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The Worst Day…With a Happy Ending

Yesterday, friends invited us to check out the East Lansing Art Festival. Their family has three little boys similar ages to ours, and we truly enjoy hanging out with them! We were both impressed at how large this event was. Multiple streets were lined with tents and vendors offered items ranging from homemade crafts to unique art pieces. Ryan went from being held by Daddy to walking hand-in-hand with me to holding hands with Joshua. The kids were all happily playing together and the parents were chatting and keeping an eye on the larger group. I was impressed with not only the size of the event but also the number of people who were in attendance! It was a pretty crowded area.

After walking a block or so and looking at the “artsy” side, we purchased some water bottles (it was a hot day!) crossed a very busy intersection of the main street of traffic to the other side that offered more crafty-type wares. We stopped for our friends to buy yard stakes, and then we walked a bit for me to buy a personalized wooden flag sign. Ryan had been playing with his water bottle, walking next to Joshua but not holding his hand. Shawn was right behind him and Sandy went into the tent with me to help me pick out a sign. Their 4-year-old son accompanied us gals while the men stayed out with the other kids. Shawn thought Ryan went in with us and saw what he thought was the top of his head in between Sandy and me. While the man personalized my sign, Shawn came in to make sure Ryan wasn’t being a handful. He realized that Ryan wasn’t in the tent after all (their son who’s roughly the same size had already left to join the other boys).

“Where’s Ryan?” Shawn casually asked. “With you,” was my casual response. I paid the man and thanked him, and turned my attention to Shawn, who now looked a little distraught. “I’m going to go back the way we came and look for him.” I now realized Ryan was really not with the men. Still, I wasn’t panicked. I assumed he was nearby and we just didn’t see him in the crowd. Sandy offered to go another direction to look. I demanded of Joshua, “You were holding hands with Ryan the last I had looked.. Which way did he go?!?” Joshua was still having fun with the other boys and shrugged, “I don’t know. He wasn’t with me.” Of course an 8-year-old isn’t responsible for his younger brother. Still, I would have thought one of the kids may have seen him walk away. Which way? They shrugged. I went forward a bit while the boys stayed at the tent where we had just made a purchase with Tim. Meanwhile, Shawn and Sandy went through two separate rows of vendors. I love Ryan dearly but I didn’t think he would have the wherewithal to go back the way we came to try and find us. I assumed he got lost in his own little world of tossing his water bottle in the air like the older boys had been doing and he kept walking when we stopped. I also thought he would probably find one of the many, many dogs that owners had brought to the event and stop to pet it.

I very casually walked up and down looking for him, calling “Ryan! Ry?” to see if he would hear my voice and come running. I also listened for his little voice as he’s not typically too quiet. No one answered. I walked back, thinking Shawn must have found him and brought him back. I saw both Shawn and Sandy circle back, still with no Ryan in hand.

We all started looking a little more panicked as the minutes since we had last seen him were starting to tick by. I didn’t like the look on their faces that was mirroring what I felt in my heart. I quickly and definitively grabbed my older boys and insisted that they walk with me rather than wait by the tent where I had made my purchase. If Ryan were in that area, he would have come out by now. At this point, I didn’t want to be separated from any of my babies.

I continued with my instinct that he had kept walking, dreading that we were coming up to another intersection (although a less busy road). Tim walked back to the road we had crossed. He wanted to make sure Ryan didn’t try to cross the street that had heavily congested traffic. Sandy started talking to vendors, describing Ryan and asking them to hold onto him if they noticed him walking by. I started to yell louder and louder for him, not caring if people thought I was crazy. I didn’t want to sound upset, but I desperately wanted him to hear me and come running to me. I was also listening for him in between my calling his name. “RYAN! RY?!?! Where are you, buddy?”

At this point, I told my other two boys we needed to pray together. We immediately did out loud “Please, God, protect Ryan. Keep him safe. Bring him back to us quickly. Please help us! You’re our only hope. Please God, this is my son…he’s just a baby!” At this point, I realized Ryan had been gone too long. Our chances of finding him were getting less and less with every passing minute. As I rounded the corner I saw even more tents lining the next street with even more people. But I didn’t think he would go this far happily on his own without recognizing we weren’t there with him…

For the past two weeks, Ryan hadn’t slept very well. Shawn and I had had a conversation about feeling like Ryan was scared to be alone. He wouldn’t go into another area of the house by himself even and was barely sleeping, crying out for me in the night. I had asked my little man what was going on – why was he crying at night when he needed his sleep (and I did too!). His response had been that he wanted to snuggle me. I had told him to save his snuggles for daytime hours… Now I desperately wanted a snuggle from him!

I thought of Ryan’s fear of being alone and I started feeling sick in the pit of my stomach. “RYAN! RY!?!?! WHERE ARE YOU, BUDDY?!?!?” I continued to call for him. We continued to search the area. A woman came up to me and said “Can we help you?” I burst into tears and blurted out “My 3-year-old son is lost and all alone and we can’t find him anywhere!” This sweet shopper started mobilizing a team. “Her son is 3!” she shouted. “Help find this lady’s son!” More and more people came up and offered to help. Angels, I tell you! It takes one person to make the choice to help that leads others to recognize that help is needed and pitch in.

“What is he wearing?” someone asked. I described his very simple navy blue shirt and jeans. I groaned inwardly and thought to myself, why don’t I dress him in neon yellow? I heard people say, “Wow! He’s only three?” Folks who had heard me calling a name before suddenly realized how serious the situation was. People started looking and calling his name – he’s 3, wearing blue and his name is Ryan – GO! A woman sent her teenage kids to start looking for a 3-year-old blond boy with blue eyes. Minutes continued to fly by… “RYAN! RY?!?! WHERE ARE YOU, BUDDY?”

I tearfully continued searching until someone said “A boy that fits that description is with a police officer in the information tent.” I felt a surge of hope! “Don’t worry, Mom, he looked very happy and peaceful,” they consoled me. This is what didn’t sit well. Peaceful? Ryan wouldn’t be peaceful without us. Even at night he cries if we’re not in bed next to him. Truly, he’s not even peaceful with us at times. He had been whining how hot he was and how he wanted a balloon yo-yo much of the afternoon. Happy and peaceful…was this found boy the same kid we were looking for? Still, I had to find out! I had to hope it was, even though I was a little doubtful. Where? Where was the information booth? Even if it wasn’t Ryan, that might be a good place to check and get some help.

No one seemed to know where the booth was. I followed a woman who was trying to get her bearings with all the tents and people and we walked all over and through a large building to the other side…on and on we kept going. As we raced, my older boys complained that they were having a hard time keeping up. I was pulling them along, anxious to find the information booth and my Ryan! As we kept walking and walking, the strong doubts that this was my son started to creep in. Really? This far? He wouldn’t have gone this far on his own… I heard people tell each other “They found him. You can stop searching.” I wanted to scream “Don’t stop! What if this isn’t the same child?!?” I literally felt sick. What if this wasn’t my son and I was being led far away from where we had last seen him? I was starting to panic, but this was the only “lead” we had.

