Who’s Your GPS?

“…whether you turn to the right or the the left, you ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.'” Isaiah 30:21 NIV

Recently I had to attend a work conference that was in a city a few hours south of my home town.  I’ve traveled to this city on many occasions and tend to get lost every time.  Knowing I would be doing a lot of traveling during my three day stay, I planned ahead and fully relied on my phone’s map app.  Even though it took me a different route each day of my commute, surprisingly, I never once got lost.  I did however yell at it and tell it to “shut up” on one occasion when it was insistent upon me turning left through 8 lanes of heavy traffic with icy road conditions.  It did not like my decision to turn right and then safely turn around to the proper direction when traffic allowed me to do so. HA! HA!

My favorite feature of this app is the notification it gives you of how long you will travel on each road before having to turn onto a new road.  It’s not just one notification either.  You could travel on one road or highway for fifty miles (or 80 kilometers) and receive several notifications that you are approaching your next turn, lane change, etc.  It even gives you warnings about detours and road construction before you’re near any of them.  It’s definitely been a useful tool for me for many traveling experiences since owning this specific series of smart phone.  I’ve even personalized it by giving it a male Australian voice and nicknaming it Jarryd (after Australian rugby player, Jarryd Hayne.) So yes, when I “yelled” at it, I actually said, “Shut up Jarryd, trust me, I know what I’m doing!”  LOL

Navigating life can be just as confusing and challenging as driving through a big city.  You’re apt to get lost a time or two.  For the directionally challenged like me, you may get lost over and over again.  This can lead to feeling like you’re reliving the same journey or spending your life walking in circles.  Been there.  Done that.  My entire 30’s felt like I was on a hamster wheel running a marathon that led absolutely nowhere and left me feeling defeated and completely worn out.

Did you know there’s a life GPS?  His name is God and His map is the Bible.  In fact, I’m feeling so creative today I think GPS should really stand for God’s Placement of Situations.  Is life not merely a series of situations?  How many times have you heard sayings like, “She was at the right place at the right time?”  or “He was at the wrong place at the wrong time?”  Funny, I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say, “She was at the wrong place at the right time” or “He was at the right place at the wrong time” though.  Have you?

God’s GPS doesn’t work like iMaps, Google Maps or even Garmin.  God definitely uses the Holy Spirit to warn us when we’re going in the wrong direction or about to make a poor decision.  However, God’s direction doesn’t always instruct us on how long we will be on a certain path or in a certain situation before He changes our circumstances, delivers us from the struggle we are enduring or even before He advises us on a major decision we are seeking His wisdom on.  In fact, there are times when people believe they are walking in the direction God told them to go and everything in their life seems to be going completely wrong.  In times like these, it’s human nature to question if we even understood God’s leading or if we took a wrong turn somewhere, right?

Joseph is a prime example of someone who could question God’s leading.  God told him he would be a leader over even his family some day.  He traveled through abandonment, slavery and false imprisonment before that ever happened (Genesis chapters 37-47). Daniel followed God’s direction and ended up in a lions’ den.  On another occasion, Daniel fasted for 21 days before an archangel showed up with a response to his prayer.  The archangel admitted the delay was due to spiritual warfare (Daniel chapter 10).  From Elijah, to David, and to Paul, the Old and New Testaments are full of examples of God’s direction leading to questionable circumstances.

Often times, people get a word from the Lord, respond with an obedient heart and willing spirit and then nothing happens.  I’ve read numerous devotionals and stories of how God spoke to certain individuals, they complied with His direction and then waited sometimes years for the results of their obedience.  This is similar to driving through a detour that seems endless, isn’t it? God doesn’t always make the directions clear and He doesn’t always give us forewarning to obstacles or detours we may face.  He also doesn’t give us a time frame as to when we will reach our destination.  When there appears to be a delay as to what He told us would happen and when it actually does happen, we can feel like we’re wandering aimlessly or even hopelessly lost.

That’s where relying fully on His word comes in to play.  The enemy will plant doubts in our minds. Impatience may take over and pressure us to give up or go in another direction.  We may even try to speed up the process and interfere with God’s actual timing.  No matter what, I firmly believe God will remain faithful in His word.  If you’ve received a word from the Lord, if you’ve especially taken an action in obeying this specific word and are experiencing a detour, trust in Him, remain faithful to His direction and believe His timing is always perfect.  While you’re waiting and wandering, stand on these two passages:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5 NIV)

“…At the right time,  I the Lord, will make it happen.”  Isaiah 60:22 (NLT)

Lastly, remember this, if God places you in a situation, He will guide and direct you through it.

 

 

A Year of Faith in Review….

“See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”                                      Isaiah 43:19

Although Christmas will be celebrated tomorrow I can’t help but reflect on the fact that there are only six days left of 2018.  Hard to believe that another new year is right around the corner.  I ask the all to common question of “Where did the time go?”  So I thought I would use this post to reflect on God’s work in my life this year and the hope I have for whatever 2019 holds.

A week before 2018 began, I received an unexpected blessing and endured an incredibly expensive car repair.  The blessing was greatly appreciated-the car repair so close to Christmas, not so much.  But God was faithful and provided transportation for me while my vehicle was in the shop as well as means to afford the cost.  My vehicle was back on the road and driving safely before January 1st, began.

I rang in 2018 singing karaoke with my high school best friend.  Our friendship will celebrate 30 years next year.  In high school and our early twenties we were inseparable.  I even kept a toothbrush at her house because I was always there getting ready for our next adventure or outing.  A falling out divided our friendship for many years but God restored it several years ago.  I am truly grateful.  Although life’s busyness keeps us from getting together as often as we’d both like, I cherish the moments, like New Year’s Eve celebrations, that we can share together.

