Thank You God!

Last night, I did some Christmas shopping.  In an actual brick and mortar store.

Already, not my favorite thing to do.

One of the stores was Walmart.

Double down on not my favorite thing to do.

But it was necessary, as this weekend will start the tour de Christmas celebrations with my family.

As I’m leaving Walmart, a car tried to merge into my lane, and almost took my front bumper off in the process.

And then, closer to home, a buck decided he needed to cross the road right in front of me.

And then a mile further down the road, a raccoon needed to cross the road right in front of me.

The last time I hit a raccoon, my front bumper split into two pieces, while the raccoon survived.

It was at this point that I desperately wished I had just stayed home.  I could have had on my sweatpants, and been curled up watching TV.  And I would have avoided all of those near misses.

But I said a little prayer thanking God for keeping me safe in each situation, despite the frustration I felt.  And God took that moment to tap me on the shoulder, reminding me that my drive home is basically a perfect metaphor for life.  As we navigate life, obstacles will continue to jump in our path.  Sometimes we manage to slam on the brakes in just enough time to avoid hitting the obstacle.  Sometimes we don’t.

But if we stay locked safely in our homes, avoiding all of the obstacles, we really aren’t living life, now are we?

So I took a deep breath, and I once again thanked God for keeping me safe, on the drive home, and in my day to day life.  And I thanked Him for opening my eyes to the realization He gave me.

How Long Am I Supposed to Wait?

Persist: continue firmly or obstinately in an opinion or a course of action in spite of difficulty, opposition, or failure.

Persevere, continue, carry on, go on, keep at it, keep on, keep going, keep it up, not give up, be persistent, be determined, see/follow something through, show determination, press on/ahead, plod on, plow on, stay with something, not take no for an answer

The Israelite’s wandered in the desert for 40 years.

Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years for Isaac to be born.

Lazarus was dead for 4 days before Jesus healed him.  

David waited over 20 years before he became king.

Job waited months to be restored.

Jonah was in the belly of a whale for 3 days.

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Waiting is hard.

I will be the first one to admit that to you.  I am kind of a patient person.  But then again, I’m really not.  I can wait.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated (to say the least) while I’m waiting.

I know that I should wait on God.  But that doesn’t mean I like waiting on God.

The Bible gives us many incredible examples of folks who waited, and waited, and waited for God to answer their prayers.  The above stories are just a few of the more popular or familiar stories.  There are many, many, MANY more examples.

In all of these stories, we know how the story ends.  We know the conclusion.  We know how God redeemed everyone in these stories.  How he fulfilled the prayers.  Yes, we know that they waited for what probably seemed like an eternity.  But we also know how they turned out.

What we do not always get a clear, full picture of is what it was like for everyone while they waited.  If there is an exception, I would say it was Job.  But nonetheless, I’m sticking by my statement that the waiting period, the anguish and heartache and fear that everyone experienced during the waiting really isn’t truly laid out.

We know that they struggled.  We know that in their impatience for God to answer their prayers that they did some stupid things.  Abraham and Sarah got impatient, and tried to answer their prayers in their own way, by Abraham having a child with Sarah’s servant.  And the Israelite folks worshiped other idols, and tried to make their own way in a lot of different areas.  Job remained faithful in his claim, despite his friends urging to do otherwise, that he hadn’t committed any great sin.

There are lessons to be learned here.

Huge, important lessons.

First of all, waiting is hard.  Yes, absolutely, part of the lessons that we learn from all of the stories about waiting in the Bible is that waiting is hard.  It is difficult.  It is challenging.  It is a struggle.  I often feel like we don’t accurately understand from the writing in the Bible just how difficult the waiting is for the folks in the Bible.  If everyone accurately described the day to day struggles during their waiting period, the Bible would easily be 17 times longer than it already is.

Because of that, the magnanimity of the time of waiting truly isn’t felt.

As a result, there will be times during our own waiting periods that we will struggle.  And we will feel like there is no end to whatever suffering or struggle or difficulty or challenge that we are facing.

