He Remains Unfailing: Puny Strength, Patient God

“But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst of sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in Him and receive eternal life.”

1 Timothy 1:16

After months of praying and holding our breath, another brain MRI is in the books for Benaiah, and it looks like slowly, very slowly, his ventricles are shrinking. No surgery at this point. It is so, so rare that a case like his can be managed with medication alone. We begged the Lord to intervene and He heard our prayers. I should be dancing for joy. I’m relieved. But it feels like the kind of relief at the end of long, tense movie where the suspense would not let up for a second and you’re exhausted from the adrenaline when it’s over. I feel absolutely drained.

He’s okay. He’s going to be okay. I’m so glad he’s going to be okay. I wonder if I will be.

We talked through some of the challenges we’ve walked through and are currently facing with our mission’s member care team and they pointed out that I use the word “should” a lot. They explained that “should” tends to describe our expectations and that constantly comparing reality to our expectations sets us up to feel guilt, anxiety, and discouragement over things we cannot and do not control. “Yes, that’s about the sum up of it,” I responded. We laughed. I cried.

Man, I am hunting for some new “should’s.”

Dancing for joy? Not so much these days. Begging for joy while I drag myself out of bed after a night of getting up with the baby to make breakfast for a high-strung toddler that will demand to have his eggs cut just a certain way? That’s happening a lot more often. Groping for joy when I feel spent after working like crazy to get ourselves set up to serve overseas only to watch all we’ve worked for get pushed further and further back on the timeline? You bet.

Is it enough, when you don’t feel joy, to bring your request before the source of joy?

Is it enough to ask for new mercies this morning when my heart is tired and teary instead of thankful?

My heart often tells me, “You should be handling this better.” But I think it would be more helpful to tell myself, “You should take this to the Lord.”

“Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him, and He will help you.”

Psalm 37:5

He. Will. Help. You.

I do not have the promise that I will be strong enough. I have the promise that He will help me when my strength fails. When my joy fails. When my endurance fails. When my love fails. When my heart feels drained and I fall short of all the “should’s.” He remains unfailing.

“…For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness!”

Lamentations 3:22-23

One step at a time, one morning at a time, we are going to get through this. And when we look back, we will not be impressed with how I did what I should have. We will be blown away by how God was faithful and merciful to me when my “should’s” gave out. How He crafted a story full of things I did not expect, and worked through every detail of my disappointments.

I’m still processing through having to step away from ministry in Papua New Guinea for a season, facing one health crisis after another, a car accident, the loss of our trailer, moving from house to house, feeling at a loss with my toddler, and finding myself on my knees for my baby. I want to be over it. With the good news about Benaiah, I want to dust myself off and move on full speed. But there is some brokenness that’s taking time to smooth out.

Here’s what I’m working to remember. People are not necessarily drawn to the Lord because I serve Him so flawlessly and my life is so exemplary and I move through difficulty so gracefully. My faithfulness to Him is not the point or the power of this story. It’s His faithful love to me.

Oh Lord,

Thank you for having mercy on me. May others see in me the evidence of your great kindness and patience, and so be drawn to trust in you. Remind my heart that I am not the hero of my story, you are. When I am disappointed and aching over how I fall short; over my weakness, my issues, my wrestling to believe you, my self-centeredness, pride, impatience, and anxiety – May I remember that you are patient with me.

You are steadily working transformation in my life – the things that are pleasing to you. However it looks right now, as I gaze on you, you will keep changing me. I can have hope. Not because I am performing well, but because I am your work.

“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For WE ARE God’s masterpiece. He created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

Ephesians 2:8-10

Sufficient: grace that holds up in our hardship

“…We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.”

2 Corinthians 4:8

It’s been weeks of processing, crying, need-meeting, trying to adjust my expectations, feeling how up-in-the-air our lives are, and wondering when we will ever feel settled again. I feel absolutely spent. I have been thrust into a plot line I would never, ever choose. 

Our church had a parent commissioning for families with new babies a few weeks ago, and I sat in a room full of beaming couples with their healthy, beautiful babies – safe and sound and whole…and my broken one. My precious, tiny son with his brain cysts and spina bifida and swollen ventricles and cerebellum gaps and a shaky future full of scary possibilities. I was heartbroken for him.