In February, I was gifted a five day vacation to Las Vegas.  I’m not a gambler nor am I into strip clubs so imagine a pg rated Vegas vacation.  I say pg because I was with more high school besties (friends since 1989) and we did enjoy some adult beverages one evening while site seeing on the strip.  The rest of the time consisted of budgeting buffets, and being the typical tourist taking pictures of everything.  Aside from having 5 days spent with women I adore, my favorite part of this trip was being on the strip at night, watching the fountains “dance” to Dean Martin.  Dean Martin makes me swoon so you can imagine the rush of seeing this elaborate light and fountain show move to Dean’s “Luck be a Lady”.  Pretty sure I was frozen in awe smiling ear to ear.

Sadly, while I was on this trip, much demise was happening at my job.  I learned people had lost their jobs as well as our contract had been threatened.  That job was a contract based job and if it had been pulled would mean me without employment.  It was a very stressful and worrisome time.  Those of us that still had jobs walked on pins and needles wonder who was next.  When I returned from my vacation I actually cleaned out both of my offices just in case I was next on the chopping block.

In March my employer learned that our contract would be valid for one more year but many changes had to be made.  As the months progressed our work environment grew more and more dismal with increase in work load, no room for error or delay.  My whole demeanor changed and it effected my personal life.  I had prayed for years for new employment with many closed doors.  As work grew more intolerable for me, I finally resolved that no matter what, I would not be working at that job by summer of 2019. I knew that mean I would need to reduce my debt in order to explore the idea of taking a lesser paying job but I set a goal and prayed for God to deliver.

In April my dog, who was ten years old, underwent surgery.  This was another expensive out of pocket expense as well as four weeks of feeling like I was caring for an infant again.  She is a very small dog and seeing her in a fragile start was difficult for my children and me because she is not just a pet but a member of our family.  God once again provided the means for her surgery and she recovered fully.

June brought more car repairs.  This time my faith was worn out.  Not because of the financial strain-God provided the means to pay for it very quickly.  However I had to wait two weeks before I could get it repaired and it had become unsafe to drive.  So for two weeks I relied on other people to commute back and forth to work.  This I’m sure was a test of pride for me because I am not one who enjoys asking for help or being a burden to anyone. Thankfully God used friends with more than willing hearts to be my chauffeur until my vehicle was repaired.  God also gifted me a mechanic who not only repaired my vehicle in the time he said he would but also fixed the error of another mechanic’s work for free.

In July my daughter endured a minor out patient surgery.  Although her surgery was a success the first week of recovery was rough for both of us.  She endured a great deal of pain.  The pain made her lose her appetite so she would end up taking pain meds on an empty stomach.  A couple of times this led to vomiting because as most know, many pain meds can make one sick if you take them without food.  Three nights in a row we both endure minimal sleep because the pain would wake her up and then she would wake me up for ice packs and meds.  Add to this many sporting activities for my son who’s a three sports kid and had games, camps, practices and tournaments for all three throughout the summer months.

Fall brought mourning as our community lost two members only a month apart.  One had cancer.  The other, took his own life.  Watching my sixteen year old daughter walk through grief after losing a friend to suicide is not easy.  There are not words of comfort that can help or heal.  You just have to watch, comfort and be readily available whenever and however they need.  Suicide also opens the door to have the hard, difficult and not always comfortable conversations with your children about depression and self harm.  But God especially shows up through tragedy.  In fact, my daughter, who has questioned God’s very existence clung to faith to hold her through her grief.  Through the first week after her friend’s death, including attending his funeral, she showed very little emotion.  When I asked her about it she simply said, “I’m said but I know that I will see him again so that is helping me get through this.”  Although my heart was broken for her it smiled knowing her faith was being restored through this.

Fall also brought a serious injury upon my son.  One ER visit after a football practice and a cat scan later we learned he sustained a serious concussion.  This injury caused him to miss school, get behind on school work and all together be out of football for three weeks.  It was a very tough season for him as it brought much frustration, anger and impatience.  Not being to even attending practices made him feel like he was no longer a part of the team.  To an athlete, sports are your life.  Going without them for even three weeks can seem like an eternity.  Thankfully God healed my son in time for him to play his last two football games of the season. He’s since moved on to basketball season and still doing well.

Late fall brought a job opening in my children’s school that I was encouraged to apply for.  Reading through the job description, I wondered if I was even qualified for it.  It did have a lot of office duties I was already skilled in but it also detailed things I was not familiar with.  I hesitated to apply because I felt under qualified.  I also expected it would lead to yet another closed door.  In fact, I waited until the very last day they were accepting applications and I scanned mine and my resume to the employer.  I told only the person who had encouraged me to apply.  Two days later I was called to take their pre-hiring exam.  A day after I completed the exam I was called for an interview.  One day after the interview, I was offered the job.  I was over the moon with shock and excitement all in one.  I started this new job last month and it is everything I have ever prayed for and so much more. God has completely wowed me!

It’s now the day before Christmas and although my cup runneth over, the enemy still keeps throwing curve balls.  This month alone I received word that my biological father was on a ventilator, hospitalized, and not expected to make it.  It happened the same day another family crisis was going on.  Two of my siblings shared they were going though divorces.  A community member endured a life threatening stroke.  Other families I know have endured other health scares, financial difficulties or relationship struggles.  The enemy has even attacked my own home with discord between one of my children and me.  I have wrestled with great anxiety over much of it.  But God remains faithful.  As much tragedy that has struck, no matter how many curve balls get thrown, God’s hands can be seen in each circumstance as He performs many miracles and answers prayers in an epic way.

