Category Archives: waiting

Trouble, Trouble, Trouble

Have you ever prayed about a decision, felt God’s peace, stepped out in faith, fully believing you were in God’s will — and then all hell broke loose?

IMG_2315When things are “going wrong” all over the place, keep believing!  When a door is entered by faith, God is in the room  — even when everything looks and feels “bad.”

We often speak of God’s blessings when life is clipping along comfortably. The house sells,  the acceptance letter comes, a check arrives for just the amount we need.

I’m not minimizing those times or the importance of praising Him for them. He is good — all the time! But let’s look at how we feel about that little word — ALL.

Do we dig deeper into our faith and find reason to rejoice and trust Him, even in hardship? If you’re like me, when the flu arrives, a big customer leaves, the pipes burst, a child is hurt… trust, joy and gratitude might not be the first stops of the journey.  I often take a painful detour through righteous indignation and shock. Why God? When You could have prevented this.

I know the answer (in my head). God has my BEST in His heart:

IMG_0506We also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these troubles produce patience.  And patience produces character, and character produces hope.  And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts. He gave us his love through the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5) That should be enough.

But when I honestly examine my heart (and Jesus says we should), I find a hint of Christian entitlement. Despite knowing better, deep inside I want following Jesus to make my life easier. God pouring out His love to me, as He sees fit, isn’t always most important to me.

In my early adult years I thought if I asked for God’s blessings and tried to obey Him, He would (in return?) provide marital bliss, adolescent children without acne or angst, assets with predictable appreciation, great vacations, lots of friends… You get the picture; it’s embarrassing how shallow that sounds.

IMG_2367But I’ve grown a bit. Now I’m only perplexed that the world is unstable and dangerous.  That I’m still fighting weeds and that midlife and the sandwich generation feels a lot like middle school — which I swore I’d never return to. Okay, sometimes even the little things get to me. When all the big things start going amiss, I want an explanation and an escape.

God delivers — just not quite as I envision. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

If we define abundant Christian life as being comfortable and easy, when we hit the inevitable wall of hard knocks, we will doubt God, ourselves, and each other.

Satan, the ruler of this world, is the author of lies, doubt, confusion and despair. He hates it when we seek God for Who He is and seek to love and obey Him… maybe that’s why when we go through one of God’s opened doors, life often gets much harder. Storms of all kinds just happen in a fallen world; Christians aren’t immune. Other times, trouble weazels in through cracks of opportunity we leave unchecked:  desires of the flesh.

“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:13-14)

IMG_5389“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Cor 10:13)

Here’s the deal. Jesus never said if you believe in me, life on earth will be easy — but rather, “You will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.” (Matthew 24:9)

IMG_4853Only once does He mention ease in the Bible, and He isn’t talking about cozy circumstances. The same Jesus who said, “I am the door”  (John 10:7) also said, “My yoke is easy.” (Matthew 11:30) That’s a metaphor for living like Him. Surrendering my “rights” and life, so that I’m constantly receiving power and grace from God. Easy happens on the inside. It exists when the joy of the Lord is my strength in the middle of all my messy problems. That’s abundant life.

Starfish! Alligator Point, FL
Starfish! Alligator Point, FL

It’s time for me to quit being surprised and doubting God’s plan when all hell breaks loose. Jesus is interested in producing His Holy character in us. Walking in the Spirit, we will battle the desires of the flesh. We’ll battle loving the world and everything in it too much. And we will draw the attention of the devil. But James 4:7 says “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” What an inspiring promise, but it rests on our humility before God.

I started with a question, and I’ll end with a few. Have you witnessed God’s amazing faithfulness? Have you been through a long, dark season, and come out on the other side with a bit of His wisdom? I have, and I wouldn’t trade all He has done in me through the trouble He allowed, for anything I once thought I wanted more than Him.

IMG_5662God has also allowed periods of blessed rest. When Rob and I married, we had a long season of reprieve. I was in a Bible Study where almost everyone was struggling with something, and I was thankfully but sheepishly at rest. Then we moved, and the relative break turned to constant challenge.

That’s why I wrote this post — to remind myself, and hopefully you too, that God’s got this. He’s doing amazing things on the inside, and He’s in control of everything on the outside. All is well. God is with us! ALL the time!

Ray Montagne’s song “Trouble” was popular years ago. How about a better message with a worthy focus? When I heard the following song, I wanted to break loose from the frozen chosen, stand up and say AMEN! Listen and be blessed.

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Mid-life Mom… Who am I and What am I to Do?

What happened to my flowers?!?