For weeks, I have been crying out to the Lord for joy that overflows and peace that passes understanding and strength that overcomes this awful situation. I’ve been searching his word for guidance for how to walk through this. I’ve been reaching for a hope that touches my grief. I know there’s nowhere else to turn. I know that the Bible is precious and life-giving. But this is painful at a level that its promises don’t seem to touch. I look at them and I repeat them and I remember that God is working things for good and that, in eternity, everything will be healed and whole, but my baby hadn’t even made it 20 days from his first breath and he was back in the hospital. We’d had just 5 weeks of newborn snuggles when we started discussions on which brain surgery would be best for him. We had held on with all our might through this pregnancy. Little did we know how we would struggle on the other side of it. 

I climb into bed each night so relieved that I’ll be unconscious soon and I lay in bed each morning, trying to rally for another day in a story I don’t want to be living. I have no control here. Not over this. This is not something I can study for or work hard enough to fix. In a moment, it didn’t matter what I had wanted my life to look like. It rearranged itself around a new priority, and I watched, helpless as the pieces fell into place for a role where my training didn’t apply and my desires didn’t matter.

This is do-what-needs-to-be-done territory. This is a hold-our-whole-lives-before-the-Lord season, because we are helpless here, and all we can do is look to Him. We are discouraged, and fighting to cling to our hope. We are weary, and we are learning what hard work it is to do the good God has set before us and not lose heart – to be content with the good He has set before us in place of the good we had in mind. To trust in our disappointment that He is our helper and that He has not abandoned us. We are fighting a battle with our own hearts to entrust our baby and our story to Him.

Here is what I’m working to remember:

I have no control, but the One who has all the control is very good, and He loves Benaiah very much. He is for us. He has planned good things for us since long ago. Our lives are his masterpiece, not the jumbled, broken wreck it feels like at the moment. We are confused, but He is faithfully ordering our steps. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Benaiah has some things that didn’t form well, but who he is was formed with great care. God not only created the temporary body, He crafted the precious, eternal soul living in it. Benaiah is more than just his body and his brokenness. With all that needs treatment, yet he is wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14)

Peace that guards my heart and mind comes in proportion to my choice to fix my thoughts on the Lord, cast my cares on Him, and refuse to worry. His peace doesn’t fall short, but I do fall short of stepping into it. I am begging Him to help me here. To help me to fight the temptation to back away from Him in my disappointment, confusion, frustration and fear. He is ready to hold me, guard me, comfort me, and walk me through this if I will throw myself and my troubles onto Him, whole-heartedly trusting his faithfulness and his care for me. (Isaiah 26:3-4

Oh Lord, 

We are looking at this unexpected season before us and asking you for help. We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you. 

I believe this next year can be full of your grace. Your grace for all the appointments. Your grace in the surgeons and doctors you provide to care for Benaiah. Your grace over his surgery and procedures. Your grace for parenting and marriage, even out of our brokenness. Your grace in orchestrating a way for us to serve that is a good fit, here and now. Your grace at work in our hearts to teach us to trust you, to endure, and to be satisfied in you through the waiting. Your grace to keep hoping you will make a way for Cody to fly again. Your grace in our relationships. Your grace for all we’ve lost and left behind.

Your grace will be sufficient for us. And this year, I believe we’ll see it again and again and again. Lord, give us the eyes to recognize your grace in the hardship. Help our hearts to find your peace as we gaze at who you are. Teach us to trust you when we feel perplexed, that our hearts may face each next moment with courage. When we cling to you, we will not be driven to despair. You’re worthy of our trust. Lord, help our unbelief.

Reclaiming the Sweetness: what to rehearse when you’re dreading tomorrow

“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith…”

Hebrews 12:2

Today is a Saturday and Cody’s here and I’m making cinnamon rolls and Abi is playing in the sand. It’s a sweet day, and I could just enjoy it. But I’m distracted by what’s looming ahead.  

Cody’s leaving Tuesday for a week-long trip to a bush location. In a month or two, he’s planning a trip to the States for his Kodiak training. He’d be gone for a month.