The thought crept in, “What if someone took him?” We hadn’t found him after searching a long time in that area. He wouldn’t go this far. What if…I tried to push those thoughts out of my head. If this boy wasn’t Ryan, I wasn’t sure what I would do….I couldn’t think about it. I had to keep pushing.

We arrived at the information booth, and there was no police officer and no Ryan waiting for us. WHAT?!?! The woman there said, “Someone told us that a frantic mom was searching for her missing son on the other side, so the police officer was walking the boy over that way to try to find you. Stay here, and he’ll come back eventually. Don’t worry, the boy is calm and fine.” Minutes passed. No Ryan. Do I wait here, far away from where I felt we should be looking? Yet, the three of us (Shawn, Sandy and myself with my other kiddos) had walked up and down that area with absolutely no success. Others were looking and hadn’t spotted him. Tim was still stationed with their kids by the busy street, not thinking that strangers would allow a small child to cross alone but not wanting to take the chance…

I texted Shawn that they may have found Ryan, and he came running to where we were, only to find no child. I wanted to leave, but everyone cautioned, “Stay.” What seemed like an eternity later, Sandy tearfully came up with the police officer and with a very calm Ryan who was happy to see us. My rigid body relaxed as I let out a gleeful sigh and scooped him into my arms. I tearfully told him “Mommy was lost! I was sad I couldn’t find you!” I didn’t want to make him panic but he said “Yeah, I couldn’t find you either.” We thanked the police officer and I hugged my boy! Sandy said she ran into the police officer who was bringing Ryan around to the area where we had been. When she saw the officer and Ryan, she started to cry and explained to him, “I’m not the mom but I’m with her!” She had also started fearing the worst and had suggested earlier to her husband that we should call the police. Now she was able to tell him that Ryan had been found. Tim went with his kiddos and bought them all the balloon yo-yo’s that Ryan had been asking for since he had seen theirs.

Their family continued to look around as I told Shawn that I had had enough excitement for the day…we headed back home, and then their family came over later to hang out. I told Shawn it had been a rough day (even with our car battery dying…another story!). But, it was a good day when we realized that all of our kids were home safe with us. Thank You, God, for protecting our boys!

The situation made me think about parents whose story doesn’t have a happy ending…how do you reconcile that in your mind? I don’t have a great answer, but I still trust that I have a great God. I am humbled and grateful that our boys are okay.

Unshakable Faith in the Most Shaking Circumstances

We moved to Michigan for my husband’s job toward the end of last summer. It was a decision we had been wrestling with prior to making the move – at first I had told him NO WAY to moving north and west. But, as we prayed, God began to change my heart. I saw verses about God leading us to where He wants us and directing the steps of the godly (as I have mentioned before). Eventually we agreed to move, and everything “fell into place” – which I attribute to God working in our lives! Our house sold, we found a home here, the boys loved their school, etc. Part of why I felt like it may be a good fit for us was that my husband’s job was near MSU, which offered a doctoral program in marketing. It had been a dream of mine to obtain my PhD, but I wasn’t sure how realistic that goal really was…

I came home and cried. What I assumed would be a happy day in getting accepted turned into an extremely rough day. In fact, I cried until I gave myself a migraine and had to go to bed. My sweet husband said he would support me any way he could. He’ll help find childcare (as that’s my biggest fear), and he’ll love me no matter what I choose. (Have I mentioned lately how great the man I married is?!?!)

I called my Mom to ask her opinion. She said it was a big commitment, but we were here! She said maybe it was time to ask for a fleece. “A WHAT!?!” I asked, “Mom, it’s 80 degrees here today, why on earth do I need a fleece?” thinking she meant a sweatshirt. She replied “A fleece, a sign, like Gideon when he asked for the wool fleece to be wet when the ground was dry and then the fleece to be dry when the ground was wet.” I recognized the story (found in Judges 6:37-40), but I hadn’t heard the expression to ask for a fleece rather than a sign. Later, I called my sister to ask her opinion, thinking she would tell me I was crazy for even thinking of taking on this task when my kids were in their formative years. She said that maybe asking to do just the one class online would be my fleece. What?!?! I felt like that was what I should do. I spoke to other friends who encouraged me to go for it but to also recognize that time with the kids was important. I asked our babysitter about how her PhD program was going (a totally different program but still at the same school) and if she had any words of wisdom.

I’ve been wrestling with the decision (even crying in the shower!) and praying and asking for a definitive answer on the right thing to do. I just keep coming back to God allowing doors to open. I had a phone call with another professor in charge of this program, who said I only had to pay for and pass the second of the two classes instead of taking both. But, I had to attend another course (simply sit in on it) to prepare me for the second. I was expecting to take the first class and not the second (with the first one being online). Now I had two in-person classes and no childcare. So, while financially it looked better, I felt all the more devastated. But I asked if I could attend a closed section, which meets two evenings a week. They agreed, noting I’d have to pull in a chair from another room. I’ll be apart from my family two nights a week for the next six weeks and then two days a week at the end of the summer (pray that I can figure out a good solution for my kiddos!). But, I’ll be learning valuable concepts that will help me in the program.

I read the end of the Moses Bible study and reflected on God’s goodness and had a new peace about the decision to go for it, despite the time commitment. The author of the study noted “the beauty of God’s love is as impressive as the splendor of His glory.” She notes later “God alone is the source of every blessing!” and “God defends, safeguards and blesses His people.” God safeguards us. He doesn’t give us more than we can handle. He fights for us and defends us. We can trust His protection and love. In reflecting on the life and death of Moses, she noted that he demonstrated “unshakable faith in the most shaking circumstances.” That’s exactly what I need! I underlined: “God is the one who gave Moses his intellectual ability and ordained the circumstances in his life.” Wow! Was that something to chew on… perhaps this is another one of those moments where God has brought us here for such a time as this. He ordains our circumstances and gives us our capabilities. If we keep our focus on God and reflect Him to others, He will continue to guide our steps and keep us from drowning in sorrow or poor decisions.

Today I signed the acceptance letter, and I start my first class next week. I will do my best and allow God to take care of the rest. He has never failed and won’t start now! I trust Him for my future and the future of my family, especially these sweet kiddos He has entrusted to us.

Will you join me in praying for the details? I mean, if you’ve read this far, what’s a minute more in prayer? 😉

Father God, we thank You for all You have done on our behalf. Thank You for revealing to us Your care and Your presence in the details of our lives. We know that timing isn’t by chance and mere coincidences don’t happen over and over again – we see You and recognize Your faithfulness. We praise You for who You are and all You do! Lord, we also thank You for the life of Moses and his faithfulness in recording the journey of the Israelites so that we can know You better and Your heart for Your people. Thank You for the Bible and our easy access to it. God, we ask right now that You would continue to ordain all our circumstances and days. We pray that You would allow us to continue to focus on You, even as life gets busier. May we continue to be a reflection of Your goodness and mercy to those around us. I specifically and humbly pray for our boys – Joshua, Caleb and Ryan – please provide the best option for care for them and open wide doors and close others tightly. If this is not Your will, please clearly make us all see that. But, if You are opening doors, help us boldly walk through, trusting You to provide all we need. I pray for those who read this post, that they would be encouraged about how much You care about the details of our lives. We love and honor You! In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!