And sometimes, just sometimes, knowing that eventually there will be a conclusion to our waiting period isn’t all that much of a comfort.  Because in our human-ness, we don’t want our suffering to end someday.  We want it to end RIGHT NOW!!!

Second of all, don’t do stupid things while you’re in your waiting period.  This one should be a pretty clear lesson from the Bible.  In our impatience, we want to solve our issues on our own, because we feel like God is just taking way too much time.  So we then compound the bad-ness of the situation by trying to do things our own way.

Yes, we make things worse.

Instead of being patient, and letting God’s plan play out how He intends it to be played out.  We screw things up, and try to force our own plans to happen, and we just make things worse.  So very, very much worse.

Friends, I know how difficult it is to wait on God’s timing.  But if one thing has been made clear to me lately is that we should never give up.

I truly believe that if God has put something on your heart, or put you in the middle of a challenging situation, He has planned a way out of it for you.  He already has all of the little details worked out.

We just need to trust in His plan, trust in the purpose for his plan.

We must persist.

Let’s unpack the passage from the notes in my Bible pictured above.

“To persist in prayer and not give up does not mean endless repetition or painfully long prayer sessions.”

There are times in the Bible where we are commanded to “pray without ceasing.”  I get that.  And there are certainly times where a prayer vigil is called for.  But I also believe that while we are called to pray without ceasing, that doesn’t mean that we stop doing everything else in life.  “Painfully long prayer sessions” doesn’t sound like something that glorifies God.  At all.

“Always praying means keeping our requests constantly before God as we live for him day by day, believing he will answer.”

Keeping our requests constantly before God can be a method of praising God.  We trust in His plan.  We honor His plan.  We have faith in his plan for our lives.

“When we live by faith, we are not to give up.”

Dory-white.jpg Years ago, we were introduced to Dory.  The awesome, and hysterical, yet forgetful character in Finding Nemo, who always reminds us to “just keep swimming.”  Over and over again, we are to persist, just keep going, because we trust in His plan.  We will not give up on His plan.  Because we have faith.

 

“God may delay in answering, but his delays always have good reasons.”

Unfortunately, for us, God doesn’t answer our prayers by following our timeline.  Yes, we wish he would sometimes.  But there is absolutely no instance where our time frame would supersede God’s timeline.  There may be times of coincidence, and it just so happens that God’s plan for our life, and His plan for our life are the same thing.  But I promise you, it was God’s plan for it to happen that caused whatever it is to happen.

“As we persist in prayer we grow in character, faith and hope.”

When we choose to live in faith, and trust in God’s plan, trust in God’s timing (even if we don’t always like it) we grow stronger.  We grow more faithful.  We life in hope.  And we can find joy in the waiting.  In fact, we should choose to live joyfully during the waiting time.  Even though it’s difficult to do sometimes.  When we choose to live in the joy of waiting, we find more joy along the way.

Dear friend, I feel the pain you may be feeling during the waiting times God gives to us.  I feel the struggle, the impatience.  The desperation in wanting this to end.  I get it.

It can suck.

But persist.  Don’t give up.  Keep moving forward.  Keep trusting God.  Because there is not one instant that God’s plan for our life won’t turn out to be the absolute best thing for us.

I could promise you that fact.

But even better, God promises us that fact.

I Took a Break

I took a break.  From writing, obviously.  

Just at the culmination of the end of my journey with banishing my scale.  

Personally, I needed to work through some things, and deal with some behavior on my own before writing about it.  Nothing bad. But just some things that I need to address.

Plus, it’s the end of the school year, and I happened to contract the plague a few weeks ago that took far too long to recover from. (But hey, I lost 8 pounds!!) (And I’ve only gained 4 of it back!!)

So…first of all…the whole banishing my scale and just being happy with eating healthier was a giant bust.  I failed. Miserably.

Let me explain.