Right now, I’m fighting a cold, not sleeping great, and worried about handling just this next week well without him. I’m still new here. I still find walking my toddler to the market in the afternoon heat and keeping him out of the road while I buy veggies in another language…overwhelming. I rely on that hand-off when Cody gets home, and I’m tempted to compare and feel discouraged when it comes to parenting Abishai without the back-up. Cody would do a way better job, I tell myself. You can’t be all that Abi needs. He’ll be worse off for having spent all that time with just you, especially if you’re not feeling 100%.

This month, I’m going through a Bible Study called “TruthFilled” by Ruth Chou Simons.  One of her main points so far has been this: You are your own biggest influence. No one talks to you more than you do. How vital is it, then, to make sure that what you are saying to yourself is the truth?

This week, the challenge was to describe some of the worries I currently feel and then confront those emotions by drafting a mini-sermon to myself with the truth I already know, but need to work at rehearsing. Here’s what I came up with:

I don’t need to worry about my performance. I don’t need to dwell on all the things coming up and how I will meet them. I don’t need to be fearful because my body is not doing well and the demands are more than I can meet. Christ holds all creation together and that includes me and my life. (Colossians 1:17)

I can see the challenges and still look at these coming days with hope and expectation, and here is why:

“…We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord and your lives will produce EVERY KIND of good fruit. All the while YOU WILL GROW as you learn to know God better and better.”

Colossians 1:9-10, emphasis mine

It’s a prayer laying out what God alone is able to accomplish, what a maturing believer who continues to pursue a knowledge of God, even in their frailty, can look forward to and expect.

I will grow. My life will honor and please God, and I will produce every kind of good fruit as I develop in my knowledge of God’s will and spiritual wisdom and understanding, getting to know Him better and better. And that wisdom? That knowledge of Him? It is not a place I can climb to. It is a gift to those who ask.

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and HE WILL GIVE IT TO YOU. He will not rebuke you for asking.”

James 1:5, emphasis mine

Even the next verse in James 1 brings it back to this one simple thing: “be sure your faith is in God alone.I am not called upon for my work, my discipline, or my understanding. I am asked to offer my faith.

“This is the only work God wants from you: believe in the one He has sent.”

John 6:29

And so, that which I am asked, I can most certainly do. I cannot know ahead of time what will happen or how to meet it. I cannot heal my body or perform perfectly. But I can trust Him. And that is my job. And as I trust Him, He gives me wisdom and understanding. And as I grow in wisdom and understanding, my life produces what He desires. All I am yearning for in my life springs as the outflow of a heart that decides to believe Jesus; to believe His work, to believe His words, and to depend only on Him, for this next moment, and the one after that.

There are tasks and challenges coming up that I don’t feel ready for. But my first priority is to trust the Lord. And I do that, even as I approach these things, by choosing not to worry. I choose to believe He will take care of me when I get there.

And when it comes to parenting Abishai without back-up? I never had a prayer of being what he needed anyway. Who he needs is not me. But it’s not Cody either. It’s Christ. And Christ lives powerfully in me, still faithfully cultivating growth, producing transformation, and holding out all the hope we need. I am never parenting all alone. Always, I carry about within me the treasure Abi most needs to take hold of.

Christ is sufficient for me. Christ is sufficient for him. Christ is sufficient for today. Christ is sufficient for tomorrow.

And when I do the work of deciding to believe it, He does the work of putting my heart at rest so that I can enjoy cinnamon rolls, breezy Saturdays, and my laughing, sandy toddler without any fear for tomorrow, next week, or any day after.

Checking Seatbelts: control freak meets roller coaster

“As for me, I look to the Lord for help. I wait confidently for God to save me, and my God will certainly hear me…though I fall, I will rise again. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.”

Micah 7:7-8

I have felt a lot of fear over the last few months.

I tend to respond to my fear by trying to control everything, but I only end up discovering how little control I have. I have been fighting like crazy to set us up for this next step, to find ways to make this adjustment smoother, to try and protect and care for my family on this roller coaster the Lord has us on.

What if I spent my time on a real roller coaster that way? What if I tried to anticipate everything we were going to feel, everything that might be scary, when to lean this way, when the lights would go out? What if I spent the entire ride constantly checking everyone’s seatbelts and re-positioning and conducting surveys to see how everyone was coping?