Just So You Know…

As I’ve been reading through Ezekiel, I have underlined and highlighted the same phrase over and over again. When a theme is repeated, I can’t help but think it’s extremely important. After all, the Bible is long enough, right? God wouldn’t repeat Himself unless it were critical that we catch what He’s trying to convey! So, what is this all important phrase?

THEN THEY WILL KNOW THAT I AM THE LORD.

Have you ever questioned if this “whole God thing” is real? Is there truly only one way into heaven? Is God really going to judge people at the end of time for their deeds and based on whether or not their sin was covered by the blood of Jesus? Is our purpose truly to glorify God and enjoy Him forever? While I personally believe the answers to these questions are yes, I’m not the One who is truly able to prove it. I can give my testimony of times I’ve seen God act on my behalf or read His Word and knew in my spirit it was truth. But, only God can fully make His presence known. And throughout Ezekiel, God explains His actions and says “Then they will know that I am the Lord!”

How many times is this phrase used? Not being a math person, I want to say “A TON!” But, let’s look together: Ezekiel 6:7, 6:10, 6:13, 7:4, 11:10, 11:12, 12:16, 13:14, 13:23, 14:8, 20:26, 20:42, 20:44, 22:16, 23:49, 24:24, 24:27, 25:11, 25:17, 26:6, 28:24, 28:26, 29:9, 29:16, 29:21, 30:19, 32:15, 34:27, 34:30, 35:15, 36:11, 36:23, 36:38, 37:6, 37:13, 37:14… And I’ll stop there because I’m sure you’re not reading every verse and have lost count already (plus, I’m only up to chapter 38 in my New Living Translation Bible). The point is this, it’s obviously an important phrase to reflect on.

How will we know that God is the Lord? What do some of these verses tell us? In the references from Ezekiel 6 to 11, we see that when God punished the Israelites and allowed them to die for the idolatry and sins they committed – when they saw all that He predicted come true, then they would know that God alone is the Lord and that He was serious. In Ezekiel 12, the Bible tells us that God would spare a few Israelites from death by war, famine or disease so they could confess to their captors how wicked they had been, so that they would know that He was the Lord. Later in this chapter, God warned against misleading predictions of peace in Israel, saying that He was the Lord and what He threatens always happens (Ezekiel 12:25). Ezekiel 13 continues with judgment against the false prophets who were giving false hope rather than warnings to repent. When God crushed them, then He would reveal that He alone was the Lord. When God crushed the leaders who lead others into idolatry, then He would show that He alone was the Lord (Ezekiel 14:8). When God devastated those who worshiped other gods, He would reveal that He alone was the Lord (Ezekiel 20:26).

In Ezekiel 25, we learn that when God inflicts His revenge, we will know that He is the Lord (verse 17). We see when Israel stops trusting in neighbors and puts their faith in God, then they will know that He alone is Lord (Ezekiel 30:19).

Opposite from the disaster and destruction, God brings words of healing and hope to show His nature. “…And I will display my holiness in you as all nations watch. Then when I have brought you home to the land I promised your ancestors, then you will know that I am the Lord. You will look back at all your sins and hate yourselves because of the evil you have done. You will know that I am the Lord, O people of Israel, when I have honored my name by treating you mercifully in spite of your wickedness, says the Sovereign Lord” (Ezekiel 20:41b-44). Does this verse excite you as much as it did me when I read it? While God does what He says He will do, He is also merciful even when we don’t deserve it!

In Ezekiel 34, we saw that God would once again show mercy to Israel and let the land produce bumper crops, stop wild animals and neighboring nations from attacking the Israelites, and free them from slavery – then they would know that He alone was the Lord. Ezekiel 36:9 starts with “See I am concerned for you, and I will come to help you…” and verse 11 goes on to say “…I will make you even more prosperous than you were before. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”  Ezekiel 36 continues saying that when God displays His holiness through Israel – not because they deserve it, but because He is protecting His Name – then everyone would know that He alone is the Lord.

Today, do you know where Israel is? Could you point to it on a map or recognize the name when it’s on the news? Do you find it “coincidental” that this is the only nation that we read about from Biblical times until now? I hope you don’t miss that God has built this place and protected its name to bring Himself glory and honor! He is faithful even when His people aren’t!

And my hope for you as you read this is that you KNOW that there is one true sovereign Lord.

I have been seeing some horrific stories in the news lately – stories that make my heart ache. And I wonder, where is our fear of the Lord? If we know God – if we truly believe that He exists, that He is the Judge and that all His promises (blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience) are true – then our behavior ought to reflect some fear of our Maker. I’ll give you a few recent examples receiving media attention. In Baltimore (not all that far from Lancaster, PA where I grew up), a man died potentially as a result of how he was arrested and subsequent rioting began. Opinions about the story were everywhere, and I saw one amusing picture on Facebook that said “Don’t want to be mistreated by a cop? How about trying not breaking the law?” And there’s some truth to that – having fear for God and respect for the laws of the Country in which you live will prevent you from having such encounters. But, on the other side of the coin, did the police officers in question have proper fear of God as well? I’m not judging anyone here (I know many folks who are cops and I am grateful that there are people willing to walk into the worst of situations to protect others from harm! They are truly heroes!), but I’m just looking at all sides of the story as a complete outsider. Do the rioters fear the Lord and recognize Him as judge? Do those in the media fear God when they pick which sides of the story to tell? If we would all start with recognizing God as THE Lord and understand that He sees all and knows each one of us, perhaps it would help keep us “in check” when the temptation arises to mistreat others or let a situation get out of hand.

Another appalling story (which I’ve only read a few of the details on) was about a man who was shot in the parking lot of a restaurant we used to enjoy by another driver due to a road rage incident. Sadly, the man was shot IN FRONT OF HIS KIDS WHO WERE IN THE CAR. How do you get so angry behind the wheel of a vehicle that you find it necessary to pull over and shoot someone? I understand anger – anger so deep that it makes you not think! But a genuine fear of God – knowing that He is the sovereign Lord – should keep us from pulling any triggers (literally!).

I’m concerned for our nation. Just like the Israelites, we have witnessed prosperity and blessing and abundance. But, also like the Israelites, we have allowed pride and the subtle “worship” of our blessings to cloud our judgment. Have we lost a sense of Who God is or what He has promised in His Word? Have we missed that there is one Judge (so thankfully any opinions I have on any of these situations are truly of little value!) and that He knows each of our hearts? Do we recognize that God has been merciful to us, even when we don’t deserve it? Can we take a moment to pause and reflect and realize that many of His actions have been so that we can KNOW THAT HE IS THE LORD!?

This is National Day of Prayer. Will you join with me in interceding for our nation? Can we ask God to give us all a healthy fear of Him, which the Bible tells us is the beginning of wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 9:10)? Will you choose this day to KNOW and accept that God is the One and Only Sovereign Lord? Can we praise Him together and ask for His undeserved mercy?

