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Do You Fear or Trust When the Road is Scary?

“Guys, start praying. Now!”

Though my husband said these words, I’m confident each of us in that car prayed vehemently on our own before he uttered a word. The situation wasn’t one that left an option other than to pray for God’s hand of protection and guidance.

The silence in the car was loud.

I broke the silence as I prayed out loud. Steve’s hands gripped the steering wheel as he focused on driving our car out of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado through a snow storm that left the roads a sheet of ice covered by snow.

Our van slipped along the road, desperately seeking traction and finding none. Steve’s parents were ahead of us.

At one point we began the ascent uphill and our car slowed to a crawl of no more than 7 mph. Our prayers intensified as we asked God for an army of angels to get us up the hill, to push the van, to not let us come to a stop as we knew once we stopped moving we were done.

We asked for barriers of protection around our cars, to make us untouchable.

The GPS showed 47 more miles of mountainous, snowy, icy terrain.

The silence breaking in between times of out-loud prayer became deafening. My hands drenched the seat I clutched. Then the Lord brought His Word back to me. The portion of scripture I read that very morning during my quiet time before we left our ski vacation headed for home. The verse that hangs above my son’s bed. A verse that calls me to remember – to remember who God says He is.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

My breathing began to slow. My grip loosened on the van seat. I began to instruct my heart and mind with truth. He is here. He is on this mountain with me. He is with me wherever I go. He sees what I can’t see. He tells me not to be afraid. I have the God of the universe with me.

I began to remember.

I remembered who He is. I remembered what He has done. I remembered what He promises. And I remembered the armor He instructs me to put on. I remember reading in Beth Moore’s book Praying God’s Word how she quoted Francis Frangipane in The Three Battlegrounds as saying that our peace is a secret weapon against the devil.

Peace in the face of fear tells the devil he can’t bully us. We are rooted and grounded by the very Word of God, we can’t be shaken because God can’t be shaken.

I remembered that I don’t have to become a victim of my circumstances. I have a choice to rise above the fear.

For 50 miles we prayed. We never stopped. The car was complete silence other than times of praying out loud.

All of the sudden the roads turned from complete ice to wet slush. Our vision ahead became clearer. The falling snow decreased in intensity. We became more confident in our car’s ability to deliver us safely, knowing completely it is the Lord who truly delivers us no matter the circumstance.

A road sign just ahead flashed a message. A message so startling I raced for my camera unable to capture it in time. The neon road sign read “Warning – Bright Sunshine Ahead.”

And just like that the sun shone with all its glory. The roads boasted in their dryness. Every single thing looked 100% different in a split second.

What if I always kept in mind that the road ahead always has bright sunshine when we are led by God?

Life shifts in microseconds.

One minute you are praying for your life in a snow storm, the next you are standing in the sun. One minute you are in the dry land, the next you are covered by the clouds.

If I knew at the beginning of our dangerous journey that within an hour, the shining sun would be the biggest threat, maybe I would have breathed a little easier?

The fact is God guides us for the steps we will take but we can’t see too far ahead. It’s a practice of faith, a discipline of trusting in Him when we can’t see where we are going.

We were never promised this life would be easy or look the way we want. What we are promised is that we have a God who goes with us wherever we go. And on the day we stand with Him in eternity, that is the moment that we will know it was all worth it.

An hour and a half later, we pulled in McDonald’s to meet up with Steve’s parents. Each of us in our own personal state of shock. Each knowing it was the hand of God alone that delivered us.

On the drive later that day, Andrew said, “You know how I got through that drive? I just tried to do like Peter when he walked on the water. I just imagined I was looking into Jesus’ eyes and kept looking there.”

Beautiful.

He is here. With us. We know this, but in the heat of the moment, we forget.

May we practice the art of remembrance. Remembering who God is as revealed through His Word. This is the theme of my heart these days. I shared with you a couple of weeks ago that I’m working on a new audio devotion titled Illuminate – Seeing God by the light of His Word. A 14 day devotion intended for us to journey together closer to the very heart of the truth of who God is.

We know Him, yet we forget on a daily basis who He really is. In order to strengthen us in the battle of life, we will practice remembering together.