I did, in fact, manage to keep my scale banished until Easter.  On Easter, I broke that bad boy out, and weighed myself, and I was HORRIFIED at the number.  

I gained weight.  And not like a pound.  I gained almost 10 pounds.

I’m certain the jar of peanut butter AND the jar of icing I ate had absolutely nothing to do with that weight gain.  Nope, not a thing.

So I have un-banished my scale.  And have committed to actually eating healthier.  But also, giving myself a break and enjoying a Mexican food feast, mostly guilt free.  

But that isn’t even the biggest thing that I have been addressing.  I was getting down on myself for the wrong thing. Imagine that.

I had a habit.  A bad one. One that I kicked.  But then promptly replaced with food.  So I eat healthy meals. But honestly, the thing that was killing me was the nighttime snacking.  I won’t even be hungry. But there I am, standing in the kitchen, stuffing mass quantities of food in my face.  Yup, that happened.

But once I actually recognized that I had really just replaced that old bad habit with a new bad habit, I feel like I can address such a thing.  And I haven’t had any late night snack attacks since I came to this realization. So…that’s awesome.

But here’s the big thing.  The really big thing that I have been thinking and praying and talking to a few close friends, and of course, the parents.

A few weeks ago, I was in class with a small group of students.  And they brought up some of the stupidity that their generation just can’t seem to get away from.  So during this conversation, told my students that if they didn’t like the way society was going, they need to get involved.  

BE THE CHANGE.

They can make a difference.  

And in that moment, God tapped me on the shoulder.  I didn’t really want to listen at the time, but God definitely tapped me on the shoulder.  

How could I possibly tell my students that they need to be the change, when I was sitting here, not being the change myself???

And when I asked if my role in that change could just, you know, be telling other people to be the change.

Yeah, that didn’t go over so well.  

Shortly after that, I have another revolutionary weekend.  One of the things that has stopped me from going back to school is that I feel too old to do so.  I’m turning 38 this year. And I would need to go to school for at least a couple of years to do what I want.  Meaning I would be at least 40. And I really don’t want to be $30K in debt at the ripe old age of 40. So clearly, I am too old to go back to school.  But then, when it comes to other topics…meaning I’m not too old to get married. I’m not too old to still have children. I’m not too old to do those things.  

I can’t be both too old, and not that old at the same time.

It doesn’t work like that.  

So I gave it all over to God.  

I am consistently giving it all over to God.  Consistently, and constantly reminding myself that I have given it over to God.  And I trust that at the right moment, He is going to open all of the right doors, close all of the wrongs ones, and guide me to what He has in store for me.  

I am slightly terrified, because, you know, I’m human.  But I’m also excited about it. So let’s see where God is taking me on this crazy journey called life!!

Stuck Between The Rock and a Grumpy Place

Disclaimer: I am trying desperately not to have a pity party.

Disclaimer, the second:  I am not referring to Dwayne Johnson.  

The logical and pragmatic side of my brain is telling me I am fine.  The human, emotional, side of my brain is grumpy. Why, might you ask?  Well…let me tell you.

I am trying to give up on any preconceived notions I have for my life.  Letting go of the plans that I have made for my life, and focusing, or at least trying to, on God’s plan for my life.  

And I’m grumpy about it, currently.

Because I feel like I’m what one of my students have called me: a loser.  

And maybe not even necessarily a loser, just that I don’t have much of a life.  I come to work, I try to kick booty and be awesome. Then I go home, and I hang out with my dog.  I eat dinner. Watch TV. And go to bed. And if I talk to anyone outside of school, most of the time it’s my parents.  

And I’m not even saying that any of the things that I do are bad.  Because I’m not. I am comfortable enough with myself (now) to spend time alone with myself.  It took some time to get to that place, but I’m there. I can do things by myself, for myself.  

But as I was getting ready this morning, I was thinking about my life, and I have to ask…is this it?  Is this all there is ever going to be?

So, moving back to the logical side of my brain, and knowing God as I do…I KNOW that if this is what God has planned for my life, I KNOW that He is going to give me the strength to get through it, and survive, and hopefully be happy.  I get that.