Half the joy of a roller coaster is that you don’t know what to expect. People ride them for the experience of being surprised, for the feeling of dropping through thin air and the shock of losing their bearings, for the rush of the wind on a ride that’s too fast for them to steer. The best roller coasters get you good and scared, but they don’t make you worry for your safety.

Oh Lord,

I have been need-meeting and checking seatbelts for so long that I don’t know what it’s like to stop straining against the harness and just be on this ride with my people. I don’t know how to just take this one unexpected drop, one unforeseen turn, and one stretch to catch my breath at a time.

Help me not to grow discouraged when something surprises me and I’m forced to see the state of my own heart. You are faithfully bringing to the surface the attitudes and beliefs that steal my joy and shake my footing. You stand ready to replace them with your peace so that I am able to delight in the unexpected journey you have prepared for me.

I will always be frustrated if I am trying to adjust the roller coaster instead of just riding it. Build in me such a confidence in you that I wait on you, persistently looking to you for help, not dissuaded when I fall, not intimidated when it’s dark, always ready to hope in you once more. May I grow ever more loyal to what is true of you, and less attached to my expectations of how this will go.

There are plenty of surprises ahead where I won’t feel totally secure. But help me to trust that, in you, I am completely safe.

Not I: a daily diagram for how in the world to navigate this crazy life

“…I do nothing on my own, but say only what the Father taught me. And the one who sent me is with me – He has not deserted me…”
John 8:28-29

I read these words and they flew up against a hard bent within me. The always-trying-to-be-enough bent that drives me to over-achieve and prove myself and never disappoint and never need help and never fall short.

But here it is from his own mouth. The One who calls me to follow his example in all things did NOTHING on his own.

That whole passage instructing us to stay in step with him, abide in him, draw from his strength, LET HIM produce his life in us instead of trying to conjure up the willpower to be good? He lived it before he asked us to follow.

This crazy life where he faced hunger and insult, homelessness and heartache, betrayal and abandonment, loss and enormous pressure to compromise, weariness and stress. He didn’t do any of it on his own. He spoke the words he was given and walked where he was led and received everything from his Father. And it was a day in, day out diagram for how in the world we are supposed do this life.


He does not want me to try it by myself.

He wants me to ask my Father for what I need. To call on my Savior for strength to take on each thing, big or small. To lean hard on his Spirit for the wisdom and guidance for each choice, as enormous or inconsequential as it may seem.

In big steps, tense discussions, inflammatory situations, choking grief, huge risks, daunting unknowns where I have no idea how to move forward. And also in just the challenging, stressful days where a crammed schedule and not enough sleep make me fear that I will give in to my irritable, selfish, harsh flesh.

May I not live in fear of the damage I might do or the damage I may sustain, but may I step forward in confidence that He is with me, giving me everything I need to face what this day holds, and He has not asked me to know all the answers or to handle one single part of it on my own.

I need to remember. I need to remember because when I feel like I’ve lost my bearings, I hang on tight. I cling to my ideas, my ways of doing things, my expectations of timing.

Ugh.

Those are the wrong things to cling to.

Lord, help me cling to you. When I feel a wave of confusion or frustration, may I reach for Jesus rather than trying to rally in my own strength.

You are enough. I don’t have to be enough for this or for what’s next or for anyone else because here you are with me, just as your Father was with you, never deserting or abandoning you.

You are enough for this. You are enough for me.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:5

“…It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Galatians 2:20

“God has said, “I will never fail you.
    I will never abandon you.”

So we can say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper,
    so I will have no fear.
    What can mere people do to me?”


Hebrews 13:5-6

Six Hundred Expectations: on what to do when you can’t keep up



In that day, Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this will be its name: 
“The Lord is our righteousness.”

– Jeremiah 33:16

Off Balance

My one-year-old is in this crazy stage of exploring and climbing on almost everything, but he’s still getting the hang of his balance. This month, he fell and hit his head. so. many. times.

On a door hinge, on the steps, on the fridge door, on the coffee table, on the gravel, on a pinecone. Some days, I’m convinced he’s actually aiming for the only hard object with a corner in sight.

Man, have I felt like a failure when it comes to protecting him! So far it’s been nothing serious, but I am exhausted from trying to anticipate when this top-heavy toddler is going to tip over and the guilt I feel when I didn’t catch him in time. I have literally found myself saying the words, “One day. Let’s just make it one day without any head trauma, okay?”