Illuminate is almost ready for you and I absolutely can’t wait! Stay tuned this week as I share details about release dates and what you can expect. Be sure to share with your friends so they can be on the lookout. Illuminate will be released here on the blog, but you must sign up for email updates so you don’t miss it.

audio devotional

 

When We Stop Trying To Figure God Out

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Before I began writing, I was a CPA. I still have that side of my brain, the part that wants to analyze, categorize, and finalize.  I want to look at life and see the full circle.

Typically, whatever I’m experiencing, I’m looking for what God is doing in it and through it. “Oh, that’s why that happened.” “Maybe God is doing this so that….” “I think God allowed this so that…”  Basically I’m trying to figure God out all the time. I want to understand God’s work in my life.

Sometimes I see how the different pieces of my life fit together, but sometimes I don’t. I look for what He is doing in the life of my children, my husband. I look at the problems we face, and I look for the reasons, the pieces that when put together can make it all make sense.

When Steve and I were younger (we’ve been together since middle school), he was quite the jokester. He still can be that way. But I was gullible and believed anything, and he got a real kick out of seeing what he could get me to believe. Then we would laugh at my naiveté. We’ve grown up. A little.

When he wanted me to really believe him, he would say, “Just trust me.” Not once did he ever ask me to trust him when he was actually kidding. He honored that phrase and held to his word.

Because he never broke my trust when he asked me to place my trust in him, he earned my forever trust.

God asks me to trust Him every second, every minute, every hour of my life. Unlike a boy or a man, God is incapable of lying to me because God is truth. God is faithful.

At times trusting God is easy. At other times it seems near impossible. The task is too large. The problem is unsolvable. The history is too extensive. The wounds are too deep.

No matter what we face, God whispers, “Just trust me.” Just trust me.

It’s simple, right? All we have to do is trust. He does the rest. Might not look the way we planned, but He is always good and right. The pieces might not fit the way we are attempting to fit them together.

A few weeks ago, my soul seemed more restless than normal. I could sense God telling me to still my soul, to calm my anxious mind, to simply trust Him with every detail of my day.

Maybe that is how my soul gets still. When I stop trying to figure God out. When I stop trying to see how all the pieces of my life fit together in one neat, tidy picture. I can’t see what God sees. Some of my pieces fit into the lives of others I can’t see, and so do yours. On our end, we will have incomplete pictures, but from God’s view, it’s a perfectly complete picture. Beginning to end, what we can’t see.

I vowed to stop the constant figuring out of God and to begin trusting Him more. On my own power, I can’t last long. Each morning I’m asking Him to help me simply trust Him. To hold up my hands in surrender to the analyzing ways I’m prone to and go back to the days I believed anything, but this time I want to believe that with God anything is possible. Even trusting Him with every detail of my life.

Isaiah 55:8

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.

 

Romans 11:33-34

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR?

Max Lucado writes in Before Amen, “In our desire to understand him, we have sought to contain him. The God of the Bible cannot be contained.”

I think I’ll stop trying to figure God out now. Like a simple, once gullible girl, I’ll choose to simply trust.

Trusting Him leads to deep soul rest. Deep, deep soul rest. I can let go of the need to understand, for only He sees it all. I don’t need to understand everything. I just need to trust Him. He is God, and I am not.

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When Your Child Acts Unloveable, When No One Understands

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I peeked open his door and gazed at his peaceful slumber. I think he is beautiful when he sleeps. His body is in constant motion when awake, so I love to watch him at complete rest.

Then I did what I can only do with him, what would cause my other boys to wake in fight mode. With no warning at all, no gentle back rubs, no sweet good morning whispers, I rolled him fast on his back and dug my chin in hard into the soft of his back, laughing and tickling him with no mercy.

How one can go from the deepest slumber to the deepest of belly laughs, I will never understand. I stopped, and he said, “Again!” We hit the repeat button on this moment each morning. It’s the best way to assure a happy mood from Andrew.

Occasionally, he turns to what we call the “dark side”. It’s a turning of little Anakin Andrew. The good dwells there, but sin lurks and lures with fierce boldness. The good is in constant battle with the dark. It’s there for all of us. We all have a little Anakin in us. Kids just live with their guards down most of the time. We’ve learned to keep our masks on. We all know the good prevails. We must remember good wins in the end.