But right now, I’m not happy about it.  I’m grumpy.

I’m at that place, and let’s be real honest, I have been there for a long time, where all of my friends are married.  And now they have children. And those children are growing up.

And then, off to the sidelines is me.  Cheering them on. And able to cheer them on from a place that is pure and honest with my absolute joy for their lives.  

But at the same time, feeling left out.  

Maybe moving past this feeling is just part of the process that I need to go through.  A process of grief, you might say.

So that’s where I’m at right now.  Stuck between God’s plan for my life.  And being grumpy about it.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll have a brighter outlook.  

The Angels are Bowling

I am not fan of storms.  Never have been. Especially at night, when I’m trying to get to sleep.  I cannot count the number of times that my parents sat up with me, trying to calm my nerves as a child.  So I would just go to sleep.

They tried everything.

Singing.  And praying.  And talking. So much talking.

They finally came up with the reason there was so much thunder.  It’s that all of these angels in heaven were bowling. And someone just got a strike.

Ok, I get that heaven is this super fun and awesome place to hang out.  But do you seriously need to be bowling when a little kid is trying to get to sleep?  

I.  Do.  Not. Think.  So.

It isn’t the rain that I have an issue with.  It’s the violence of the storms. The massive lightning and thunder.  When I get woken up by thunder, that is entirely too loud and ridiculous.  

But still, storms happen.  

For me, one of the more recognizable parables of Jesus is when he and the disciples were on a fishing boat, heading across the Sea of Galilee, when a storm blows in.  All of the disciples start freaking out because they were in danger from the storm. And there is Jesus, fast asleep. Finally, the disciples wake him, and Jesus immediately jumps into action.  He commands the storm to chill out. And voila, the storm complies.

Do you truly understand some of the great things about this parable?  First of all, Jesus and the disciples were heading to the other side of the Sea of Galilee for a little rest and recreation.  They were on this fishing boat, on their way for some peace and quiet. And instead of getting some peace and quiet, they end up in the midst of this major rager of a storm.  Second, the disciples, many of whom were fishermen by trade, were not unused to storms. And despite that experience, or perhaps, because of their experience, they were freaking out.  I don’t blame them. I would be freaking out too. Luke describes the disciples as being in “great danger.” Matthew and Mark both described the storm as “furious.” So this was not some teeny, tiny little storm.  Realistically, they all could have died.

But they didn’t.

The disciples had ran around, doing the things that they knew to do to protect themselves.  They took down the sails. And were doing whatever else it is that you do on a sailboat in the middle of a storm.  I’m no sailor, so I have no idea. The point is, they did know. And they were doing it. And nothing they were doing was working.  

So finally, what do they do?  

They wake Jesus up, and are all like, “hey dude, we have this little storm raging around us.  You think you could help us out a little?”

And Jesus was like “yeah, bro.  I got this.”

Instantly, the storm calmed down, just because Jesus commanded it to do so.  And the disciples jaw hit the floor. Because even though they had been with him, they did not think that he was powerful enough to calm the storm.  

Let that sink in for a second.

The disciples.  The guys that had been following Jesus around, seeing the miracles he had been performing.  They didn’t think he was powerful enough to take care of them, and keep them safe through the storm.  

But.  He. Was.

Inevitably, we are going to experience our very own major rager of a storm.  It isn’t possible to get through this human life without experiencing some kind of trial or struggle or challenge.  What that specific storm is will look different for each and every one of us. But we will all experience that storm.  

Now, our logical and pragmatic human brains are going to look at this storm, and have a very human, very logical and pragmatic response to such a storm.  

It’s even possible for us to think that God has abandoned us during this storm.  Or even worse, that our storm is far too powerful for God to handle. He has just lost all control, and he’s left you behind to deal with this storm all on your own.  

It isn’t true.

There is nothing that is too powerful or too strong or too awful that God can’t handle.  