Dear Heavenly Father, we love You and praise You. We acknowledge that You are the One and Only Sovereign Lord. We confess that we have been guilty of the same sins the Israelites committed – we have taken for granted the many blessings You have given us and spent our time, resources and love on things that are of lesser importance and value than You. Will you please forgive us? Will you forgive that we have lost our fear of You and have been proud of “our” accomplishments that are truly Your blessings? Will you forgive us for mistreating others in rage or hatred or unbelief? Will you forgive our nation and spare us the destruction You could easily and rightfully bestow upon us? Instead, will you treat us with mercy and grace like You did the remnant that You saved for Yourself out of the Israelites? God, You even promised to give them a new heart and mind that would seek after You and know You! Through the blood on the cross, can we boldly ask for these same blessings? Not that we deserve it, but that we have been honored with changing spots with Jesus…I ask for a new spirit and new mind – to KNOW You and to love You and Your Word. I ask these same things for my children and my neighbors and friends and country. For the sake of Your holy name, will You preserve Your people for Yourself? We humbly ask these things in the power of the name of Jesus. Forgive those who have made the headlines for sin – for we have ALL sinned and fallen short of your glory (Romans 3:23). Not one of us has the right to throw that first stone. So, we ask that You keep us from sinning through Your spirit inside of us. We are all a hot mess without You! Thank You for being a gracious and loving God, forgiving sin and providing a way back to You. Thank You for not giving up on us even when we have done wrong. Help us love others the way You have loved us. We are grateful for all You do and who You are! AMEN!

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A Peace in the Puzzle

Have you ever seen someone post incessantly to Facebook? No matter how much you love the person, deep down inside you think, “I don’t need to see yet another selfie or hear exactly what you ate for lunch…” Perhaps you’re that person taking over everyone’s news feed! But, perhaps you’ve fallen to the other end of the spectrum. Have you ever just felt insignificant? Perhaps you’ve been praying about an issue and are beginning to feel like God is far too busy with world issues to care about the details of your life. Instead of hoping for 50+ likes on yet another photo of your gorgeous smile, you fear there’s not a soul that would care if you didn’t post anything.

I confess I’ve struggled in this area. Does my life have value to others? We really don’t know a lot of folks since moving – would anyone notice if I just disappeared altogether? Sure, my husband and kiddos would see a gap – until my man remarried someone blond and leggy and a decade younger and hired a lovely nanny who I’m sure could cook better and would never get angry and always have amazing Pinterest activities to do with the kids… Really, it’s easy to think we don’t measure up to what we “should be” because all we see is the glamorous side of other people’s lives – the selfies taken at the perfect angle of awards won, scrumptious new recipes mastered and kiddos playing happily. It’s rare to see some honest, relevant, down-to-earth sharing. (And even if such things are shared, it’s often by the same person who has given a play-by-play of their entire day! Haha!)

As I was thinking about such things, the thought came to mind of a 1,000 piece puzzle. Have you ever tried to put one together? If you can’t find a piece to an area, it can drive you bonkers. You may finish a certain section and think “aaaahhh – where is that one final piece to this part?” And if you find it, the joy that it brings is more than the rest of the hundreds of pieces that are already in their place. Truly, each single piece is needed! On the other hand, is one piece so special that it can be the star of the show? Not really. A piece by itself is just an odd shape with some color to it. Necessary in the grand scheme? Absolutely! Worthy of everyone’s attention and 1,000 selfies? Truly, no. But, in all honesty, do any of those puzzle pieces make any sense without the one who is putting it together? Only the one who sees the greater picture can understand what fit and role each piece has to offer and where each one belongs. Our lives only make sense in community and together when God – who sees the greater picture – places us where we belong to “fit” in with others. Without Him, our lives won’t make sense.

This picture of the puzzle reminded me of the verses in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 where we see that God has created us as individuals to serve as one larger body. You may not be the most gorgeous person in the world, the fastest runner, the best baker, the most talented musician, the award-winning athlete, the mom of perfect children, the best dressed or even mediocre at everyday activities. But, you have a special role to play in the greater picture of God’s bigger plan! You may not “grow up” to be the president of the United States, have your own TV show, write columns for the Wall Street Journal or sing on American Idol. But, you are important! You may not be Queen Esther, but you were certainly born for “such a time as this.” Each role that you play, each gift that you have, each thing that you are good at is important to God and to those you share life with.

I love when I read stories of how XYZ person was the Sunday school teacher of someone famous and influenced his or her life. Even take the ancestral line of Jesus and you’ll find some pretty “ordinary” men and women who God used in His greater story. You may not know the importance of your role in ‘history’ on this side of eternity. But, you weren’t put on earth by chance. You are dearly loved by God and He has plans for your life.

So, when the enemy starts making you think that you are insignificant, unworthy and unnoticed in the world and by the God of the Universe, take those thoughts captive and remind yourself of the truth instead. Start looking for ways to love God and love others, and you’ll see where you fit. If you’re feeling puzzled, remember you are a special piece in a bigger plan!

Father God, we thank You for being the Master Creator. While we think that you must be far too busy to think about us, we forget that you are God and can handle even the details of all the things you’ve made. You aren’t limited by human perception and abilities! You care about us and our lives. We trust that You answer prayers in Your time, and that timing is perfect. We submit our lives to You and ask You to place us where we belong – help us see the fit in the bigger puzzle. May we use each of our abilities and talents for Your glory and to the best of our ability. Where we feel like we fall short, please help us. May we love and serve You and love and serve others around us. Thank You for Your mercy and grace and love. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!

The Bad News You Want to Hear

“In a great chorus they sang, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty! The whole earth is filled with His glory” Isaiah 6:3 NLT

A few months ago as I was reading from Isaiah, the above verse stood out to me, and I’ve thought about it a lot since then.  Take a moment to let it sink in – the WHOLE EARTH is FILLED with His glory!

I realized that I tend to focus on all the bad in this fallen world. Recent news has horrified me, from car accidents to homicide and other crime; sometimes I get too caught up in the tragedy or horror of the stories. And perhaps that’s why the news often focuses on the bad – for ratings.

When I look at all that’s wrong in this world, I worry, I get upset, and I long for better times. But when I yearn for something else, I am missing what’s right here in front of me in the present time. My parents used to tell me “Don’t wish your life away.” And I’m now just beginning to appreciate the truth behind that statement.

When my kids were newborns, I would long for the days that they would sleep through the night. I remember crying because I was so exhausted – would these days ever end? But now I see how brief they were – I would LOVE to have some snuggle time at night with my boys now and go back to that time of just holding them, but they are all old enough to sleep through the night and not need to eat or be rocked back to contentment even if they do wake up. As they get older, I’m discovering that the years keep going faster and faster. We once yearned for days when diapers wouldn’t be part of our budget, but now that we’re there, I often miss having a little one on my hip.

That said, I’m slowly learning that each stage is a new one to appreciate. Life can fly right by (and you wonder where the days have gone), or you can take the time to pause and reflect and thank God for His goodness right in the moment where you are. I’ve really thought about the verse above. The whole earth is filled with God’s glory! Am I seeking it? Am I looking for things that glorify God or understanding ways God has acted on our behalf? Do I take for granted each time we arrive safely at our destination or do I thank God for keeping us safe? Do I recognize answers to prayer or am I quick to ask for the next thing? Am I satisfied with where God has us, or am I grumpily complaining too loudly to hear what God is saying? Am I missing out on God’s glory right here, right now?