It’s been just one of the many contexts where I have been moved to frustrated, irritable words toward myself and my family, and it’s been revealing to me that:

a) I have some unrealistic expectations about my ability to foresee and prevent every injury.

b) Kindness, patience, and self-control aren’t exactly the traits that surface when I’m under stress or pressure.

It turns out, I can be just as off balance as my toddler.

Six Hundred Expectations

This verse in chapter 33 of Jeremiah looks forward to a new way of things for Israel. It hints at a time when God would do something totally unexpected; when he would take these 613 expectations where his people came up short again and again and again, and he would step in.

My eyes flitted across the words, “The Lord IS our righteousness,” and it caused me to pause.

I think I most often function at the level of “The Lord expects/wants/demands my righteousness.” What would change if that thinking shifted to, “The Lord IS my righteousness?”

I would stop trying to be something I constantly fall short of. I would rely on his goodness and strength and kindness instead of trying to be those things myself. I would let these words that sing of Christ stepping in resonate in my soul, and perhaps, for once, I would let him.

Powerless

I read this verse in 1 Corinthians this morning, and it put to words the frustration I often feel day in and day out:

I am called to a way of living that I am powerless to carry out. I am called to participate in a plan that I am totally inadequate and unprepared to bring together.

And I hate butting up against that powerlessness.

He asks me to be kind and self-controlled and to consider others’ interests, to parent firmly and also graciously, to be a respectful and uplifting teammate in my marriage even when I’m under a lot of pressure and feeling frustrated, to raise the funds to do full-time ministry, to move overseas where there’s no Target or Starbucks and the internet is slow and I’m far from my family and the language falls strange on my ears and the state of things is heart-breaking and the work is worth it, but the team is understaffed and the hours are long and unpredictable and to adjust to everything being different and to still be kind and self-controlled and a faithful parent and a respectful wife and

I can’t.

I can’t keep up. I cannot do it all. I cannot do even one of those things.

And I am tired.

Your list probably looks different than mine, but maybe you feel that way, too.

Will You Let Me?

You and I are as powerless to keep up with our lists as any Israelite straining to measure up to those 613 impossible expectations and constantly falling short.

But our Savior says this:

I can. I can do each and every one of those things. You are powerless, but I am all-powerful. “I am the Lord, the God of all the peoples of the world, is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27)

I am your righteousness. I will do this thing. Will you trust me and come along? Will you relax your furrowed brow and breathe and watch me do it? Will you believe that I am bigger than the obstacles and able to heal even the most broken things? Will you let me be powerful and impressive and praiseworthy in your life instead of seeking to be those things yourself?

I am the Lord. I am your righteousness. Will you rest in that or will you keep trying to take my place?

A Prayer For When I Blow It

Oh Lord –

I am not kind. But you are my kindness.
I am not patient. But you are my patience.
I am not wise. But you are my wisdom

When I am unkind, help me to remember, “Oh yes. That’s because that’s what I am like. But that is not what you are like. Jesus, be my kindness right now.” 

When I blow up, help me to say in that moment, “Oh yes, that’s because I am short-tempered. But that is not what you are like. You are patient. You are self-controlled. You are gentle. Jesus, I cannot do what is right without you, because YOU ARE my righteousness.”

I am powerless to live this life the way you ask me to. But your strength works best in my weakest moments. 

So I will just be weak. I will be humble. I will say I’m sorry. I will beg for your help. And I will watch and see what you will do with a heart that is willing to step out of the way and give you room to work.

5 Steps to a Light Heart in a Season Heavy with Coronavirus Concerns

The Coronavirus Concerns are Valid

This week I have been irritable.

At my husband, at my son when he constantly asks me for snacks, at myself because I knocked a whole roll of toilet paper into my washer without noticing AND WASHED IT in the middle of a toilet paper crisis. At my sweater because I couldn’t get it onto the clothes hanger the first try.

That was the indicator that let me know this wasn’t really about my husband or my son or the TP or my sweater. The small situations were not causing me to be bothered, they were revealing that I am bothered by something deeper.