NOTHING.

But let me just throw this out there…

God is not always going to stop the storm in our life instantly.  In fact, that will rarely be the case. We may wish for, and hope for, and pray for God to calm our storm instantly.  And it can be really tough when we turn to God for comfort and peace. And he just doesn’t handle the situation how we want him to handle it.

I mean, I can’t possibly be alone in this.  

Right?

But just because God doesn’t resolve and calm our storm how we want him to calm it, doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have a plan.  Just because he has the power to do something, doesn’t mean that calming our storm is in his plan for our life.  Ultimately, there is a purpose and a plan for everything that happens.

We may not understand or see what that purpose is immediately.  Sometimes, we may never fully understand why we experienced that storm.

But then there will be other times that 8 years down the road, we have that lightbulb moment of realization.  And everything starts to make sense.

No matter what, we need to rest in God’s peace in the midst of our storms and that no matter what, God has our back, and he will get us through.  

One of my current favorite songs is Sleep in the Storm by Unspoken.  The first time I heard this song, it hit home.  Hard. At first, just because sleeping through a storm is something I find challenging.  I mean, praying to be able to learn to sleep in the storm. How preposterous. Especially because of the chorus.  

Let the thunder be my comfort
Let the lightning be my guide
Let the waves that rise around me
Hold me gently through the night

How ridiculous of an idea is this?  Thunder comforting me? Being guided by lightning?  All of it just seems like a ridiculous notion.

But then I started thinking, and listening.  

Ok, God.  What is it you’re trying to tell me here?  

Well, let’s continue with some of the lyrics…

For the winds that seem against me
Push me right into Your arms
Teach me how to sleep in the storm
How to sleep in the storm

See that right there?  Did you read that line?  Did you hear that line? Did you understand that line?

The winds that seem against me, push me right into Your arms.

So when those storms are raging around us, and we feel like we’re being battered and beaten, and like we are all alone in this world, with no safety net to save us.  Those are the moments that we are being pushed directly into God’s arms.

Like the parable we talked about earlier.  When the storms in our lives are raging around us, and we are having a very human, and very logical, and very pragmatic response.  Those are the moments that God has our back, and always has the ability to carry us through the storm.

Now, I understand the struggle of storms in life.  Every single day there is something that I struggle with.  

And every single day, I rely on God to get me through those struggles.  

Some days, it seems like I can manage them easily.  Other days, I feel so broken and alone, and near rock bottom that I don’t see how I can possibly move forward.  To be completely honest, those days suck. I know that God has a purpose for those days. Whether it is a test of my faith.  Or a blatant attack by Satan (that guy is a jerk, and juts needs to go away). Whatever it is, those days hurt. And I feel exhausted by yet one more test of my faith.  

I’m over it.

I don’t want those days.

Ever.

But God knows that sometimes I need those days.  Because clearly, there is a lesson for me to be learned.  Maybe that it’s simply that I need to rely on, and turn everything over to God.  Maybe it’s a consequence for something that I have done wrong. The cause, the trigger, whatever you want to call it, can be different every time.  

But one thing remains true.

God has my back.

There is one final line in the Sleep in the Storm that just hit so hard.  

How will I grow, if I never get rained on

Now, I’m a good farm kid.  

You know what farm kids know?  

Farm kids know that rain is vital and important to the growth and development of crops.  Crops will not grow if there is no rain.

Humans are the same way.  We grow, and become strong and healthy, because of the rain in our lives.  We grow as Christians. We grow as friends. As partners. We grow with the rain.  We may not always agree with the timing of all of those storms in our lives. But as my mom (because my mom is a very wise woman, and no matter how old you get, you always need your mommy) continues to tell me: God’s timing is perfect.

Are you currently experiencing a storm in your life?  You are not alone. You are loved. And you are blessed.  And you are understood. It will be difficult to get through some days.  But know that no matter what, God will be there to wrap His arms around you, and comfort you, and give you strength.  

You can sleep through the storm.