We went to the beach in the midst of a beautiful Tallahassee spring. My yard was full of color and promise; azaleas, Japanese Magnolias and Dogwood were splendid with blooms! Less than 48 hours later, the flowers of “spring,” certainly the shortest season in North Florida, were all but gone.

Pictures of the same Japanese Magnolia taken just days apart


Spring’s promise is being fulfilled too quickly for my tastes. It seems the transition happens overnight, as one day we wake up to the full-on green of summer’s heat. Cycles of change are inevitable in nature and in the lives of individuals — in my life.

I remember my mom saying each year passes more swiftly than the last. It made no sense to me as a child enduring the seeming eternity between Thanksgiving and Christmas. But today I agree with the generations before me. “Tempus do fugit,” as Granny liked to say agreeing with Mom; time flies.

I said in my last post I would write about “His continuing work of grace in my heart.” The time stamp says it was a month ago — I would have guessed 10 days. Barbara Bush had a quote about the life of young mothers being comprised of “long days and short years.” It’s so true! And for this 50-year old empty nester, this month has been similar. I am a mother without a child.

IMG_1317Lately I feel like a misfit: a stranger in my own body and mind — lost and confused. Something akin to the insecurity of adolescence when we are children in increasingly adult bodies, I am a searching version of my past self, with obviously aging skin, bones and muscles.  The real me feels invisible in a crowded room.

With incessant digital capturing, I’m shocked at images of my middle-aged face and form —  so drastically different from the athletic, unwrinkled woman inside. This matronly version of myself is not one I easily appreciate. And my mind? The forgetfulness, the confusion and unrest. Not knowing what’s next or what to do? Who am I?

In the little time my youthful self spent thinking about midlife, my current reality was not a part of my imaginings. Midlife crisis doesn’t fit because it implies recklessness and chaos. I don’t want to dismantle what I spent a lifetime building.  Yet something tells me, even as Rob and I are creating a second infrastructure with “family” in mind, I need to face the truth that the old is falling away like the blooms of spring, and new growth is happening without my permission — it’s time to embrace it!

We are blessed and grateful that our children come home fairly often. But nothing is as it once was, and their departures back to their “real” homes always loom. Each good bye is a reminder that the full-time mom season is over.

IMG_1211I get up at 6:30 and begin my morning rituals — but why? I could kiss Rob good bye and sleep a bit more. Most days, I have no where I need to be and no one who is counting on me.

The remaining tasks still available from my stay-at-home-mom days leave me feeling empty. I used to create our family life, full of friends and activity. All that went into homemaking and being mom was fulfilling and gave me great joy. A place and a purpose.

Whether at work or at home, I’ve managed to “busy myself” through the days, even productively sometimes. Then, Rob and I continue the old nighttime patterns, as if we still need to be home weeknights — a rut of sorts.

Recently, I wandered around Fresh Market, departed and drove to Publix — pushing a shopping cart again, but collecting only a bag of grated cheese (I later returned it and left empty handed). The futility of my leftover routine overcame me. We laughed and enjoyed a night out.

I try really hard to live in the present, but I often carry the grief of moments gone. Sweet memories of times fully lived and the regrets of opportunities lost. Recently, I’ve been overwhelmed with longing for my familiar and imperfect but beautiful past life as a bustling family.

IMG_0269God has met me in these last weeks, full of grace and compassion. The funeral of a 90-year old family friend who lived exceptionally well gave me glimpses of my own finish line, my obituary. Thirty, forty fifty… they came so fast. I never really considered life beyond my little “family.” But I am here and God-willing, I have 25-30+ more years. I want to live well and age gracefully.

Psalm 92:14 says, “They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green.”

Everything in my life is fair game to offer for examination. To retain if still useful or to remove if outdated. I want to make room for God’s continuing plans and purpose for me. I feel more urgency to share His love. To engage others. More intentional and thoughtful about my steps than before, when doing all the things that made up my days was enough. Now I’m spending a lot more time praying, being still, and listening.

My conversations tell me I’m not alone in this unsettling stage — struggling to loosen my grip both on what always was and on what I thought would be. Wondering if I have the courage to create something new and to claim the life God has for me now.

IMG_4230At 50 I’m living the backside of what I always thought of as my “future.” My goal is to keep my eyes and my heart on God whose grace is eternal and whose work in me will continue until he brings me home.

Something inside whispers that being busy is not the same as being fully alive — and that I have a lot to look forward to, as each day I surrender to being more of who God made me to be. The great thing about the passing years is we get to hang on to every age, as we build on all God accomplishes in each season we are His child.