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My heart has been heavy over all the unknowns and precautions and trying to walk the fine line between wisdom and paranoia. The scientific community is making progress on treatment possibilities, but they’re still in the clinical trials stage. Models suggest that the measures we have taken will help keep healthcare resources available to the severely ill, but that this scenario our world is in will not resolve quickly.

Meanwhile, I’m concerned about our investments, unsure about our income and our economy, aware of the threat that looms over the vulnerable people I love. I’m wrestling with how powerless I am to protect them. I’m angsty over how long I may have to go without social interaction. I’m unnerved by the opinions and interactions on social media that are growing sharper as the disease spreads and the stress sets in. I feel all my plans growing less and less likely in the coming months.

As painful scenarios leave the hypothetical and start to rip their way into our reality, it’s more challenging to dismiss my concerns. The coronavirus concerns are valid.

And they are heavy.

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Is it as simple as “Just don’t worry about it?”

I have been sitting with this verse.

“Give your burdens to the Lord,
    and he will take care of you.
    He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.”

Psalm 55:22

I love that I am not asked to wildly abandon my concerns as if they’re just in my head. It’s one thing to hear “just don’t worry about it” when I’m fretting over unlikely possibilities and I actually do need to lighten up. But when I’m bearing heavy situations and high risks and a great deal of loss is at stake, it’s not that simple.

If I am to shift the weight off my shoulders, I must know these things have been delegated carefully into the hands of one who is equally invested in their importance and is competent to manage them.

I think that’s why this verse connects with me so well. It’s not an over-arching, “just stop being so concerned” message. It’s a personal and specific invitation to name those things that burden my heart and give them directly to the One who promises to take care of me.

When my troubles have shifted onto the plate of someone in whom I have great confidence, they can remain unsolved and yet my heart can be light. It’s a matter of who I think is called to handle the situation.


One Finger At A Time

I am a worrier and an overthinker and a plan-ahead-er, so one truth that has made a huge practical difference in my life is this: Be anxious for nothing” is not a matter of personality, it’s a matter of obedience.

With the ever-evolving concerns we are facing, I have been trying to wrap my mind around the how of obeying that command.

I know when something has stolen my focus and has my mind over-analyzing and my heart burdened. I know in that same moment that I should not be focusing, over-analyzing, or holding onto that burden. I struggle with how to let go.

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How do I get from Point A: anxious, to Point B: not anxious?

How do I loosen my white-knuckle grip on the things that I cannot stop caring deeply about? In the midst of a hard situation I’m likely to be in for a while, what are the day-to-day steps to a light heart?

First, I think I have to recognized that by letting go of them, I am giving them to someone who is able to do a better job managing the situation than I can.

Second, because the worries will keep re-surfacing in my mind, I must capture those thoughts and link them to heart-steadying truth. That way, the next time they show up, they actually serve me. I want practical replacement thoughts – mental resets that guide my mind back to solid reassurance, so that as these concerns arise, while I do whatever it is I need to do, I also settle back into how I am well taken care of. I take the threat seriously, but I live with a light heart.

Finally, I think it’s easiest to let go one finger at a time.

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So, in a season heavy with coronavirus concerns, I identified 5 areas where I felt irritation, worry, frustration and fear surfacing in my heart and my thinking.

This is my tool so that each time I feel myself growing tense, restless, and heavy as I walk through the weeks ahead, I can glance at my hand with its 5 fingers, or at this handy, short-and-sweet printable on my fridge and count down 5 steadying steps that help me let go of one specific area at a time.


Five Steps to a Light Heart

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When I feel concerned over how this situation will affect my:

I will offer sacrificial love freely and lay down my expectations.

Any time stress is heightened, we feel that tension in our relationships. Because it’s easy for me to obsess over rough interactions with other people and stress over whether we are okay or not, I want to be careful about how much time and attention those relationship dynamics get in my heart. I think the truth I can sit with is this: when people are not fine, their interactions suffer, and a lot of people are not fine right now. I can’t necessarily count on the reassurance, attention and company I want from other people. But I can shift my thinking from what I can GET to what I can GIVE. I can release people to just be where they’re at and keep offering them grace rather than fixating on hurt, surprise or disappointment when they don’t respond to me how I expect them to.

I will delight in how they are precious to me and pray for their protection.