Sometimes seeing God’s glory is simple – like seeing the sun rise and set. Sometimes reflecting on God’s glory happens automatically like during the birth of a child. But, sometimes acknowledging God’s glory takes discipline to seek it out and be grateful.

Right now we’re heading into March, and all I hear (and feel!) is the longing for Spring. I’m so tired of the cold weather and this morning we woke up to another fresh coating of snow in Michigan and wind chills well below zero. UGH! But, I remembered verses like Job 37:6, “He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour'” and Psalm 147:16, “He spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes.” If God is ordering the snow, should I be miserable about it or thankful? Do I recognize God’s glory here on earth?

As I mentioned previously, I love the verses in 1 Thessaloians 5:16-18 (my life’s theme verses!): “Be joyful always, pray continuously, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Am I giving thanks in all circumstances – being purposeful to pause and reflect on the glory of God that fills the whole earth?

Instead of focusing on the bad news, I’m going to pray for others and give it to God. Instead of stopping there, I’m going to work on looking for God’s glory and the goodness. Like a treasure hunt, I’m going to seek out God’s glory. And when I see it, I hope I can share openly with others what I’m seeing. Let’s praise God together for His glory on earth!

Heavenly Father, we thank You for being all powerful and yet present here on earth. We understand, Lord, that You see what goes on here. We know that we live in a fallen world, yet we choose to fix our eyes on You, the author and perfecter of our faith. Help us see Your glory here on earth. Let us recognize Your goodness and sovereignty. Please forgive us for complaining or yearning for different circumstances or outcomes. Forgive us for not understanding the bigger picture that You know. Help us trust You, put our faith in You and then thank You for all circumstances we encounter. We thank You, God, for being trustworthy and good. Thank You for being worthy of our praise, time and attention. Help us recognize that each stage of life, each season has something to offer. Don’t let us miss the special moments that are offered to us each day we are alive. May our time have meaning and purpose. May we live for Your glory and Your honor. We praise You alone. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!

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What is Whining?

This past week as I was doing my women’s Bible study homework, I felt extremely convicted. And (at least when time allows!) I often like to write about things I’m thinking about or working through because 1) it helps me digest what I’m reading, 2) it gives me a “record” of sorts to come back to later, and 3) hopefully it helps others who read it.

We’ve been studying about Moses, and we came to Numbers 11 in our reading. Before even completing the homework, I thought “Ah, I know these verses! I’ve even written about the ‘Graves of Craving’ before.” But, why didn’t I think about the beginning few verses more in the past? They all but jumped off the page at me this time!

Numbers 11 begins, “Soon the people began to complain about their hardship, and the Lord heard everything they said. Then the Lord’s anger blazed against them, and He sent a fire to rage among them, and He destroyed some of the people in the outskirts of the camp. Then the people screamed to Moses for help, and when he prayed to the Lord, the fire stopped. After that, the area was known as Taberah (which means ‘the place of burning’), because fire from the Lord had burned among them there.” (Numbers 11:1-3, NLT).

The Israelites had been freed from slavery. They had seen all the many miracles the Lord performed against the Egyptians and their gods. They had experienced the Lord’s blessing in calling them His own people – they had even seen the glory rest upon the mountain. They were following the cloud by day and the fire by night. God Himself was at the center of their camp! And yet, as they began to travel, they started to complain about their hardship. And it made God ANGRY!!! In the last half of verse 20, God says to them, For you have rejected the Lord, who is here among you, and you have whined to Him, saying, ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?'”

I began thinking about how God said that the people’s complaining was really showing that they were rejecting the Lord and His plans for their lives. I’ve wrestled with this fact this entire week. I’ll be honest and say that I’ve complained a lot since moving to Michigan. It’s SO cold! I miss my gym. I miss my running friends. I miss knowing where to shop. I miss knowing where I’m going. I hate shoveling. In fact, I somehow managed to pull one of the vertebrae in my neck out of alignment when I was chipping away at ice on my driveway the one day. I thought I had just overworked the muscles until I went to the family doctor a few weeks later. I cried to my husband saying I was tired of being in pain, tired of living in an area where my family wasn’t close enough to help, tired of not having good workout solutions… I was even toying with the notion of walking away. He said he and the kids would follow if I left. (We have a joke that if one of us tries to leave, it’s okay because the other will just follow). I am embarrassed by my behavior, but I have literally all but thrown myself on the ground in a temper tantrum like my three-year-old. Days and days I’ve cried about how unfair life is here in this miserably cold and dreary state. The sun never shines! On and on I would whine, only adding to my husband’s stress level. He has been so calm and so patient, and yet I know he hates to see my unhappy. 😦

Then I read this passage this week and felt the weight of my sin. The Israelites were toward the beginning of their journey and they whined about not having the delicacies of Egypt. Had they forgotten their slavery? Had they forgotten that the Pharaoh had ordered their sons to be killed at birth? Why would they say the good ol’ days were better? Because that’s what we do when we don’t have faith for what’s to come!

Shawn and I didn’t move here on a whim. We prayed about it. We felt the nudge that it was the right thing to do. We prayed some more. We asked for wisdom. We asked others to pray with us. We heard over and over again that this was the right direction. I didn’t want to, necessarily, but I felt like we were supposed to. So, if God has a plan for us, why am I whining at six months into the journey? Haven’t I seen God’s miracles? Haven’t I been the receiver of His many blessings? Why am I so prone to do exactly what the Israelites did – jump right into sin by throwing a pity party about what we left behind rather than looking to the future?!

The Israelites were going to a land of milk and honey. God was going to bless them, keep them from sickness, multiply them and live among them. He only asked for faith and obedience in return. And yet they whined about their hardships and roused God’s anger to where He sent fire to the outskirts of their camp. When I think about God at the center, the people on the outskirts would be those who were the furthest from God. I certainly don’t want to be there! I don’t want to make God angry by my terrible attitude. Instead, I desire to have a heart of thanksgiving.

Instead of looking at what Michigan doesn’t have compared to Pennsylvania, I’m trying to see the little and big things that God has given us along the way AND to show gratitude for them. For example, my kids have been to the pediatrician only once since arriving (and that was for a check-up). They haven’t been sick at all this winter! Even the fact that we got into this pediatrician is a huge blessing since they typically only accept newborns from the hospital but made a one-time exception for us! My boys also love their school here and have made friends. I am enjoying my women’s Bible study. One friend even invited us to come play at her house one day afterwards, and it was wonderful! Another friend from our life group reached out to have dinner together and connect. I love meeting new friends, and it has been a HUGE blessing! Shawn likes his job and the people he works with. We have a house and are settling in. We both have reliable vehicles (love my mama minivan!). Our entire family truly enjoys our church here. Since we’re heading toward spring, the days are getting a little longer and we’re noticing it being light later. I’ve been able to teach online still. We have found a babysitter we really like. There’s more I could share, but these are just some of the positives that I was overlooking. Most of all, I wasn’t showing my husband how much I love him and how grateful I am that he and our boys are part of my life. It is amazing to have a loving family, and I was selfishly complaining about my personal hardships of missing MY gym and MY running buddies.