2018 has been a roller coaster year.  But through it all my God has been my one constant.  His faithfulness remains.  He is unshakable.  His word is true.  Through all of this I have learned that I have two choices-I can worry or I can pray.  When I worry, nothing gets done.  But when I pray,  I mean when I actually stand on God’s word and pray it over my circumstances, God moves my mountains or He moves me further up the mountain.  I am thankful for very good and bad experience this year because each one has molded my character and drew me closer to Him.  Character building and deepened faith is all anyone of us can ever ask for.

What’s Your ETA?

“For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭55:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I’m a planner. I love having a schedule planned out for the day and/or week and sticking to that plan. I don’t tend to respond well when my plan goes awry or doesn’t play out at all. That holds true even when I’m traveling or running errands. I plan out my stops to ensure the shortest route and alleviate driving out of my way or back tracking. What I typically don’t plan for are detours.

When I take a road trip, I plan out the start time, my expected time of arrival (ETA) and my return home time. When I lived in another state, I used to travel several hours to get home for visits and even had designated stopping points along the way-for every single trip. As a traveler, I’m more of a “let’s look at the map and find the shortest route from point A to point B.” I tend to always be running behind so short cuts are the best at helping make great time.

When I was younger, I traveled with someone who was the complete opposite of me. Sure they’d plan out a trip but their idea of travel was not “let’s get there.” Their idea of travel was more like, let’s find the longest route possible, make an innumerable amount of stops and enjoy all the sites we experience along the way. When traveling with them, I learned not to have a planned ETA. I also saw many spectacular views of waterfalls, caves and other beautifully hidden treasures that go unseen when you’re merely focused on getting to where you’re going and avoiding delays.

Where I live, there’s a joke that says, “We have four seasons-winter, spring, road construction and fall.” This is said because every summer our highways are covered with orange barrels and reduced down to one lane in an effort to repair the cracks and damage our harsh winters do to the pavement. Although the never ending process brings about safer roads, when you’re stuck in a traffic jam, or trying to navigate your vehicle through orange barrels or even better, detoured through areas you’re completely unfamiliar with-your appreciation for road construction is more like the feeling you get when you have to go to the dentist and have a tooth pulled. You simply want to avoid it altogether.

My daughter is learning to drive now. Recently I let her drive home from a family reunion that was two hours away. We were talking and I got distracted. I forgot she didn’t exactly know the way home and we missed the exit that led to home. We were probably 10 or 20 minutes passed that exit when I realized what had happened. I was tired and didn’t want to drive an hour out of our way to get home. I quickly got onto my iMaps to find the shortest route from where we were at. It consisted of backroads but it got us home. My daughter’s response, “It’s ok mom. It’s an adventure!” She even turned it into a site seeing tour pointing out strange lawn ornaments in peoplE’s yards from time to time.

Not to sound like Forrest Gump, but life is merely a journey full of point A’s and point B’s. We each have starting and ending points with many scenic tours, detours, back tracks, side steps, and even stand stills. Some parts of the journey are painstaking and we wish for a shortcut to get us to where we want to be a whole lot quicker. Somedays life is like trying to go around the block in a city filled with 1 way streets. What seems like the simplest of task ends up taking you way out of your way, just to get back to where you started from. It’s even more frustrating when we have a goal in mind, we’ve been working hard to reach that goal, we can see it in reach but life takes a right turn and feels like we’re driving the opposite way of what we are striving for. It can be additionally frustrating, even faith shaking, when we believe that goal was God spoken yet seems as though it will never come to fruition.

My own life has felt like a constant detour. Some road blocks I created myself based on wrong turns. Others are like traffic jams where I feel parked and no matter how hard I try, God is not moving me at all. Yet other days it feels as though I’m actually driving in reverse. Those are the days I realize I keep going back to the same sin or the same destructive pattern. On the days when life actually feels like a good traffic day, I’m learning those days still don’t reveal to me where I’m going or what God’s ETA for my goals really is. Those days were merely smooth driving days with minimal speed bumps.

Everyone has a starting time (your date of birth) and an ending (your date of death.) The dash in between is our individual road map of our own individual journey. Life is a road trip. You can get impatient and try to shortcut to your goals. Or you can enjoy the scenic route God takes you on, even if He makes you go the opposite way. Let your ETA be His ETA for you. During your roadblocks, speed bumps, traffic jams and detours, look around and admire the view. God has beauty in every moment of our lives and He shows it best when we’re less focused on the goal and more focused on the journey. If you make a wrong turn-that’s ok. We all get lost in our travels. God’s GPS will always bring us back to the road He has set before us when we repent and surrender to His ways.

If today you’re feeling like Abraham, Moses, David, Sarah, Hannah or Elizabeth, with a God given goal but no direction on how tor each it, or you’re experiencing road blocks that feel like closed doors, read about the delays the experienced before God gave them their ETA’s. Abraham specifically experienced this: God promised him offspring. Then told him to move away from all he was familiar with. Twenty-five years later, God’s word finally came to pass for Abraham. May his and the others’ stories give you the strength to trust God most during the road construction detours in your own life.

What’s Your ETA?

“For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭55:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I’m a planner. I love having a schedule planned out for the day and/or week and sticking to that plan. I don’t tend to respond well when my plan goes awry or doesn’t play out at all. That holds true even when I’m traveling or running errands. I plan out my stops to ensure the shortest route and alleviate driving out of my way or back tracking. What I typically don’t plan for are detours.

When I take a road trip, I plan out the start time, my expected time of arrival (ETA) and my return home time. When I lived in another state, I used to travel several hours to get home for visits and even had designated stopping points along the way-for every single trip. As a traveler, I’m more of a “let’s look at the map and find the shortest route from point A to point B.” I tend to always be running behind so short cuts are the best at helping make great time.

