When the Right Thing Feels Like it Was the Wrong Thing

This last spring, I shared a post about Ben’s new job. We were excited and full of anticipation. We’d spent A LOT of time praying about our next step, and in many ways, it seemed clear that God was leading Ben to enter a partnership with a local company.

For six months, everything went really well. Ben loved the work, and it felt like a fantastic fit for him, as well as for our family. Every new opportunity was exciting, and we were full of hope for everything the future held.

But after six months, it became clear that things were moving in a different direction than expected. It was a confusing time – we’d felt peace about our decision in spring, and it had really felt right at the time. But now suddenly, everything changed. Had we made the wrong choice?

What do we do when we try to make the best choice we can, step out in faith, and then everything turns out completely differently than we thought it would? Does that mean it was a mistake?

The more we process the whole experience, the more I see how the outcome matters so much less than the fact that we were acting in faith and obedience to what we felt called to do at the time. God has taught me a lot about trust and faith in the last few months, and I’m slowly learning to have peace in the midst of great uncertainty.

And so we try again. This was all just one step, and there are many more steps to come. It wasn’t the wrong step – it just wasn’t the last one.

What’s next?

Through it all, Ben has finally gotten the courage to go after his true dream, and I’ve finally gotten the courage to support him in it. He’s always been better with taking risks than I am, but both of us are now ready to see what God is going to do. If the last six months had never happened, I don’t know if we’d have the courage to pursue this new dream. Maybe we needed to go through that season to prepare us for what’s next.Over the next couple of weeks, Ben will be getting ready to launch his new venture, and we’re very excited. I’ll share more details soon – including a fun giveaway for my blog readers to be part of, because so many of you have followed along on our journey for years, and have been lovely and supportive. (Thank you!!!)

But in the meantime, I just want to say that God is good, and He is faithful. He guides our steps, and holds our hands. What I want more than anything is to trust Him with my life, no matter what happens. Even when things turn out completely different than we thought they would, we can still trust Him.

He is not looking down from heaven, saying, “Shoot, I never saw that one coming!! How in the world am I going to provide for Ben and Kendra now???!!!”

He’s got it covered, and His ways are so much better than my own. He can redeem anything, and so we keep looking to Him for our next steps.

Fruit at Your Fingertips, and Strength When You Need It

This has been my year of abiding. I’ve written about it before – about how Ben tricked me into getting up early every morning, so that I would have time to pray, journal, and read my Bible before my family got up, because I read that when we abide, we give the Holy Spirit the chance to change us in ways we can’t change ourselves. My year of abiding is coming to an end soon, and I wonder how much has changed. It becomes clear how much I need a lifetime of abiding, not just 12 months, and maybe I’m not that different than I was a year ago, except for this: I’m aware of how much I need this time each day. I’ve felt empty on the few days I missed it, because of sickness, or the couple of times when the alarm didn’t wake me up.

So if nothing more, I’ve developed a habit of making time for abiding each morning, and that’s worth a lot.

When I’m finished my quiet time on the couch, I spend half an hour stretching and exercising while I listen to a message, usually from Bridgetown Church (if we ever have to move, please let it be to Portland!). I just started a fantastic series about the Holy Spirit (which you can find here), and it fits well with this year of soaking in God’s presence. It’s a different way of looking at things for me – less doing and trying, and more just being and quietly focusing.

A strange and beautiful picture came to my mind the other day as I was praying and thinking about living my day in the presence of the Holy Spirit. It was as though I was leaning against the trunk of a huge tree, and I could see massive, leafy branches spreading out thickly about my head, loaded with fruit, hanging there ready for me to pick whenever I needed the Fruit of the Spirit (give me all the “patience” apples!!!!). And when I looked down at my feet, it was as though I could see deep roots growing far down into the ground beneath me, giving me strength and depth, securely grounding me in all the power available to me in the Spirit.

It gave me a feeling that’s hard to describe – like the strength was already there, filling me up, and the fruit was so close, right within my reach at any time I might need it. In my mind, as I saw this picture, there was such a feeling of steadiness, security, and relief – I knew I didn’t need to do this on my own, it wasn’t up to me to try to produce patience, kindness, or faithfulness, because it was all right there, ready and waiting to be picked at any moment.

I’m trying to remember this picture everyday. One of my lovely, adorable children has decided to express all anger with screaming instead of words, and there’s often bad attitudes or conflict to work through with three kids in the house all day. I try to picture that fruit right within my reach. I try to remember the feeling of leaning against a thick, strong trunk, knowing those roots are beneath me.

This was the picture I got, but maybe it can be a picture for you, too. If you close your eyes, can you imagine that beautiful fruit, already waiting for you to pick it during those tough moments? Can you feel rough bark, a strong trunk to lean against when the craziness of getting back into the routine of the week is sapping you of all your strength? Do you feel the strength that flows into you because you are rooted in Christ, and He is grounding you, holding you steady, and keeping you strong in every single moment?

