baby plant

Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead…We must hold on to the progress we have already made.”

Philippians 3:16

I’ve always loved the encouragement in this passage to leave what’s past behind and press ahead. Clean slate. Fresh tries. This time as I read, I noticed the advice in these last words:

We must hold on to the progress we have already made.

Too often, I try to hold on to progress I haven’t made yet. In my desire to continue growing and improving, all the things that don’t measure up fill my focus. All the things I’d like to be different. All the areas I thought would be better by now. I only see where I’d like to be and grow frustrated with where I am. I become disappointed, discouraged, and drive myself harshly forward. The criticism doesn’t really help things, but I feel obligated to be brutally honest with myself about how I’m not meeting my own expectations. Always reaching forward, never taking hold.

If I’m always looking to the next thing, the next step, the next level, my fingers will grasp frantically and come up with nothing. I am not there yet. And I can’t hold on to something I don’t yet have.

But I can, rather than despairing over where I’m not, hold on tight to thankfulness for where I am, how far I’ve come, those things I am getting the hang of.  I can recognize those areas where I do see growth, and hand my heart gentle encouragement instead.

I can hold on to the progress I have already made. In fact, I must.

If the way I’m thinking produces anxiety, I must change the way I think, because He has said Be anxious for nothing.” (Philippians 4:6)

If the way I set my goals produces discouragement, I must change the way I set my goals, because He has said “Do not be afraid or discouraged.” (Joshua 1:9)

And if the way I face my past covers me with shame, I must change the way I look at my past, because He has said, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

I am free to look back and be thankful. To be here and be thankful. To look forward and take hope.

And I must.



I want to keep moving forward, but not without celebrating what you have done so far in me. When I look at me, I will never, on this earth, see perfect.

But I will see progress.





Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord…But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.

Jeremiah 17:5, 7


I have a picture frame sitting on my writing desk right now that displays this reference. It’s there, not only to challenge me to hope, but to remind me that I must put my hope in the right place.

Today I sit here again, intimidated at the prospect of final edits on the book I’m writing. (It’s been undergoing “final” edits for a while now…). I’m afraid to finish because that means deciding whether to try for a publisher or just self-publish.

I’m unsure of what to try, what to expect, and yet I find myself back at this verse and it holds a question as it always does, a question I must ask when I begin to back away and grow discouraged: Where is my hope?

To rely on human connections, human charm, human strategy, human strength, human resources, human effort, is to turn away from the Lord. And when I turn my gaze from Him, I will always grow discouraged in proportion. The challenges grow larger and more impossible. What I have to offer is laughable compared to them.

Who am I? Who am I? I ask, shrinking back, wondering what I was thinking to even try.

But the right question is who is He? Who is He?

As I look to Him, I hope and I am not ashamed. I trust Him and there I find blessing. I lean forward and find what I do not expect.

And it is good.


So Lord-

With this step, and every other, help me just to lean forward, eyes fixed on you, and follow. Teach me not try to figure out what to expect around this corner, but to find fresh hope in knowing you will walk me through it. You will give me all I need to face it, when it is time.

Be my confidence when my confidence is lacking. Remind me that nothing is too hard for you, especially when my hope hesitates at the sight of me. You do not depend on large offerings or great talent. You use willing hearts. (2 Chronicles 16:9)

You do not ask me to risk for no reason, and I do not have to fear rejection or failure. They are not the end of me, because I am not rejected by you; and because if I have obeyed you, I have not failed.

If I have chased after you and find myself in water too deep, it is there I will find your grip steady and sure. I may be cold and wet and disappointed, but I will find again that I am not out here alone.

And maybe, just maybe, this time, I’ll walk.

Here’s hoping.


Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
    no shadow of shame will darken their faces.

Psalm 34:5



“I know, Lord, that our lives are not our own. We are not able to plan our own course. So correct me, Lord, but please be gentle…”

Jeremiah 10:23


I listened to a speaker today who talked about knowing what I want and not seeing that desire as the enemy. She said that knowing what I want and demanding it are two different things. That knowing what I want can lend clarity to decisions and that it even prepares me for when I don’t get it, because I can name what it is I’m feeling (disappointment) and move through it rather than wonder why I feel irritable and frustrated.

I feel like this verse offers the other half: I can know what I want, but I cannot know what will be.

My desires are not for no reason, but they are not always for this time.

I am not able to plan my own course. I am not able to make my will happen. But I am able to offer my wants to Him and ask for gentle direction, gentle correction, and gentle reminders that I am not my own.

He has plans for me, the one He created: higher plans, better plans than mine, and that is why He plans the course. That is why I am not able to.

So Lord –

Plan it. However you like. And help my heart along as it names its desires, offers them to you with hope, and then waits.

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.

Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!

Psalm 27:13-14


Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday.

Psalm 37:5-6

Empty Wells

empty well

“They did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord who brought us safely out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness – a land of deserts and pits, a land of drought and death, where no one lives or even travels?’…My people have done two evil things: they have abandoned me – the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all.”

-Jeremiah 2:6, 13


He is not the God of the easy way. Not of straightforward paths, convenient circumstances and undisturbed comfort.

No one traveled the wilderness. But He led thousands through it, with elderly, women, and children among them.

He is not the God of the boring.

He is the fountain of living water. He can lead his people into barren places because He is able to meet all their needs there. He is not a well with only so much to go around, but an ever-replenishing fountain that can always offer more when more is needed.

He is not a good fairy that would always buffer and lead away from danger. Not a God who depends on good circumstances to keep his people safe, but a Maker of warriors that plunges right into the darkness and fights for and alongside His people.

He is not what I expect.

He is not what Israel expected. He is glorious, and they wanted wood. Boundless, but they wanted someone they could understand. Almighty, but they wanted something they could control.

And so, while those who worshiped false gods held fiercely loyal to their empty symbols of protection, Israel turned away from the One who had led them through wastelands no one survived, out of slavery no one escaped, into promise no one imagined.

To broken cisterns. To figures of wood that did not speak to them or lead them anywhere or perform any wonders. Useless, empty wells.

And I turn, too. Because I, too, want something I can understand, control, summon. I don’t like being led into danger. I become lazy and start to prefer comfort to wonder. I let my soul go dry.

But I was made to seek a living fountain – to thirst and keep drinking, to face danger, to feel wonder, to follow, not totally understanding, to believe for promises still ahead, unseen, out-of-reach.



This is what a life of walking with you looks like. Teach me not to grow tired and turn. The wells stay put, but they are empty. You are moving, challenging, beckoning me forward: into difficulty, through fear, toward the barren. But you are life, so I will follow. Anything else is a pale, dry substitute to a dehydrated soul.

So teach me not to exchange you, not to grow frustrated and abandon you, not to listen to my fear and shrink back.

Teach me to follow close, eager, breathless. It’s terrifying, but you are a faithful leader.