This area probably hits the hardest: the threat of losing our loved ones. I don’t know what will happen, but today, I want to appreciate those who are precious to me rather than living in dread of losing them. I will cherish the people that God has put in my life and thank him for the gift that they are. I will praise him for providing a way for us to continue our relationships in eternity, with all the time in the world and none of the struggle or pain or physical ailments to get in the way of enjoying each other; even if he allows us to be separated for a time. And while I recognize that God’s goodness, provision and protection do not always look like I expect them to[1], I will remember that He is capable of keeping my people safe and healing their bodies if they get sick. He listens intently to my every request, so I will pray and pray and pray for Him to protect them as often as they come to mind.

I will think of one way God has taken care of me in the past and release my desire to see and control the future.

And I said, “This is my fate;
    the Most High has turned his hand against me.”
But then I recall all you have done, O Lord;
    I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.
They are constantly in my thoughts.
    I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.

Psalm 77:10-12

Because God has not let me in on all the details of his plan for my future, it is easy for me to grow fearful and skeptical as I face the uncertainty ahead. It is tempting to expend all of my energy searching for some clue as to how this will go so I can prepare perfectly. When things seem to take a turn for the worst, I can start to wonder if He’s on my side at all. But one of the most effective things to settle my frustrated, searching heart is to stop and remember one way God has specifically cared for me in the past. This is the God that has revealed his heart for me, intervened for me and worked on my behalf in so many creative and varied ways. When I cannot predict his plan, I must return to the evidence of his character. When I’m unsettled over a future I cannot see or control, I will trust the heart of the One who can see and control all that is to come.

I will name how my needs have been met today and ask God to faithfully meet my needs tomorrow.

When I’m used to God meeting my needs one way, I can grow attached to how things work right now and be really thrown by major changes. But God often uses these transition periods when my fine-tuned system no longer functions to help me see that I have stopped looking to him for help; I have shifted my trust to my system, my ability, and my management. He lovingly allows my systems to break down so that I will learn that he is just as able to provide for me in a new way. The changes I’m adjusting to did not catch him by surprise. When my thoughts drift to my finances and I start trying to calculate if we will be okay, I will stop and ask this question: Do I have what I need today? I will name the things I notice that God has already put in place, on this day. I will remember that, whatever is next, he is able to provide what I need, maybe in a new way I haven’t yet thought of. I will lay down my calculations and ask him for help, because he is faithful to answer the one who waits on him.

“I am the Lord who opened a way through the waters, making a dry path through the sea…But forget all that – it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.”

Isaiah 43:16, 18

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.”

Matthew 6:31-32

I will rest in the freedom I have been given to just do my best. I will think of how to love people instead of how to impress them.

Comparison kills us: whether it’s how you’re handling your kids’ educational needs; whether you’re still running errands or in full-on quarantine; whether you have the opportunity to work from home or must brave the public workplace. We all feel the expectations of others, and there’s a lot of guidelines and opinions out there. It can make me feel crushed and like there’s no right answer. But I believe that in this, just like in any season, we have been given the freedom to start each day, hold it before the Lord, and ask him to guide us step by step. I’m just not going to get a 100% approval rating with how I end up performing in that, but one of the most freeing things ever is knowing that I don’t have to be on the same page as someone else to take care of them, to be kind to them, to sacrificially work for their good. So I will lay aside the burden to impress others, take up the calling I’ve been given to love them, and then just do the best I can before an audience of One.

“The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.”

Psalm 37:23

“Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.”

Galatians 5:25-26


[1] A thought Lysa Terkeurst does a great job exploring in her awesome Trustworthy Bible study

Worry, Hurry, Scurry: on living in a quiet place of rest

“Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.

You said, “No, we will get our help from Egypt…So the Lord must wait for you to come to Him so He can show you his love and compassion…Then you will destroy all your silver idols and precious gold images. You will throw them out like filthy rags, saying to them, “Good Riddance!”

Isaiah 30:15-16, 18, 22

This week I have felt like this hamster. I worry and hurry and scurry in seven different directions. I stop in the middle of one thing to go work on something else. I am weary and frazzled and I am not alone.

Just today, I left the office to put Abishai down for his nap to the sad goodbyes of the adults we left behind asking if they could take one, too.

It’s good work, but it does not hold a good place in my heart if I have allowed it to rush me along until I am irritable. nervous, and fidgety. 