Isaiah 46:4 says “Even to your old age I will be the same, And even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; And I will bear you and I will deliver you.”

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Live Like You were Dying or My Life is in YOU, Lord

IMG_0720Not long after high school my boyfriend and I were floating on rafts about 100 feet off shore when we saw a huge dorsal fin. “Jaws” had come out not long before; I truly thought I was about to die.

I was a believer, so I called out to Jesus, right? Nope. My near death thoughts surprised even me. I still remember a vivid moment of regret — wishing I had experienced a little more of what this world had to offer, instead of dying young, naive and well-behaved.

When death feels imminent, we get honest about who we are, what we believe, and what we really want. That day God exposed all the worldly idolatry that gripped my good-girl heart.

IMG_0756Recently my Bible study group had the privilege of meeting with a friend who has stage 4 cancer. He’s lived well past his prognosis — shifting between cities, doctors and treatments in an Herculean effort to beat the odds one more time. I highly encourage you to read his story and all God is doing through it in his excellent blog.

He doesn’t accept the cancer pass on doing good deeds that the world offers him, but strives to live well and serve others. Jesus is his life, and life is more precious to him than ever.

His joy is evident as he tells stories, preaches, teaches and generally blesses everyone God places in his path. He’s honest, humble, vulnerable, wise, loving and possibly more fully alive than anyone I know. Despite cancer, it seems he’s having fun! I’m still mulling over thoughts from my morning with Ed.

I’ve been wondering: Why are all of us not living more like Ed? Death is everyone’s imminent reality. We may not make it until bedtime or we could live to be 100. Regardless, our time on earth is finite and fleeting as compared to eternity.

What is my day-to-day life saying about who I worship? Why am I not more vulnerable, grateful, bold, joyful and in love with Jesus? Why should I be trusting in anything but Him? Why do I think I can “live like I was dying” at any time but the present?

IMG_0609The idea that I allow anything to trump God as the center of my devotion is horrifying. Yet I’m afraid my flesh is still much like it was that day with the shark. At 18, I had goals to accomplish and experience. Prayer meant asking His blessings on my plans and ideas.

Now I’m 50. Do I still want to do things my way? To follow the world’s prescriptions?  Do other people and things feel more urgent and important than the God who created me and loves me? Am I consistently trusting in Jesus or is my flesh finding its security elsewhere?

Despite God’s work in my heart,  I frequently mess up my priorities. I know the Truth from experience — that God is my sufficiency, my joy and my first love. But it takes my intentional daily surrender in time spent with Him for me to live in this Truth. Sadly, I don’t always give Him the time I want to —

IMG_0973-225x300Unchecked, my flesh still believes the lies that say life is found in all that brings comfort, ease and enjoyment. I chase after the good this world offers with all my heart, soul, strength and mind — and fit Jesus in as often as I can. No matter how often I pray, my priorities say my full devotion to God is saved for the proverbial “tomorrow,” after I’ve consumed all I can, and things aren’t so busy and pressing.

The Bible calls my problem idolatry. Colossians 3:5-6 says “Put to death what is earthly in you, sexual immorality, impurity, evil desire and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.” 

Idolatry can also describe things that are originally good gifts from God.  When placed ahead of our devotion to God, even a spouse, children or parents, school, ambitions, church service, jobs, friends, homes, health — anything becomes an idol if it trumps God in achieving our devotion and attention.

IMG_0176God’s jealousy is righteous. John Piper teaches that God deserves our deepest affections and admiration.  His is also “a loving jealousy, because we were made to find our greatest joy when He is our greatest treasure… if we find God to be so boring or so negligible that we must put other things in his place that really satisfy us more than he does, then we not only offend him, but we also destroy ourselves. And those two things make God angry…  And idolatry contradicts both of those things and so his wrath comes upon the idolater.”

At Christmas, we celebrate something mind blowing — the most powerful and joyous event ever! The Creator of the universe left His perfect heaven, became a baby who grew into a man — fully God and fully human.  A man who lived a holy life,  suffered and died. Why would He do this?

IMG_1358Jesus came to save us from ourselves, our sins and idolatry. He not only asks that we live like we are dying but that we DO DIE to ourselves, so that we may really live — today! Here on earth. Jesus deserves my first fruits of time, attention and love — without any close seconds. He asks that I put nothing before Him for any reason. Can we turn from our idolatry and give Jesus the gift of our love and devotion this Christmas, before and above anything else? Can we tell Him, Jesus, You are my Life?

Luke 9:23 – And he said to [them] all, If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Galatians 5:24 – And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
Mark 8:35 – For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.

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