Let’s not pretend for a second that this always comes easily. I weathered an hour and a half long tantrum this morning – my sweet child was exhausted by the end of it, and so was I. It’s always difficult for me to be in the middle of a tense situation, and I tend to take on the emotion of people around me. But this morning was different. I kept leaning into that strength, and continued to remind myself to be the peace and calming in the midst of the chaos. I don’t always remember, but today I did, so we celebrate the progress, and know that if things don’t go so well next time, there is still growth.

So whatever your Monday holds for you today, know that you can picture yourself with that sweet fruit of the Spirit in your hand, its juiciness dribbling down your chin, and your feet firmly planted, because you are His, and He’s got you covered.

 

Come and Get It

A friend once shared with me how a family tragedy taught her about spiritual roots. She talked about how deep personal darkness left her without energy for pursuing God – all she could do was try to survive, and in the midst of all the heartache, He was there. Because she had done the work before the hard times hit, she found that her roots went down deep, and kept her steady even when all she had energy for was hanging on to Jesus, one day at a time.

I’ve often thought about that since – I love the idea of finding enough grace and strength to survive because we put in the work and grew the roots deep ahead of time.

roots

Having a baby is no tragedy, but these last two years have been spent in survival mode. During the months I struggled with postpartum anxiety, I saw a counselor who told me, “Give it until your baby is two – you’ll feel normal again. Life will become manageable, but give yourself time.”

She was right – Everett turned two this fall, and while life is still full and crazy, things seem to have fallen into place, and we have come out of survival mode. God started stirring me up and making me long for more growth.

During the last two years, I found little snippets of time throughout the day to read my Bible or a few pages of a good book. There were short times of prayer, and lots of hanging on to Jesus, but this fall, it was as though God was saying, “It’s time for the next phase.”

I was having a great conversation with two of my dearest friends one evening, listening to them share about all the things God was teaching them. It was so inspiring to hear all the ways in which He was revealing Himself to them, through His word, and prayer, and great books or podcasts, and I loved hearing all they had to say. But part of me was also getting hungry, and I found myself wanting more of what they had.

I asked God, “Why aren’t you moving in my life that way? I want you to be teaching me and speaking to me like that. Why am I not experiencing more of you?”

Right in that moment, He said to me, “Come and get it.” Immediately, it hit me – it was time for me to get out of survival mode. It was time to get to work. Everything my friends were experiencing was available to me – I just needed to do something about it.

My first excuse was classic, though – “I don’t have time for more!” I thought I was already giving all I could. But as I thought about it, I realized there were little steps I could take – set the alarm 15 minutes earlier, use a Bible reading app instead of Pinterest, get intentional about jotting down the things God was saying to me, even if it was just in Evernote on my phone, here and there throughout the day.

 

Bit by bit, I started carving out the time. The more I did it, the more I wanted it. It felt good.

But I’ve still been a bit disappointed – I wanted to see more results. I’ve been hoping those times of connecting with Jesus would result in a greater ability to be patient. To be a kinder, gentler mom. To show more love to my family. To have greater self-control with my tongue.

I felt these were reasonable expectations – I wanted to see the fruit of the Spirit. It made sense that spending more time with the Spirit would lead to more fruit of the Spirit. Where was my fruit?! I wanted to see more apples on my tree!

Fruit of the Spirit

I shared this frustration last week with those same friends. As one of them prayed for me, she said something about the work that is unseen, and suddenly, I saw a picture of tree roots. It was as though God said to me, “The fruit is coming, but right now, we’re working on the roots.”

It was exactly what I was needing to keep going. I keep tiptoeing down the dark hall to our living room each morning, carefully avoiding the places where the floor squeaks so Everett won’t wake up. I keep putting in that time with Jesus because there is no way I can do this all on my own – two-year-old molars and homeschooling and potty training and explosive emotions and bills to pay and food to make and laundry to fold and all the rest are teaching me that I need to press in closer to Jesus.

Graham Cooke says, “Our circumstances are sent to us to improve the quality of our relationship with God.” I think about that a lot, because weathering a 30 minute tantrum over a pair of pants looks different to me when I see it as an opportunity to improve my connection to Jesus. I love my kids, I love my life, but there are parts of it that are just really hard. Can I remember to take all those hard parts, and depend on God to save us all? To redeem and restore, and bring peace and calm to our frazzled selves?

I need deep roots. I need the fruit, too, but I can understand how the roots come first, so I keep putting in the time. I used to think my failures as a mom meant I needed to try harder. Now, I’m seeing how I just need more time with Jesus. I’m trusting Him to change me. His job is to bring about growth, fruit, and change. My job is to come and get it. It turns out, it’s always going to be found sitting at His feet.

When God’s Definition of “Effective” is Different From Mine

Quote from Secrets of the Secret PlaceEvery morning, I choose to believe this is true. I take the chance that waking up an hour before the rest of my family, and using that time to do my devotions and exercise will be more beneficial than the extra sleep. I trust that reading my Bible and praying is the absolute best use of my precious quiet time each morning, so it’s the very first thing I do when I get out of bed.