I had to repent this week and ask for forgiveness, both from God and my sweet man. I believe that God has a plan for us here, and so I’m going to let go of what was and try to make the best of what is. The forecast calls for snow tomorrow and a windchill of -20. But one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to be like Paul when he wrote in Philippians 4:11-13 that he’s learned to be content in any situation, whether with much or little because he knows that he can do everything through Christ who strengthens him. YES! I’m resolving to be content, to look above the circumstances to the One who is calling us forward, and to be thankful in the process for all the many blessings we have been given.

Do you ever catch yourself complaining? If so, does it show a rejection of God’s plan for your life? Perhaps it’s time to ask God to help us turn whine into praise!

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your grace and compassion. Thank You for being slow to anger and abounding in love. We humbly ask for forgiveness for complaining about minor hardships in the grand scheme of life. Forgive our poor attitudes and our rejection of You and Your plans for us. We are truly sorry! Help us learn to be content in all circumstances. May we thank You and praise You for the many blessings we see and look for them instead of focusing on the hard parts of life. And, will You please use the hard parts to draw us closer to You rather than further away? May we seek You for direction and comfort and not the things of this world. Thank You, God, for being amazing and having a good plan for us and our future. In Jesus’ Name we pray, AMEN!

Since I love music and this song came to mind this week as I was studying, I thought I would include it here. If you listen to the words, it says “Don’t just say why were the old days better, just because you’re scared of the unknown…”

Why Wait?

“If you wait for perfect conditions, you’ll never get anything done.” ~Ecclesiastes 11:4

When I read this verse, I highlighted it in my Bible and put a star next to it. How many times have I waited rather than just starting? For example, I would start training for my next race, but the weather is frigid; I think I’ll wait until there’s no sign of snow. I would start eating right, but I might as well finish what’s in my fridge now and start next week when I go to the grocery store. I would start studying for my GMAT but I really feel the need to spend my time unpacking. I would adopt a child, but my own kids are little right now so why not wait until they are older? I would travel now, but let’s wait until we have more time or money or (FILL IN THE BLANK). You get the idea…

We can always find excuses to allow us to stay put and not “get anything done.” (Yikes!) The conditions may never be perfect! You may turn 80 waiting for the right moment to just get started! Or you can start NOW! Take the imperfect condition, your imperfect self, and simply ask the perfect God to help you! Today is January 1 – the first day of a brand new year! The conditions may not be perfect, but the time is right…

Dear Heavenly Father, You are holy and worthy of praise. You know the big picture and the day-by-day moments. Lord, you know that the conditions we are in are less than perfect in this world. Will you please help us? Give us the motivation to start despite the circumstances. Help us each step of the way. And may we honor You and give You the glory for anything we get done. Thank You for the truth found in Your holy Word. In Jesus’ Name we pray, AMEN!

What’s Your Excuse?

“The lazy person is full of excuses, saying ‘If I go outside, I might meet a lion in the street and be killed!'” Proverbs 22:13

I read this verse the other week and cringed. I’ll humbly admit that I’ve become lazy since moving. The scale is proof. So are the way my clothes fit. 😦 And I’ve had a million excuses. Many of them are legit, but they are still just excuses.

The gym I went to in PA had amazing classes – great instructors, energizing music, friendly competition and I left feeling like I had just had an hour of pure fun and not really ‘work.’ Not only were the classes great, the gym offered childcare beyond babysitting. My kids got exercise and enjoyed themselves while I was working out. Now that we’ve moved to MI, the few gyms that offer any kind of childcare have limited hours and terrible classes. And the childcare is basically putting the kids in a room with electronics or a few lame toys – the children are safe but they aren’t having fun. 😦 So, I feel bad taking my boys when I’m not getting an intense workout. So, I mostly skip it.

I loved running in PA. I had my routes all marked out AND I had girlfriends I could meet even in the dead of winter for double digit miles. Most of the streets had street lights, too. But not in Michigan! The roads are DARK! And it is always dark here – the sun doesn’t rise until 8 am and lately it’s been setting around 5 pm. So, running before or after my husband’s out of work has been a no-go. I’m terrified of twisting an ankle on the debris on the running trails (even though I’m grateful there are plenty around). I miss my friends, I’m scared to run in the dark and it’s really cold out. Now I recognize that these are all excuses. I’ve run in weather colder than this – it was just much more enjoyable with friends. And unfortunately, I don’t really know anyone here who runs at my pace and wants to go at the time I need to in order to be home with my kids.

So, I could do an exercise DVD at home. I’ve done them before. But, my little man doesn’t nap often anymore and is a bit in the way. I also feel bad taking time from him to work out. So, I should get up in the morning to work out before the kids are up. And here’s where I finally recognized that I am just being LAZY! I have not been successful at getting myself out of my warm covers in the darkness of Michigan when I’m just feeling sad about losing my former way of life – where working out happened with others and was fun and not in my basement. I remember enjoying time with my friends and dwell on the fact that I don’t have that opportunity now, and I just want to curl up and go back to bed. So I have.

I also know that losing weight and keeping it off are 80% diet and 20% exercise. But, I haven’t been very motivated to say no to food I know isn’t good for me. And even the Bible says that wine is for those who are feeling depressed (Proverbs 31:6-7), so why not have another glass?

But then I read the verse from Proverbs about the lazy person (from the start of this post). I’ve also read how laziness leads to destruction and poverty. The lazy person will have a million excuses that seem valid to them, but the person who desires to overcome laziness must think of a million and one reasons why they CAN succeed. I read an almost identical verse a day later and felt the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit: “The lazy person is full of excuses, saying ‘I can’t go outside because there might be a lion on the road! Yes, I’m sure there’s a lion out there!'” Proverbs 26:13. Am I going to fear a lion or am I going to fear God?

I also read Ecclesiastes 7:3: “Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us.” I realized that I can take these circumstances and allow God to refine me during this time. Sure, I have excuses. But, I also have two legs that work to carry my body. I have lungs and heart that work well and are in decent shape (glory to God alone!). I have the knowledge of what foods pack on pounds and which ones I can enjoy without a lot of guilt. I have a husband who supports me in my adventures and told me he’d buy me a membership to any gym I find that I’ll go to. I’m not working full time right now (unlike my sweet man!) and can choose when to work out and have a few different options, whether running outside or going to a gym (even if it’s not great) or doing an exercise video in my basement. I have an alarm clock that works. I have cold gear for running in this weather and my mom even got me new knuckle lights that I asked for as a Christmas gift.

No. More. Excuses.

I’m challenging you today – write down every single excuse you can think of. Then call them what they are and recognize if you are being lazy. Pray and then write down ways to overcome the excuse or go around it right next to them. What are some steps you can take toward your goal? Perhaps you aren’t lazy physically but facing other obstacles. Don’t let Satan overcome you with his lies. Look to God’s Word to tell you how to proceed. If you find an excuse you really can’t overcome, pray about it and see how God alone can work. Start with one step. What’s one excuse you can get around today? Overcome laziness, one step at a time…with God’s grace!