When I was younger, I traveled with someone who was the complete opposite of me. Sure they’d plan out a trip but their idea of travel was not “let’s get there.” Their idea of travel was more like, let’s find the longest route possible, make an innumerable amount of stops and enjoy all the sites we experience along the way. When traveling with them, I learned not to have a planned ETA. I also saw many spectacular views of waterfalls, caves and other beautifully hidden treasures that go unseen when you’re merely focused on getting to where you’re going and avoiding delays.

Where I live, there’s a joke that says, “We have four seasons-winter, spring, road construction and fall.” This is said because every summer our highways are covered with orange barrels and reduced down to one lane in an effort to repair the cracks and damage our harsh winters do to the pavement. Although the never ending process brings about safer roads, when you’re stuck in a traffic jam, or trying to navigate your vehicle through orange barrels or even better, detoured through areas you’re completely unfamiliar with-your appreciation for road construction is more like the feeling you get when you have to go to the dentist and have a tooth pulled. You simply want to avoid it altogether.

My daughter is learning to drive now. Recently I let her drive home from a family reunion that was two hours away. We were talking and I got distracted. I forgot she didn’t exactly know the way home and we missed the exit that led to home. We were probably 10 or 20 minutes passed that exit when I realized what had happened. I was tired and didn’t want to drive an hour out of our way to get home. I quickly got onto my iMaps to find the shortest route from where we were at. It consisted of backroads but it got us home. My daughter’s response, “It’s ok mom. It’s an adventure!” She even turned it into a site seeing tour pointing out strange lawn ornaments in peoplE’s yards from time to time.

Not to sound like Forrest Gump, but life is merely a journey full of point A’s and point B’s. We each have starting and ending points with many scenic tours, detours, back tracks, side steps, and even stand stills. Some parts of the journey are painstaking and we wish for a shortcut to get us to where we want to be a whole lot quicker. Somedays life is like trying to go around the block in a city filled with 1 way streets. What seems like the simplest of task ends up taking you way out of your way, just to get back to where you started from. It’s even more frustrating when we have a goal in mind, we’ve been working hard to reach that goal, we can see it in reach but life takes a right turn and feels like we’re driving the opposite way of what we are striving for. It can be additionally frustrating, even faith shaking, when we believe that goal was God spoken yet seems as though it will never come to fruition.

My own life has felt like a constant detour. Some road blocks I created myself based on wrong turns. Others are like traffic jams where I feel parked and no matter how hard I try, God is not moving me at all. Yet other days it feels as though I’m actually driving in reverse. Those are the days I realize I keep going back to the same sin or the same destructive pattern. On the days when life actually feels like a good traffic day, I’m learning those days still don’t reveal to me where I’m going or what God’s ETA for my goals really is. Those days were merely smooth driving days with minimal speed bumps.

Everyone has a starting time (your date of birth) and an ending (your date of death.) The dash in between is our individual road map of our own individual journey. Life is a road trip. You can get impatient and try to shortcut to your goals. Or you can enjoy the scenic route God takes you on, even if He makes you go the opposite way. Let your ETA be His ETA for you. During your roadblocks, speed bumps, traffic jams and detours, look around and admire the view. God has beauty in every moment of our lives and He shows it best when we’re less focused on the goal and more focused on the journey. If you make a wrong turn-that’s ok. We all get lost in our travels. God’s GPS will always bring us back to the road He has set before us when we repent and surrender to His ways.

If today you’re feeling like Abraham, Moses, David, Sarah, Hannah or Elizabeth, with a God given goal but no direction on how tor each it, or you’re experiencing road blocks that feel like closed doors, read about the delays the experienced before God gave them their ETA’s. Abraham specifically experienced this: God promised him offspring. Then told him to move away from all he was familiar with. Twenty-five years later, God’s word finally came to pass for Abraham. May his and the others’ stories give you the strength to trust God most during the road construction detours in your own life.

Moving Slow but Working Hard

“Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised.”

Hebrews 6:15NLT

My freshman year of college I lived on the 4th floor of Robinson Hall.  This dormitory had no elevators, only stairs-many, many flights of stairs.  There’s a “freshman 15” saying referencing the amount of weight you gain your first year of college.  The amount of times I went up and down those stairs on a daily basis I am confident I lost fifteen pounds and then some.  Along with the stair climbing you had to walk across campus multiple times a day for classes, meals, etc.  For a girl who at one point lived across the street from her high school, this world of walking a country mile and climbing stairs that equated to scaling the Empire State Building on a daily basis was a tad much.  It was even worse when I was running late.  Speed walking doesn’t get you to class much faster than normal walking and even at eighteen years old, my knees were not built for running, especially carrying several textbooks on my back.  Have to admit, twenty plus years later, I think my freshman year of college was a mini boot camp for this diva.

After I graduated college, I moved back home.  I had big dreams to change the world and ended up with a minimum wage job at a retail store.  My college relationship ended and I found myself partying multiple times a night.  I found a job that was a remote fit to my degree but it wasn’t stable and it wasn’t satisfying.  I came to a realization that I was going in circles.  Going in circles gets you nowhere. Going in circles, simply makes you dizzy.  I took out a map and I picked a city to move to.  About six months later, I was settling in to a city seven hours away from home only knowing two people in the entire area.  I secured a job in the downtown area and gained many lifelong friendships from working there.  I also walked a lot.  You see, in most cities, there are parking structures that cost money to park.  People who worked downtown typically would spend $40-80 plus in monthly parking fees.  Paying for parking was a foreign thing for this small town girl.  So I found free parking, on the outskirts of a rougher part of the city, and I would walk about six blocks to my office in high heels.  At lunch time I would walk a round trip of about another six blocks to grab a meal and eat it at the office.  On the weekends my friends and I again would walk from bar to bar to go dancing.  You basically drove to the downtown area, just to walk to where you needed to go.