Then I have a day like I had yesterday, and I doubt everything about those words. Everett woke up half an hour early, teething and grumpy, so I got no exercising done, which meant I had a raging headache by lunch. Ben needed help with something before heading out the door for work, so I had to drop everything for what he needed. The girls woke up and didn’t like what we were having for breakfast. Everybody needed the usual morning routine to start, but I wasn’t ready for any of it.

Inside, I was kind of ticked off – I had made the better choice! Where was my extra blessing?! I was supposed to feel calm, peaceful, and productive. I had stepped out in faith, and it was feeling as though it would have been better to spend that precious time in the morning getting a head start.

But in the end, the necessary stuff all got done. Some things had to get left behind. I had to change my expectations for the day, and let go of my to-do list. I needed to remind myself that God defines “effective” differently than I do. His “to-do list” usually looks very different from mine.

And so I do still believe that quote is true, but I needed to be reminded that as the Spirit fills me, it’s an opportunity to become more flexible and open to the circumstances I find myself in, and to the things God brings into my path, rather than get more rigid in my own demands of the day. It had become a trade in my mind – I’ll give you my time if you give me the perfect day! That sounds ridiculous now, but in the moment, it made sense to me!

It’s not a trade, though – it’s an offering. I need to give it without the expectation of getting anything back. The awesome part is that while yesterday was rough, there are also many days when I can see the benefits – verses are coming to mind more readily, or I remember to pray more throughout the day when something comes up, like a decision to make, or a tough parenting situation. Giving God my first hour of the day would be a great thing to do even if I saw no personal benefits, but God in His wisdom and mercy lets me see those, too!

 

 

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A Quiet, Ordinary Life

Friends of ours borrowed an amazing book to us, and I was enjoying it with the girls, when we got to this amazing truth:

Much-Afraid looked at the Shepherd. “Sometimes I have wondered about the wild flowers,” she said. “It seems strange that they should grow in places like this where the goats and cattle walk all over them. They have so much beauty and sweetness to give, and hardly anyone sees them.”

The look the Shepherd turned on her was very beautiful. “Nothing that My Father and I have made is ever wasted,” He said quietly, “and the wild flowers have a wonderful lesson to teach. Many people live a quiet, ordinary life. Hardly anyone even knows about them, but their hearts are like delightful gardens where the King Himself walks and rejoices. Some of My servants have won great respect from other people and are famous, but always their greatest victories are like the wild flowers, those which no one knows about….” (Hinds’ Feet on High Places, Hannah Hurnard)

flower

As you begin this week, may you be blessed as you bring delight to Jesus in your quiet, private moments in an ordinary life!

The Bible Story That Didn’t Happen

It always amazes me how Bible stories come alive all over again when I’m reading them to the girls from their children’s Bible. The wording will be a bit simplified, or they’ll ask me questions that I need to answer in a way they can understand, and the process of figuring this out makes me focus on details which have slipped through the cracks over the years.

Last week, the story that stuck with me was the one about Jacob and Esau. I’d forgotten this part:

A short time before they were born, God told Rebecca, “You are having two sons, who will lead two peoples. One boy will be stronger than the other and the older one will serve the younger one.”(100 Bible Stories, Miles Kelly)

Jacob and Esau

I’d forgotten that God told Rebecca this before any of it happened. And you know what He didn’t tell her?

“The older one will serve the younger one, which will be a bit tricky to bring about, but I’m pretty sure that you can manage – just scheme and lie to your husband enough that you can trick him into giving the birthright to the wrong son.”

What would have happened if Rebecca would have taken God’s words, and just kept them in her heart? How would the story have been different if she would have left everything up to God, and waited to see how He would bring about this strange prophecy?

And how often am I like Rebecca, trying to “help” God out, and trying to bring things to pass using my own force and imagination, my own ideas of how to get things done?

I slip into thinking that if I don’t do something, I’ll miss out. But this week I’ve been thinking about how there would have been another story for Rebecca and her sons. If Rebecca had simply waited, would there have been a different way to make the older son serve the younger one, without using lies or tricks? Could there have been a pure and godly way to get things done? I’m guessing this story could have turned out completely different if Rebecca would have had a trusting, patient heart….

And as I live my life, how can I learn to wait more on God’s plans and promises? How can I stop planning and scheming, and choose to rest in Him? I want my story to be one of letting go, and trusting Him to work out the details.

 

 

Where is God in This?

I’m still slowly making my way through the amazing book Can You Hear Me? and loving it more all the time. I definitely recommend this book!!

Can You Hear Me?

What I’ve been loving recently is a little prayer exercise of asking God where He is (or was) in a situation.

For example, a painful memory from the past – “Where were you when this happened, Father?”

Or a Bible story – if I were in that story, where would God be? I tried it with the story of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea, and immediately got a picture in my mind of walking through those walls of water with Jesus right by my side. It was such an incredible reminder of His presence beside me in any situation.

I prayed that prayer for a friend’s little girl who was facing some health issues, and saw a picture in my mind of God holding her in His hands.

And another time, for a friend’s little boy, and this time, it was a picture of God following that little boy, watching him with pride as he ran ahead.

He is there in everything, but it’s hard to remember that, when we feel afraid or alone. I love this idea of asking Him to show us where He is.