone. Completely and utterly ruined. Unrecognizable. My life.

“How long do I need to live amongst these ashes?” I asked God.

I felt him draw my eyes up from the ashes to the top of a wall. Beautiful, lush ivy was growing there, full of life and health and vibrancy. It’s the new life God is building out of these ashes, and it had already begun to grow. I felt His spirit ask…will you focus on the ashes, and all you must leave behind, or on this new thing? It’s up to you…

Do I cling to this impossible goal of certainty, or learn a new way to walk out these days I’ve been given? It’s up to me.

Trusting God is hard, but I know that NOT trusting leads only to fret and despair. So for now, one minute at a time, I will lay down chasing this god of certainty, and embrace God and the wildness of His Holy Spirit…the God who allowed our business to thrive for 19 years, then suddenly fall apart. The God who established my boundaries in pleasant places in California, then ripped up the tent stakes and moved us to Tennessee. The God who has plans for me…good plans…if I choose to follow them, instead of choosing to follow fear, one step at a time. It’s up to me.

So, today, I will choose His path.

Today, I choose joy.


Habakkuk 3:17-18
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LordI will be joyful in God my Savior.

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