It’s been seventeen years since I’ve moved back to my home state.  Where I live, walking to work or to get my kids to school or even to the grocery story is only a possibility if you’re in the shape of marathon runner.  In fact, the only extensive walking I do now is 1-3 times a week on my lunch break as a form of exercise.  Other than that, I am driving every place we need to go.  Now, walking isn’t a form of transportation, it’s simply a form of exercise.

I have been battling with car repairs and unreliable vehicles for the past decade.  Since moving into the home I’ve raised my children in the past 10 years, I have owned four vehicles.  Each one has needed multiple repairs and each one has left me stranded a time or two.  Some repairs have been routine needs like new brakes or tires.  Others have been incredibly expensive and/or major safety issues.  Each one causes a great stress in figuring out where to get it fixed, how to pay for it and how to get to work and other places I need to go while the vehicle is being repaired.  At some point, the repairs get to be more than the vehicle is worth and then I pray extensively for the Lord to provide a better, more reliable and more affordable vehicle.  Each time, God answers.

Two years ago, God provided me with the nicest vehicle I’ve owned in several years.  This vehicle seemed to fit all my needs and even handles very well on bad wintry roads.  It’s needed a few repairs here and there but it’s all been routine maintenance until last year.  At the beginning of the year, I noticed a loud banging sound when I would drive over bumps. I kept checking the area where the sound was coming from and couldn’t see what would be causing it.  One day I got to my office, checked it again and discovered my entire wheel well was broken.  If you know anything about vehicles, the wheel well holds the rear shock into place.  If the well is broken, the shock bangs up and into the trunk area of your vehicle.  Not only is this a safety issue but it’s an expensive repair.

A family member did a free weld repair on it first.  This lasted several months and I was incredibly grateful.  However, in December of last year, the weld broke and replacing the wheel well was unavoidable.  It was Christmas time and very cold outside.  It was also the time of year where it’s dark until about 8am and dark again around 6pm.  My commute to/from work is 70 miles (112 kilometers) and given the time of year, walking to work daily wasn’t a realistic option.  Neither was driving my vehicle in the condition it was in. Given that fact that is was also Christmas time, financially speaking, this kind of car repair would break the bank as they say.  I prayed a lot.  I cried a bit and I reached out to others for prayer and help.  God answered in a mighty way. My vehicle was repaired, I was provided a loaner vehicle while mine was in the shop, my children had an overwhelmingly abundant Christmas and I suddenly found myself in a position to bless a family in need with an abundant Christmas also.  All this happened in a three-week period.  All this happened because God used friends and family and other avenues to provide for my children and me.

About a month ago, my car broke down on the freeway.  It actually just shut down as I was traveling.  Fortunately, it was a slow motion occurrence where I was able to safely pull to the side of the road before losing my brakes and power steering.  I couldn’t get it started for a bit.  It was raining and vehicles were passing me at speeds high enough to shake my vehicle as they went by.  I prayed and asked God for help.  Tried to start the vehicle again with no success.  This happened a few times and I found myself quickly losing my patience.  At one point the high maintenance diva side of me came out and I actually asked God this, “Do you expect me to walk down the freeway, in the rain, in my high heels? Is that what you’re expecting me to do right now?”  He answered by starting my vehicle and getting me to a safe park N ride area.  I was able to call my mechanic who arranged for a tow truck and delivered me a loaner car to get me home that night.  My car was repaired the very next day.  I thanked God for His continued provision and embarrassingly humbled myself when I thought about those who walk in the rain without shoes because they have no other means of transportation and cannot even afford a pair of shoes.  Who was I that I thought I was too important to walk in the rain in heels?

The past two weeks I have battled yet again with another needed repair.  This time, it’s a second broken wheel well.  This one is worse than the first.  The Lord provided the financial means to repair this one rather quickly, however, the body shop doesn’t have an opening to fix it for three weeks.  I drove the vehicle (after consulting with professionals who said it was ok) for the first week.  However, the noises grew increasingly louder and the damage worsened.  I tried to get the repair done sooner with no luck.  I reached out to a few friends for a possible loaner vehicle, with no luck either.  I prayed asking God to show me what to do for transportation over the next two weeks until I could get my car into the shop.  I didn’t ask nicely, mind you.  I had a world class toddler style meltdown over the whole thing.  In fact, I remember two things I prayed out of anger in that moment-1.)  I told God I didn’t want to learn whatever lesson He was trying to teach me and 2.) I was deeply disappointed in His method right then.  I even tried venting to two people I trusted and was told I was venting to the wrong people.  It was a whirlwind moment of deep discouragement.  My frustration grew as I could feel God going silent-just letting me have my rant.   In December God overwhelmed me with help.  This time, it felt like I had been left alone to figure it out.

But then He answered.  He answered by sending a family member to look at the vehicle once again and advising me on how long I could drive it.  He answered by providing transportation for my kids to get to/from school and by giving a dear friend a willing heart to drive me to/from work.  He answered by the generosity of another friend who loaned me a vehicle for this entire weekend.  Although I don’t have a solid plan for this upcoming week regarding transportation, I know He will answer because He promised to take care of my children and me and God is faithful in keeping His promises.

Now, if you’re still reading this, you might be asking, what do car repairs and where I lived in college have in common.  My answer would be this: turtles.  You see my freshman year of college, 4th floor Robinson Hall had t-shirts designed for each resident.  The shirts had a couple turtles on the front and the back read, “4th Floor, Robinson Hall, Moving Slow but Working Hard.”  I was reminded of this motto this week when I watched a turtle attempting to cross a busily traveled country road.   I actually found myself asking God to please help that turtle make it safely across.  Then I thought about how slowly turtles move.  There is no rush or urgency in a turtle.  They simply were not built to move quickly.

