Rudder Control: on heavy winds and the heart of the helmsman

rudder 2

“…For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way…a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong.”

James 3:2, 4


The lesson of James 3: if I were to choose one thing to adjust, attention to my words would make the biggest difference. I cannot control the winds, but I can improve how I manage the rudder.

The Amplified version says it this way:

“…Look at the ships, even though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the impulse of the helmsman determines.”

Perhaps that is why James describes it as such a feat. It’s not just the technique of adjusting the rudder, but the impulse of the helmsman that is so difficult to master. It is not only choosing the right words that is so challenging, but gaining mastery over the impulses of the heart.

“…For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

Matthew 12:34

The tongue is the vessel of the heart’s impulses, and so it comes back to this: I must diligently tend to my heart (Proverbs 4:23). Its desires and leanings steer the whole ship. It is well worth my time to take stock of them.

This morning, my heart’s impulses are selfish. I feel starved for time with friends, hungry for emotional connection, jealous of people who can get into a comfortable position (oh pregnancy…), frustrated with how little it takes to wear me out, eager for the independence of a vehicle, and unsettled without a home of my own. In short, I feel dissatisfied.

My heart says, “Go after these things! You cannot be happy until you have them!” And no matter what the current situation is, that seems to be its theme song.

I have people pouring into me, caring for me, giving me a place to stay, lending me their vehicles, rearranging their schedules for me. I have a baby on the way that we prayed and prayed and prayed for. I have so much and yet I want more. The heart’s natural impulses are rarely thankful.

But God says to give my body as a living sacrifice, not demand sacrifices from others. His words challenge me not to get my circumstances to transform until I have all I want, but to let Him transform me, so that all I want is Him, even if my circumstances do not change at all.

“I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice…Don’t copy the behavior and customs of the world, but Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think…”

Romans 12:1-2

The winds may blow strong, but the One who could alter the wind with a whisper still places more emphasis on changing the helmsman.


Teach me to let you transform me.

Change my heart to be thankful rather than dissatisfied, willing to lay down comfort and preference to see that the needs of others are met, eager to offer my words even if I have little else to offer – words from a heart that has its eyes on you and its impulses in check.

And may I learn that I don’t change in any lasting way because of my determination to improve, but because of your power, your work, and the growth that you give in my life. I do not transform myself. I let you transform me.

So change me, Lord. I want you to teach me good rudder control. But beyond that, I want you to transform the impulses of the helmsman. My words, my tone, my facial expressions: may they not be a polite mask over my impatient, grasping turmoil, but the gentle and easy outflow of a heart that sees its Savior and knows it has all it needs.

Set this restless heart on you so that it  words may be helpful and good, no matter what the winds are like.

Certainly: reassurances to combat troubled thoughts


“And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, He will certainly care for you…”

Matthew 6:30


I had to get a PICC line placed yesterday.

I’m pretty sure I regress to something like 5 years old when I have to go through a procedure. I should probably be one of the most calm and collected patients since I perform them on other people, but no. I am not. I am not calm. I am not collected.

The doctor was trying to explain all the clinical advantages of the PICC line and the research and I’m just holding in tears and attempting to remain a respectable adult and somehow still communicate “yes I understand, but WILL IT HURT??”

I broke down and made my mom drop what she was doing and come to the hospital so I wasn’t alone. I almost lost it when my arm went numb. I just wanted to be unconscious when they said I would feel some “warmth” running down my arm and I realized that it was blood.

The PICC is in. We all survived. But I am traumatized.

PICC line

I am so thankful God designed bodies and minds that heal.

12 weeks to go in this pregnancy, and I can’t wait to hold this little munchkin, but I’m also staring down the hurdle of labor and delivery. That is the truly traumatic part of pregnancy and I just can’t even process it because I haven’t even made it to the hurdle yet. I’m not even running. I’m over here crawling my way forward, sobbing and helpless. I am not strong or brave or tough enough for this.

Pregnant. Emotional. In transition.

2800 miles from a husband who’s still a full week away from starting the drive.

New doctors, new care plan, new devices. So many unknowns. And I am raw from the changes.

But today, I will look again to a Savior who treads above the tumult.

He does not waste my difficulty.