Dear Heavenly Father, we fear you alone. You are holy and worthy of praise and honor. Lord, please forgive us for our laziness and excuses. Please forgive where we’ve allowed our circumstances to define us. Instead, we ask that you allow this change to refine us. Make us more like You. God, there are things we may not be able to change. So, we ask for You to work out a miracle for those. And we ask more than that for a miracle in our hearts. Take off the blinders that we may see the excuses for what they are and push us out of laziness into holiness. May we be changed for Your glory in Your time. Thank You for all You do for us. Thank You for Your Word. Thank You for who You are! In Jesus’ powerful and precious Name, AMEN!

An Attitude of Gratitude

Have you ever read a book that seems to mirror how you’re feeling? Recently I finished one called “Bittersweet” by Shauna Niquest (2010) that really spoke to me. Here is a brief excerpt:

“Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a silver lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich when it contains a splinter of sadness. Bittersweet is the practice of believing that we do need both the bitter and the sweet, and that a life of nothing but sweetness rots both your teeth and the soul. Bitter is what makes us strong, what forces us to push through, what helps us earn the lines on our faces and the callouses on our hands. Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful, nuanced, full of depth and complexity. Bittersweet is courageous, gutsy, earthy” (Niequest, 2010).

This move has felt very bittersweet. There’s an excitement about change along with the sadness of leaving mixed with the anxiety that comes from the unknown. I’ve found that it becomes easy to focus on the bitter and forget the sweet that accompanies the journey. When we feel broken or shaken, we often fail to reflect on the goodness of God in our lives. All too often, I’ve wallowed in my own pity party.

My Bible reading journey has taken me to Psalms. I see so many wonderful themes in these passages. One recently has been God’s unfailing love, which I have highlighted over and over again. The other has been the word ‘tell.’ For example:

  • “Sing the glory of His name. Tell the world how glorious He is!” Psalm 66:2
  • “Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what He did for me.” Psalm 66:16
  • Tell everyone about God’s power…” Psalm 68:34a
  • “I will tell everyone about your righteousness. All day long I will proclaim your saving power, for I am overwhelmed by how much you have done for me. I will praise your mighty deeds, O Sovereign Lord. I will tell everyone that you alone are just and good.” Psalm 71:15-16
  • “I will tell about your righteous deeds all day long…” Psalm 71:24

I believe God wants us to tell others what He has done and what He is currently doing in our lives. When we tell about God’s faithfulness, I think we begin to see the beauty and grace there is in having bitter and sweet together. We can tell of hardships and a God who saves! We can admit to our struggles and the perfection of Jesus. We can see what we have and compare that with who God is. I think telling of what God has done completely changes our perspective on the here and now, and I will add that it gives us a new appreciation for what God has done, even in the most difficult of times.

Moving has shaken up my ‘comfortable’ world, it’s true. But it’s also brought me a new appreciation for how much I need God every moment of my life. We had a situation recently that I can’t really share too much about, but we were fervently praying for God to help in a way that only He could. He was literally our only hope! And did God fail? No! His saving grace was evident in our lives. He has helped us in so many ways, including guiding us here and helping us find a home in just the right timing. We trust Him to provide us with what we need, and I am overjoyed to be able to “tell the world how glorious He is.”

This morning I turned off my alarm and skipped my run (boo!). My kids also slept in and it was just before my husband needed to be at work that we all woke up. We haven’t slept in that late even one day this summer!!! YIKES! We got ready in a rush, and as I was praying for the kiddos on the way to school aloud in the car, I thanked God that we were able to get more rest than usual. Joshua quickly asked, “Mom, did you just thank God that we’re running late?” I shared with him my favorite verses from the Bible: “Be joyful always. Pray continuously. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. I said there have been people whose lives have been saved from sleeping in (think of those who weren’t at work on 9/11/01!). We might have needed the rest, or God might have been saving us from something else. And as I reflected on my morning, I smiled that my husband didn’t just rush to get ready for work (like he should have) but also helped me get the boys ready for school because he is so loving and patient. It was totally my fault that we were behind schedule but he didn’t so much as raise his voice about it but instead was helpful and encouraging. I was able to give thanks for my spouse because I took the time to reflect on God’s goodness to us, even in “darker moments.” (Now, pray with me that he doesn’t get fired! Ha ha!)

A theme I’ve been recognizing lately is one of gratitude. Are we giving thanks, even in the hard times? Do we have enough or do we always long for more? Can we recognize that even bitter is good for us because it helps us recognize and appreciate the sweet all the more? Can we see that God develops character and His will in our lives through the difficult circumstances? Can we appreciate that He knows the big picture and accept what He allows to come our way? This isn’t an easy word. In fact, it’s downright difficult most of the time! But, can we choose perspective? Can we choose joy always? Can we choose to be thankful no matter what the circumstance? Can we choose to pray and keep in communication with God at all times?

I’ve had a hard couple of weeks, but I realize that there was so much sweetness I was ignoring as I’ve been getting pummeled by (and wallowing in) the bitter. So, moment by moment, step by step, I’m going to try to choose an attitude of gratitude. “Then I will praise God’s name with singing, and honor Him with thanksgiving. For this will please the Lord more than sacrificing an ox or presenting a bull with its horns and hooves. The humble will see their God at work and be glad. Let all who seek God’s help live in joy” Psalm 69:30-32.

I’m anxious to hear what God is doing in your life! Do TELL about His glorious deeds as it will strengthen the faith of all who hear it! Encourage others with your unique story and how God is at work in both big and small ways.

Dear God, thank You for both the bitter and the sweet. Thank You for the good times and the bad. Thank You for Your plans and Your purposes. May Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Help us to see things with Your perspective. May we always come before You with a heart of thanksgiving and praise on our lips. Thank You for all You do and for who You are. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!

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Here’s Your Sign

“The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives.” ~Psalm 37:23

We had already been driving six hours when the sky turned black and the wind whipped so hard it started to make our minivan feel like it was going to veer right off the road. Before long, the skies let loose in rain so heavy that the road was barely visible. I heard my oldest son praying for our safety in the backseat and the other kids were actually quiet, sensing our tension. My knuckles gripped the steering wheel until they were white, and my husband started searching for local hotels in case we needed to call it a day. But, I truly didn’t want to stop driving – I wanted to go “home.” But, it didn’t really feel like we were going home. God, I prayed, will You help us? Will You please keep us safe? Will You show us wisdom? Should we keep going or pull off? What is the right way?

Backing up a bit, we had left our Michigan apartment two weeks ago to head back to PA for a week so we could be there while the movers packed all our belongings. It was a stressful couple of days as the truck was late and then one of the movers was sick (and touching all my stuff!). And then there was a large amount of things they wouldn’t take. Anything that resembled liquid or perishable couldn’t go on the truck, which included cleaning supplies, kiddo paints, pantry items like olive oil and even lotions and extra bottles of shampoo & conditioner in our linen closet. Our minivan was already full of things we needed to take with us (like coats!) and we carried out half a dozen or more large boxes of stuff we weren’t planning on taking with us but hated to just throw away since they were costly to replace. I prayed and asked God to help us make it all fit.