Turtles crossing the road is very common where I live.  Many times, humans intervene by picking up the turtles and moving them out of the road in an effort to save them from getting smooshed by vehicles.  But other times, the turtle has to get across the road by the grace of God only because there is no human intervention.  That was the case of this particular turtle.  Nobody was stopping to help it.  I saw a few cars drive around it and hoped anyone encountering it would do the same.  Aside from darting cars, from the outside looking in, that turtle was on its own to make it safely to where he or she was journeying to.

In life, and especially when dealing with a broken down vehicle, I feel like a turtle.  I can see where I need to go, I can develop a plan on how to get there, I usually choose the shortest route possible and then race off to the finish line.  That’s when I encounter delays or other roadblocks that slow my pace down or bring me to a sudden stop.  Delays and roadblocks trigger my impatience.  There are things in my life,-plans, goals, etc.-that I want to happen in hare speed, not turtle speed (if you’re not familiar with the Tortoise and the Hare story this analogy may not makes sense so google “The Tortoise and the Hare” for a better understanding.)  I especially get impatient when I know how to get something done but delay puts me in a position where I cannot get it down on my timeline and I have to depend on others for help during the waiting process.  I am a very impatient waiter (unlike Abraham who waited “patiently” and received the Lord’s promise.”   God knows this.  He also knows I learn best when He answers with “daily manna” instead of delivering everything I ask for all at once.  Because this year is the year He is developing my character to reflect how He designed me to be, He is slowing my life down to turtle speed, putting me in positions to be dependent upon others and in position to be totally dependent upon Him.

I’m gonna be real right now and admit that this form of character building, I. Do, Not. Like.  But God tells us in James 1:2-4 to “count it all joy…when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let the steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (ESV).”  The NLT version uses the word “endurance” instead of steadfastness.  This word “endurance” is also found in Romans 5:3. “we can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.” Verse 4 ties it all together with this; “And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation (NLT,)”  Instead of acting like a toddler, God gently reminds me that I should be rejoicing through these trials because He merely developing more of my character through them.

If you’re going through a trial, even something as trivial as lack of transportation, remember this-God uses all circumstances to refine us, especially the ones He knows will really put us through the test.  Our fiery furnace doesn’t have to be something major.  It could be taking the same “test” over and over again until we learn to not let that circumstance rattle us.  Maybe your test is a different financial struggle, dealing with a toxic person, having the same argument with your spouse with no resolution in sight, struggling with a rebellious child or something more intense like battling with a life threatening illness or job loss.  Whatever the circumstance, you may be feeling like you’re going in circles, this journey seems endless, God is silent and your trying to walk through heavy traffic (get through this situation) at a turtle’s speed.  There will be times you will feel like God uses others to pick you up and carry you to where you need to be quickly.  Other times in this journey you will feel like everyone is bypassing you and you’re at the mercy of your own strength to get across that road.  Just remember this, whether a human moves that turtle or the turtle makes it across because travelers choose to swerve and avoid it, God’s divine intervention is what truly gets that turtle safely across the road.  No matter how God delivers your miracle, know this-it’s coming from God, in His time and in His way.  Don’t give others more credit than they deserve and don’t be a hare trying to rush through life on your own.  It’s in the turtle speed that we notice more around us and are even gifted moments of pausing (like when you’re waiting for someone to pick you up.)  You’d be amazed at how beautiful life truly is when you’re not rushing and you’re not rattled.  You just keep going, moving slowly but working hard.  You do what you can, and then trust God to do the rest.

One last note-as each vehicle passed that turtle, it never once stopped or hid in its shell.  It kept its eyes toward the direction it was heading and it kept moving forward. That is the epitome of unshakable faith.  When we’re faced with delays, roadblocks or feel like we’re metaphorically trying to cross a road through heavy traffic, there’s a confident trust we can exude by keeping our eyes focused on where God is leading.  We must continue to move forward believing He will get us to the other side completely unharmed.  God used that turtle to teach me this:  I can look at the problem and worry about how to solve it-or I can look to Jesus and trust Him to bring the solution even if it means hours, days, weeks or years of roadblocks and delays.  God used Abraham’s journey as a testimony that He is never late but always on time in delivering His promises, even delivering car repairs.

What Fruit is Your Tree Producing?

“A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭12:33‬ ‭NLT‬‬

For the past few months I have been obsessively craving oranges. I can eat six of them or more in a day sometimes. Definitely can eat several over the span of a week. But I’m a bit weird with how I eat them. I can’t peel just one and then eat it. I have to peel several at a time and store them in a dish so they’re readily available whenever my belly craves them. If I don’t peel them all at once, they tend to sit, rot and get wasted.

Tasting the juicy sweetness of a ripe orange and throwing away one that’s mushy and covered in a fuzzy green substance reminds me of God’s calling on all of us to be fruit bearers. In Galatians (Chapter 5 verse 22 and 23) we read about the fruits of the Spirit being love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, kindness, perseverance and self-control. These are all characteristics God requires of us to display in our day to day lives. Reading the list sounds easy and I am confident there are many times practicing all of these have come natural to all of us. But what about the times when it doesn’t? Let’s look at some scenarios.

When a person cuts us off on the road it’s human nature to react in a harsh manner (not practice gentleness.) when someone wounds us deeply or continues to disappoint us, it’s human nature to stop loving them, maybe even feel hatred toward them. When we’re grief stricken if feels impossible to experience joy. Addictions make it incredibly challenging to practice self-control. When life feels out of control it’s easy to worry and be anxious instead of choosing to be at peace fully trusting Abba. If you’re a parent dealing with a toddler meltdown or a disrespectful know-it-all teenager it’s super easy to lose patience. On days when we’re just feeling grumpy it’s easier to lash out at others rather than practice goodness and kindness.