Something is off when my tasks feel so pressing that I cannot take a quiet moment to remember that my God is handling things quite capably, he is ready to help me when I ask, and I can go about my work from a place of patience and quiet confidence instead of rushing around like a mad woman and being so thrown off by the things that interrupt or derail my idea of how this day should go.

How draining or how life-giving the same task can be often depends on the state of my heart as I approach it.

All along, I could be resting, instead of craving those moments when the work finally stops so I can, too. All along I could be settled in God’s sure strength and his good plan. But how quickly I become impatient and rush off to craft my own solutions. How easily the words, “No, I will get my help from…” escape my lips.

When will I see that all the other things I turn to only steal my worship and waste my time? May I learn to see them as the useless detours that they are, leading me on an uphill treadmill to nowhere until I collapse, out of breath and defeated.May I gain the wisdom to say to them “Good Riddance! My only hope is the Lord!”


Lord, teach me to return to you and find my rest. You are the one who is patiently waiting to meet my needs. You are right there with me, ready to guide my every step, ready to set me in a place of quiet strength, unhurried, unworried, because my eyes are set on you. 

I am often scurrying off to my own version of Egypt in a panic to guard my walls and build alliances. 

But this is what you say:

“Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good. It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.”

Psalm 127:1-2

Lord, lead me to a place of calm and teach me to live there, where I can say “The Lord is doing his good work and he is using me, but he does not require me to worry or scurry in this situation in order to do what He has planned with it. So I will rest because I trust in Him.”

In Isaiah and in Psalms there are echoes of a gift held out to an anxious people desperate for relief. A gift that is still constantly offered and often turned down because we are too busy and too worried trying to control our world, force outcomes, plan perfectly, and do God’s job.

But He does not weigh us down with heavy burdens and task us to keep up with an impossible pace.He asks us to let him take our burdens, trust him to carry our cares, and slow down enough to remember who it is we serve and what He is capable of.  

Our God holds out the gift of rest and patiently waits for us to take him up on it. 

See that sleeping baby? He’s on the same hike we are. He could be working just as hard, too, but it wouldn’t get him any further.

What a great reminder God gave us in little kids, who constantly outdo us in their willingness to relax and trust someone else to carry them. 

Undivided Worship: on tearing down temples

“Hezekiah…was twenty-five years old when he became king…He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight…He removed the pagan shrines, smashed the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke up the bronze serpent that Moses had made, because the people of Israel had been offering sacrifices to it…”

-2 Kings 18:1-4

My trust in the Lord is a most precious thing. Unseen wars are waged against it, constant messages seek to make it shift, even just a little. 

Reading through 2 Kings, I was struck by how many kings of Judah were godly leaders for the most part, but shied away from the bold actions their nation needed from them. They did not actively turn away from the one true God, but they allowed the worship of other idols alongside Him.

2 Kings 18 highlights one king who set things up differently. He stripped away and tore down any other receptacle of worship – even if it once served a good purpose (the bronze serpent), but had since become a replacement for God himself. 

The worship God seeks from us is pure of man’s ideas, methods, and supplements. 

Only Jehovah. Only his word. Only his way.

One king believed in his God enough to tear all the rest of it down, and when the most powerful empire in the world besieged his small kingdom, he was defended by the Angel of the Lord, who extinguished 185,000 warrior lives in the night and swept away the threat encamped outside his walls as easily as a breeze clears away the chaff. 

The massive Assyrian forces had poured across the land, conquering everyone in their path, but small Judah was impenetrable to them because Jehovah would not allow them to harm her. 

Hezekiah did not forge emergency alliances, come up with a back-up strategy, surrender to spare his people, or lay tribute at the altar of any and every god who might come to his aid. He went to Jehovah over and over and over as the situation became more dire. He held his ground and trusted his God, and his God was faithful to defend him. 

Lord,

In my life, may I be the Hezekiah, the Gideon, the Ephesian believers who burned their magic books.

It is not rare to worship you, but it is rare to worship you alone. And you treasure undivided worship.

Show me what else I add and give me the courage to tear it down.  Show me what else I point people to and teach me to use my voice for one message:
We need you, and you alone. Nothing and no one else will ever be enough.