IMG_20140812_143104Originally my husband had been planning on going back to MI on Tuesday and Wednesday while the movers were at our house in PA, but at the last minute decided to stay back with me. God knew I couldn’t have handled these days without him there! On Wednesday the movers weren’t done until after 7 pm, and Shawn grabbed a pizza for us as I went to borrow a broom and a vacuum from my sister to finish cleaning up the last of the dust bunnies that also weren’t moving with us. We ate in our empty house, thankful for the pizza box that doubled as our plates. The boys played with the neighbor kiddos as we finished loading the minivan, which was filled to the brim! I could never have fit it all in myself. My husband has some mad skills in that area!!! We got back to the hotel where we were sleeping that night after 10 pm with two of us working. I couldn’t imagine what would have happened if Shawn had left. It was a sign to me that God cared about every detail and provided for me emotionally and physically when I needed it.

The following Saturday we headed to the beach with my family. My mom rents a house each summer, and my sister plans all the meals. This year we arrived to our beds already made (since we didn’t have any sheets left to bring!) and the house already set up. The boys squealed with delight at spending time with their cousins. They loved the beach – sand and all! Ryan dumped bucket after bucket of water and stayed right at the edge of where it would come onto the beach. Caleb and Joshua adventured out into the waves, staying close enough that we could catch them when they went under (which happened a few times). By the third day, Joshua was even brave enough to try boogie boarding! He was frustrated and in love all at the same time. Shawn & I took turns taking the older boys out further into the ocean, Caleb holding onto us for dear life! It was a blast! And God answered my prayer for safety in the water; we were all alive and well. And it was nice that my sister and her husband cooked all the meals. I much prefer clean-up duty! We had a great time. (And I didn’t even mention our adventures on the boardwalk!) Joshua said, “This is paradise,” which was a good summation of how we were all feeling. Shawn called our vacation “epic” as we left.

While I was tired of living out of a suitcase, I wasn’t quite ready to leave. This was my family – people who I could call and say “HELP!” and know that they would be there if they could be. These were people I enjoyed seeing and being with, and my kids love them too. My family helps me have a ‘comfort zone.’ But, Shawn had an important meeting we couldn’t miss, so we held back our tears as we said thanks for the incredible time and packed our minivan to head back to Michigan. We paid to ship two boxes (of boots & gloves that we’ll need come winter if we don’t have a house yet) and then put the back row of seats down, keeping the boys three across in the middle seat. My mom was amazed we fit everything in (me too!). I thought for sure we’d be making a large donation instead, but my husband packed it like a champ! It was such a relief to me that everything fit. I knew without a doubt it was God answering my prayer that nothing be left behind. Every detail was taken care of!

I drove most of the way home. It kept my mind on the road and not on what I was leaving behind. Our house was gone. Praise the Lord, within three days of us listing it on the market, there was a bidding war and we sold it for more than our original asking price. This was another sign to me that God’s hand was in our moving. There are several houses in our neighborhood currently for sale and while we had spent a small fortune in updates to our house, I seriously wasn’t sure it would sell. I was more than nervous about it, and I remember fervently praying that it would sell as we were preparing to put it on the market. God answered in a big way! Settlement happened Tuesday of the beach week, and we saw the money in our account. We praised God for His faithfulness!

As tears were spilling down my cheeks from leaving my family and our vacation, the GPS told us to go a different way than I was expecting. I had driven home from the beach a bazillion times and never taken this route. Shawn reminded me that we were going to Michigan, not PA. He said with a highly upbeat voice, “Hey, each road we take from here is a new one!” Or something like that. I honestly wish I could remember exactly what he said because it seemed so profound in that moment, like the exact words I needed to hear. Basically, this was a new adventure, a new path, a new journey. We weren’t stuck in the same old rut. We were creating a new path. Through the tears I smiled and thanked him for being truly wonderful. God has blessed me with an amazing man to be my life partner!

The kids did great even though we were all packed in. Near Pittsburgh, we noticed that the truck in front of us was a “North American” truck that looked identical to the one we had waved goodbye to at our house, filled with our belongings that we won’t see again until we settle on a new home. I joked that we were following our stuff home. Shawn said our stuff was in Grand Rapids already, but I insisted “let’s see if it’s the same truck.” So we pulled up beside it, but it wasn’t. It was just the same company. We passed it and kept going, stopping for drinks along the way and then to relieve ourselves from those drinks and then to buy more drinks. It was quite the cycle!

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In Ohio, the sky got pitch black and we started seeing lightning. Like I mentioned earlier, I could barely see the road and I was terrified. Which way should I go, Lord? I realized in that moment that I was praying that prayer a lot lately. Which way should I go? What’s the right path? Which house is right for us? Why oh why didn’t we have a home yet so our stuff didn’t have to go into storage where we couldn’t access it? Would you please, please, please give us wisdom, God?

So many cars had pulled off the road, but I saw a big truck up ahead that had lights all over it. I told Shawn that while I was struggling to see the road, I could see the lights on the truck and I was going to try to stay right behind it. So, I did. We weren’t going terribly fast, but the truck was so enormous that I knew I’d be able to stop faster than him, even with all the stuff in our minivan. The rain kept going, the lightning kept crashing, the wind kept pushing our minivan, but I could see those lights and kept driving. As I continued to drive, the rain let up just enough to show me what truck I was following… It was a NORTH AMERICAN!!! I don’t know if it was the same one from earlier in the day or another, but it was a huge sign to me. I praised God! We were “following our stuff” again. Following our home and memories. Following what we knew to be right. We were going home in a sense. I knew at that moment it was okay to keep driving. God was right there with us, protecting us, answering our prayers for guidance. It was a sign! I told Shawn and he smiled and agreed.

The rain eventually let up before we reached Toledo. We passed the truck and kept going home. We made it safely the entire way to our apartment. I was so tired at the end that Shawn drove the last half hour. I had wanted to push through, but I was glad for the break at the end.

I have asked God for signs on which way was the right way to go. Should we move to Michigan? Is this the way? And time after time I have seen that this is what is in the cards for our family at this time. Do I know the details? No, unfortunately. Do we have a house yet? No, and I’ll be honest in that this detail is driving me crazy! But, do I trust that God cares even about the minor details? Absolutely! Our house had sold, my husband was there when I truly needed him, and we were lead safely out of the storm by a “random” truck that wasn’t so random. My reading the following morning included the verse from above: “The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives” Psalm 37:23. Every detail matters to God! If you see things and think “coincidence” I think you’re missing that God delights in the details!

If you’re praying for something today, know that God is in the details and will direct your steps if you trust Him. He is my only hope and what gets me through some of these tougher days. He is the reason I’m excited to be on this new adventure. So, I’ll end this post with a verse from this morning’s readings:

“O Lord my God, You have done many miracles for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them” Psalm 40:5.

Father God, all I can say is THANK YOU! Thank You for keeping us safe, for showing us the way, for giving us wisdom, for being Lord over all and every detail of our lives. We praise You today for being YOU! In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!