He heals my damage.

He freely gives new grace and new strength when mine is exhausted.

And I do not face any of this alone. 

I’m finding that much of what sets me off-balance are fresh assaults of the same, old thoughts:

Why can’t I just have a normal pregnancy like so many other people?

Why can’t something just go like I expected it to?

Why do I break down so easily?

What if I don’t have what I need?

But it is high time to think on truth and order my thoughts in light of Him.

My story does not look like everyone else’s, but that is okay. I can be satisfied with what I have because I have Him. (Hebrews 13:5-6)

I don’t need to be able to anticipate everything to be okay. He knows the course and He is leading. I don’t change course easily, but I am learning how to take those changes in stride, and it is okay to be a beginner and to struggle in the learning process.

I don’t need to be tough or impressive, I can just humble myself and be me. God made me sensitive, things affect me easily, and that is okay. He promises His perfect strength is present with and sufficient for all my weaknesses.

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.
2 Corinthians 12:9

I will always have what I need. I will not always know what that looks like, but I can breathe and assume that I will be okay because this is not a random dealing out of events and circumstances. As up in the air as everything seems right now, these things are set in order by a God who loves me and has promised to care for me. What I don’t get in specifics, I get in certainty. He will certainly care for me. 

So I can lay the questions to rest, dry my face, and breathe in this reassurance once again:

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty…His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night…Do not dread the disease that stalks in the darkness nor the disaster that strikes at midday…

The Lord says:

I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer. I will be with them in trouble…”

Psalm 91, excerpts



P.S. That husband of mine figured out how to get flowers to me from 2800 miles away.

flowers after picc


Keep Calm: I am not the performer, I am the stage

keep calm

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your strength comes from God’s grace…may He equip you with all you need for doing His will. May He produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ

every good thing

that is pleasing to Him.”

Hebrews 13:8-9, 21


I made it to Florida safe and sound and was swept into hugs and greetings and excited wedding preparations. This morning, laying awake and listening to the rain at 4:30 am (thank you baby kicks), I noticed I felt nervous and wondered why.

As I journaled out my thoughts, here’s what I came to:

I am emotionally full, loving all the activity and surrounded by the relationships I have missed so sorely. But at the same time, I feel the tension of every task I want to be a part of and every conversation I want to savor pulling on my limited physical reserves. In short…I’m still fighting nausea and weakness, I run out of steam at the end of the day, and I’m worried that what I have to give is not enough.

My sister and her kids are driving an hour and a half just to spend the afternoon with me today, and I’m afraid I’m not exciting enough to make the drive worthwhile! I fear being a disappointment. 

I asked the Lord to help me settle my heart and I came across these verses in Hebrews.

I loved the reminder to stop looking for new ideas or strategies or rules.. Jesus Christ hasn’t changed and so neither has my answer to the challenges and demands before me. Always, always, the answer is Christ. There is no new way to approach this beast called life.

I need Jesus. He is the best I have to offer. And He is enough.

My strength comes from Him. He offers the grace I need so badly. He produces, through His power, good things that please Him in my life. He does not look to me to come up with kindness, humility, selflessness, trust…He produces them in me. He IS all those things in me. The qualities and characteristics of a beautiful, holy life are not out of reach for me, they are mine because of Him.

I was reminded this week of the people of Israel, backed into a corner with an approaching Egyptian army on one side, a vast sea on the other, and no way out. Moses’ answer to their panic was this:

“Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”

Exodus 14:13-14

No matter what has me panicked, the roles haven’t changed.

His job: Rescue. Fight for me. Prove His faithfulness. Be impressive.

My job: Stand still. Wait. Watch Him work. Keep calm. 

Always, the Lord is drawing us into difficult and tense situations, not so that we will perform, but so we can see HIM work. The tension is a test to prove His strength, not mine.

If I was the main act, there would be good cause for worry.  But He does the equipping and the producing and I am not the performer here,  I am just the stage on which His incredible life shows itself. 

I do not have to worry that I will disappoint. I can just ask Him to be who He is in my life, and I know I’m offering the very best.



Thank you for working with my life, my heart. Help me to stop my endless strategizing and people-pleasing and worrying and just behold you. You are more than enough for all this day holds.