On my end I had done everything “right” according to all parenting books and best blogs. We had prepared what costume he would wear to school for spirit day. We had it laid out and prepared. We had discussed how the morning would go. I started the morning the way he likes. I gave him plenty of choices so he felt he maintained some control and wasn’t being bossed around. I did everything “they” say to do.

No matter how hard we try, sometimes our best intentions fail us. When a perfect parent day aligns with a perfect kid day, the stars shine bright, the birds sing joyous songs, all looks well in our world. We smile more. We laugh more. The world looks grand. We post it on Facebook. We see the good in the world around us.

There are days one of us brings our A game and the other doesn’t. We meet at the corner of I’m trying and Why Aren’t You. This is the intersection where collisions are common. In my home anyway. That is where I was this morning. Full on collision though I had followed all precautionary rules and road signs.

I heard no birds singing joyous songs. Nothing about this moment would make it on my Facebook page. It was too ugly, and I don’t want to be a whiner. Barking replaced laughing. Scowl replaced smile. The world looked grim, and a 6-year-old looked back at me with defiant eyes that said, “See if you can make me why don’t you.”

Sometimes God gives us what we need the most to need Him the most.

My heavy footsteps marched hard to the whisper, “Lord, help. Lord, help. Please, Lord, help. I can’t parent his personality well.”

A difficult child is a high calling. We must rise up to the challenge. We can’t wallow in defeat. We can’t focus on the difficult task. We must focus on the calling.

Love this child who acts unloveable, which means he needs love that much more. Show this child unconditional love when you feel like pulling back.

This is so hard for me to remember in the heat of battle. My first thoughts are always shameful. My first thoughts are usually the ones that I dare not admit. Therefore, I will confess all the more.

If I don’t take captive my thoughts, they will lead me to despair, self-pity, resentment, and bitterness. I will convince myself that no one understands the challenges I face, the difficult moments I battle. I will say under my breath, or to my poor husband who is forced to listen, “No one understands how hard this is! No one sees how hard I try to understand him and parent him well.”

This is the moment the Holy Spirit intercedes into my negative and sinful thoughts. Yes, there is someone who understands full well. The same one who created you. The same one who created him. The same one who matched you up for my purposes to bring glory to my name. Yes, someone understands.

This is the moment He reminds me that we all face difficult battles and that none of us completely understands the challenges that any of us face. Truly we don’t. But that is what He is there for. He is there to take my burdens and frustrations. He is there to listen to my venting. No one understands our lives fully, do they? But He does.

I release the world from the pressure of understanding me when I realize they don’t need to fully know me because there is One who does fully know me. And He loves me anyway. Despite knowing me full well, He loves me. A mask can’t hide me from Him. My naked heart is laid bare and vulnerable. And that very thought catches the breath in my throat.

In the most difficult moments with my strong-willed child, it’s my own sinful pride that battles hard inside me. It’s that part of me that wants things to be easier, wants things to look a certain way. The part that whispers through clenched teeth to God, “I’m doing everything I’m supposed to do, why isn’t this going the way I want it to?” It’s ugly. So very ugly.

There is no ugly, He can’t wipe clean. There are no words or emotions He can’t redeem.

It’s in the quiet that I understand this all. I rarely see this clearly in the moment. It’s when emotions settle down, when the world begins to resemble calm, when I step back. When I get out of God’s way, I’m able to see.

Filing out of our house, we scrambled late into the car. The trash needed to be moved to the curb, the dog needed to be put up, Zachary couldn’t find his glasses, Andrew forgot his coat. My jaw ached as it had not released its grip just yet.

“Mommy, mommy!” I kept right on moving. Rolling trash cans with Jacob, helping gather missing items. Andrew wouldn’t stop. “Mommy! Mommy! Look, fast!”

With less love in my voice than I care to admit, I snapped, “What Andrew?!?”

“Look, there!”

I looked up, and there it was. A spectacular sunrise. The thing about sunrises, they last but a moment. We must catch a glimpse of the moment and hold tight to the beauty. Faster than I could run to grab my phone, the sun had risen, and the stunning display was gone. I hold onto the beauty I know was there, is there, and will be there again.