Then there’s the concept of being known by our fruit. If we are a person bearing good fruit we should be identified as such. But what about those who constantly bear bad fruit? What about the people who cross our paths who appear to be mean-spirited, toxic, hard-hearted or down right evil? What about those people who seem so hard hearted that no amount of prayer covering seems ever possible that they will ever change?

First and foremost if you’re a Christian who’s known for bearing bad fruit (maybe you hold grudges, is unwelcoming, always arguing, gossips, harbors hatred toward others, loses your temper easily, over spends/over eats or even over works) it’s time to take a long hard look in the mirror, confess these attitudes and behaviors and ask God to cut off the branches that aren’t bearing good fruit. Until you refuse to repent, you will be a tree that produces bad fruit and bears a false witness as to what being Christ like is all about. If you repent, God promises to prune you in a way that will make your tree overflowing with His fruit once again (John 15:2.)

Dealing with nonbelievers who bear bad fruit is a bit more challenging. None of us hold the power in our human strength to change a human heart, including our own. Part of bearing good fruit is being a seed planter for those who bear bad fruit. If you have any knowledge of botany (which mine is very limited) you know that some plants actually populate from having their seeds spread elsewhere. This happens in both plants and weeds which means Christians can plant both good and bad seeds in the lives of those whom we cross paths with. If we want to be good fruit bearers, we have to be good seed planters also (read Mark 4 regarding Jesus’ parable on seed planting.)

How do we do that? We practice the fruits of the Spirit at all times. Think about being a comedian performing on stage for the first time. Your audience boos you and throws rotten tomatoes at you. This is the epitome of being exposed to bad fruit bearers and toxic people. It’s also human nature to want to defend ourselves and to pick up those rotted tomatoes and throw them back. Instead, God calls us to give them good fruit. Sticking with this analogy let’s say when someone throws rotten tomatoes at you, you pull out fresh ripe ones and ask them to join you for a salad. If someone steals from your apple tree, bake them a pie with what’s left. By doing so, you will be planting seeds of the Spirit that God can use to grow your enemies into good fruit bearers also.

This is definitely easier said than done. Trust me-I struggle daily with practicing any of this. I tend to live out my feelings instead of practicing self-control. I lose my temper and throw gentleness, kindness and goodness right out the window replacing them with anger, harsh words and unforgiveness. I wallow in my sorrows and give the enemy my joy. When I try problem solving in my own human wisdom, I get engulfed in worry and anxiety which suffocates any ounce of His peace within me. There are days I make a conscious effort to choose His fruit instead though. Just like choosing healthy food gives your body more energy, choosing His fruit gives my spirit a supernatural energy boost that produces more fruit within me. The more we pour out into others, the more He pours back into us. To keep using a scientific analogy, this would be a spiritual osmosis!

Whether you’re in a season of seed planting or fruit bearing remember three things-one, just like growing a garden or planting trees takes a length of time before the plant is fully matured and fruit is produced, so it may take years before you see changes in those you are discipling to, including even your own children. That’s where consistency, perseverance and the power of prayer play their biggest roles. Just because you can’t see anything growing, doesn’t mean there aren’t roots forming beneath the surface. So don’t give up.

Second, you may not be the person God uses to fully change their hearts. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 3:6 that he planted the seed but Apollo watered it and only God actually made it grow. This verse reminds us that some hearts may take more than one person to soften and that no matter who God uses, He ultimately gets the glory. It’s His power alone that truly changes hearts. We are just His tools.

Lastly, and this part is a sad reality, some hearts will never change. Choosing the fruits of the Spirit is a choice. There are people who choose to be hard hearted and no effort will ever change them. (Matthew 21:19) I believe God will show you when it’s time to walk away from such a person and surrender them fully to the Lord. We can still pray for a miracle in them but walking away means protecting ourselves emotionally and avoiding getting spiritually burned out. You may not agree with this last concept but just remember Judas was a prime example of such a heart. He walked right beside Jesus and betrayed him. Jesus never pursued Judas after the betrayal because He knew there was no changing him.

Jesus forgave Judas and He calls us to forgive our enemies also-even if they refuse to change. Forgiveness is definitely a seed that when planted can produce amazing fruit in ourselves and in those we choose to forgive. Jesus modeled this as He was hanging on a cross enduring excruciating pain, pushing himself up just to take a breath, and said “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” So what seeds are you planting? What fruit are you producing? What is your spiritual tree bearing? Strive to plant seeds that inevitably produce trees that bear His fruit.

Shake it Off or Cry it Out-but always Pray it out and Believe!

Ever feel like life is against you, that no matter how hard you try, something or someone keeps pushing you down?  After a while, you’re emotionally scraped, battered and bruised.  You may feel like you can only get back up so many times and brush yourself, right?  I mean who wouldn’t get worn out from standing up, dusting themselves off and getting another blast right away finding themselves flat on the ground again or worse, deeper in a pit?

I’ve been through this season time and again.  Going through it right now actually.  Each time I fight hard to get out of the pit, to overcome feelings of despair and discouragement. Each time I say to myself, “You should be an expert at this so why is this bothering you so much?”  I strap on my shield faith and remind myself that God is in control, His ways are better than my ways, His timing is perfect, etc.  But the darts thrown seem to get sharper and come at me harder and faster than the other times. I feel myself physically, emotionally and spiritually weakening.  I deal with it through a variety of “Go-To’s.”

First-I lose my temper.  Then I cry.  Sometimes these happen simultaneously.  I wake up at 2:30am multiple nights in a row wrestling with worry, fear and anxiety.  Sometimes despair shows up, throws a party in my mind and I just sink lower and lower. Despair usually brings the gift of uncontrollable sobs.  I use pride as a defense mechanism but everyone knows that’s a false tool of the enemy so in reality all I have done is grabbed a hold of his flaming dart and stabbed it into myself.

Another go-to of mine is gossiping.  I’m embarrassed to admit it but I have shared some hurtful moments way too many times and spoken angrily about my offenders to ears that didn’t need to hear any of it.  I tell myself I’m just venting but that’s merely masking what it really is.  The Bible tells us in Ephesians 4:29 (NLT) “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”  And Proverbs 17:9 says, “Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends” Whether you choose to think you’re venting or admit that you’re gossiping, Proverbs 17:9 clearly spells out that dwelling on the offense brings unforgiveness and separation.  Two more things I am guilty of because honestly, venting/gossiping has never helped me forgive my offender.  It does however help me to hold a grudge, sink deeper in a pit of self-pity and drive a wider wedge between my offender and me.

My last go-to is usually prayer and surrender to God.  But again-if I’m being honest, this doesn’t come easily or with a happy heart.  It’s usually more in the form of a toddler after they’re worn out from a throwing a fit and they surrender from exhaustion with the “Fine, have it your way” attitude.  This kind of attitude doesn’t grow my faith or get me out of the pit.  It just keeps me stuck.  And boy have I been stuck for years!

Over the past couple of years, I believe God has spoken different words to me that were my focus for that year.  In 2015 He spoke the word Refinement to me and it was a year that felt like I was being melted down in a hot fiery furnace into a liquid blob.  Last year He spoke the word Trust.  I learned that trusting God was like closing your eyes and jumping off a cliff trusting He would catch me. In fact, toward the end of 2015 I did that exact thing…ok it was a zip line but there was a short free fall before my harness caught me and I screamed like a school girl!  The scariest part (even though the instructor told me what was going to happen) was taking that step off the platform and going through the free fall.  I didn’t know it then but God was showing me what trusting Him is like before He spoke the word to me.

This year God is telling me to Believe.  I came into 2017 with this naïve thought that this was going to be a big year for me-the year I get all my ducks in a row and finally get out of the pit of feeling stuck.  I designed a budget to get some debt paid off.  I spent New Year’s Eve in prayer committing to leaving behind the character flaws I know I need to shed in order to move into what God has for me.  I thought believing God at His word would be easy since I had just endured 365 days of learning how to trust Him.  I. Was. Wrong!

In mid-January I was hit with a financial burden that shook me.  I know everybody has financial issues at certain points in their life but I think mine was so upsetting because it blew my entire plan of budgeting tighter and paying off debt.  I had a back-up plan though.  Someone owed me a dollar amount that almost matched the deficit I experienced and I thought, “If they pay me what they owe me I’ll be just fine.”  I prayed for this provision daily.  But that didn’t happen and truth be told my heart hardened.  Instead, God provided me with His daily manna and taught me to trust Him in the seconds, minutes and hours of each day instead of “worrying about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:34 NLT).  He used amazing people in my life to bless me and my children in the most unexpected ways (ask me about the offer of about 6 blow dryers some time. Ha! Ha!)  When anxiety swelled up and frustration built, the word Believe kept flashing through my mind.  I had to tell myself aloud regularly that God promises to be faithful and that I had to choose to believe Him at His word even when I couldn’t see what He was doing, even when He didn’t answer my prayer the way I wanted Him to.

Even though I am on the upside of that financial burden, believing God is still not coming naturally to me.  I have been trying to change my career for some time now only to repeatedly get rejected. I have a pending application as a graduate student at a highly reputable university and recently told I have to take the GRE for any further consideration.  Do you know that costs $205 and is the most ridiculously difficult test on the planet?  Ok, that last part may be my own opinion but it is a very challenging test.  I have plans to run in a 5K but training for it feels impossible when the longest I can run consecutively is a minute and 30 seconds.  I then have to walk as I attempt to catch my breath in order to try running again.  I still desire to have debt paid off this year but got hit with two major repairs during and immediately after January’s financial hardship, increasing my debt actually.  If that’s not enough, I have people in my life who are petty, cruel at times, arrogant and disrespectful. And some of them I have to deal with daily.  Why is all this happening?  Because the best way for me to believe God is to trust Him as He walks with me through the fiery trials, allowing Him to continue to refine and purify me, plucking off the branches that don’t produce fruit and molding me into His image.

This morning, while traveling to work, a passing vehicle threw mud so hard it splattered across the side of my vehicle making my driver side window completely muddied.  I immediately thought, “That is exactly how I feel right now-just getting heaps of mud thrown at me and the people throwing it don’t even care.” That’s when God spoke to me and said, “Cease striving and know that I am God…”  (Psalm 46:10 NASB).  He gave me flash of Joseph when his brothers threw him into a pit and sold him into slavery.  What God was saying was, “Stop fighting, stop holding on to the frustrations you’re carrying and STOP trying to fix this all on your own.”  He also promised that, “I am Your God who is going with you!  I will fight for you against your enemies and I will give you victory! (Deuteronomy 20:4 NLT)” I don’t know how God will deliver me from my enemies or this pit but I know He will because I believe His word.  It never fails. In fact, the first three verses of Psalm 40, David stands on this promise, “I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire.  He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.”

If you’re going through this season too-remember this.  You’re not alone.  You’re not defeated and God will deliver you.  In Taylor Swift’s song, “Shake it Off”, we’re told that “haters gonna hate, fakers gonna fake and heart breakers gonna break.”  The singer chose to shake it all off-the hate, the fake and the heartbreak.  That’s not always easy to do.  Sometimes need to cry it out too.  Whatever you’re go-to is, make sure you’re also praying it out, giving it up to God and believing Him at His word. Read Psalm 61 and 62 daily for a week (advice given to me just last week and one I am putting into practice this week) and see how much your belief increase!