Such is this life. Life as mommy. Life as a friend. Life as a wife. Life as a co-worker. Life as anything. The moments come, the moments go, the beauty seems to ebb and flow. It’s an illusion. The beauty is always here because He is always here. We just need eyes to see through the haze. For me it’s usually in hindsight. So I pray each time, Lord, help me see clearer right there in those hazy, crazy moments. Amen.

(Thank you to my sweet, friend, Angela, who let me use the sunrise photo she beautifully captured this morning.)

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Don’t believe the lie that God won’t give us more than we can handle

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Our family has been under heavy attack over the last several weeks. We are tired, spent, and somewhat shaken. The enemy has used many tactics against us, and we are rallying right now. The enemy has attacked through health. We’ve been attacked through broken and hurting relationships. We’ve been attacked through daily choices. We’ve been attacked in our schedules and ministries. At times over the past few weeks, I’ve wanted to find a corner, ball up, cover my head, and wait for it to pass.

Stronger than the desire to escape is this desire to fight back.

Last week our son had his knee aspirated not once, but twice. The doctor laid him back on the bed and told him it would be alright. Zachary knew nothing about that needle was alright. I gripped his hands in mine and rested my forearms across his chest, blocking his view of the doctor, the nurses, the needles. His eyes took on a wildness I’ve never seen. His scream was terror I’ve never heard from him. I placed my lips on his wet forehead, kissing away the beads of sweat, whispering with a calm that came not from my own strength. It’s almost over. It’s almost over. 

Dear God, I can’t bear watching my son hurt this way. This pain is more than he can bear. Help him. 

Pulling back from his forehead, I looked into his eyes. My heart raced as I watched his eyes. His eyes turned to glass, he looked far beyond me. Though I held his face 3 inches from mine, he seemed to look miles beyond me. His eyes fluttered and rolled back, all the tension released from his body as I held him.

I swallowed panic and called his name repeatedly. “I feel like I’m falling asleep.” And his body limp lay in peace as they drained fluid from his knee and injected him with steroids. His body gave up the fight. Surrendered.

Lord, I give up the fight. I surrender to you. Fight for me, because I can’t fight on my own.

I often hear people say, “The Lord will not give you more than you can bear.” This is a lie. If he never gave us more than we could bear, why in Heaven’s name,  would he need to die on the cross for us? Why? If we can handle it all on our own, then we don’t need him. No, this is not true. We face more than we can bear. This life at times is more than we can bear.

The fear that kidnapped my son was more than he could bear. He could not handle the stress and trauma of that needle jabbed into his leg, sucking the fluid, feeling intensely the pull of the needle. No, he couldn’t bear it.

The enemy. Prowling like a lion. Seeking to steal, kill, and destroy. Oh, he wants us to believe God won’t give us more than we can handle. He loves when scripture is tossed around loosely in this way. He loves when God’s words are twisted and turned to suit his purposes.

1 Corinthians 10:13 

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

When I’m tempted to stop believing that God is on my side, He has provided a way out of my unbelief so I can endure this. When I’m tempted to believe this situation is hopeless, He has provided a way out of the temptation I face to give in to the apparent hopelessness.

He allows us to face what we can’t bear. He died on the cross and bore what we couldn’t bear. As nails bore into him, He took what we couldn’t take. He took away our sins. He made a way for us to spend eternity with him. He left us with power to face this life.

I asked my husband if we could just cancel our Thanksgiving plans. Stay home, recover. I don’t feel I have the energy to pack, to plan, to travel, then to come back and speak and carry out my ministry. We are on the brink of the advent season. My heart beats strong to encourage you to slow and seek Him this season. Yet I feel exhausted right now from the battles I’m facing with the enemy of our soul. My husband called me and said two words. Dig deep.

Friends, we have to dig deep. Deep calls to deep.

Psalm 42:7 

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.

On the surface we can fight in our own strength. When we dig deep, we discover the power that lives in us. His Holy Spirit in each believer, giving power to fight the enemy.

Yes, this life will give us more than we can bear. He died and rose again so that He could leave us with the power to bear all things we can’t bear on our own. Let His waves and breakers sweep over you today. Allow Him to be the power you need to face what you can’t face.

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