Caution: Icy Roads Ahead

“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.””‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭31:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬I’m reading a devotional on You Version called “21 Ways to Thrive by 45.” Today’s reading was about facing fear by putting our focus on Jesus and trusting Him. The scripture for today was Deuteronomy 31:6-8 and Psalms 56:3-4 . I’ve heard Deuteronomy 31:6 multiple times in my life. At one point I had it written on an index card taped to my desk as a daily reminder. But I’m not sure the passage from Psalms 56 has ever resonated with me before. I had to read it twice this morning before I felt God nudge me about these two verses. It’s summer time where I live. In a month or two the leaves will start changing color, the temperature will turn cooler and the evenings will get darker earlier. Although this is a beautiful time of year with backdrops full of bright yellow, orange and red, this is also a warning sign that winter is right around the corner. For some, this brings the excitement of winter activities such as snowmobiling or skiing. For me, because this also means poor road conditions, it brings fear.Today’s verses reminded me of a time that I found myself caught in an ice storm. My children had had doctor appointments in late afternoon. Although it was the middle of winter, driving to their appointments, the roads were quite clear. However in a short period of time, freezing rain came down and turned the roads into an ice skating rink. I had a 20+ mile drive home. I proceeded with great caution.What should’ve been less than a 30 minute commute was taking well over an hour as I creeped and crawled in my vehicle to ensure I wouldn’t lose control. Vehicles in my area tend to be equipped with four wheel drive but that doesn’t help on ice. Four wheel drive on ice just means you have four wheels spinning out of control instead of two. The closer we got to our home, the worse the road conditions get. The hills also seem to increase frequency and depth.Two miles before home I stopped at the top of a very steep hill. It was dark with freezing rain still falling from the sky. The ice covered road before me had a bright sheen when my headlights hit it. I thought about the best approach for this hill and then I proceeded. My slow decent took a turn for the worst as my vehicle did a complete 180 and I found myself stuck in a ditch, in the wrong lane facing on-coming traffic. With no success, I tried getting out of the ditch and back up the hill. I realized I was going to have to proceed down the hill backward. As I slowly let my foot off the brake to begin backing down the hill, the ice took over and my car slid backward, landing at the bottom of the hill completely parallel to the crossroad that was ahead of me. I was now taking up both lanes. This was a narrow road with large drop offs on either side. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t seem to get my vehicle turned straight into the proper lane and moving forward again. I prayed. I panicked. I constantly reassured my kids that we were going to be ok. But I was shaking with fear. I feared rolling my vehicle. I didn’t fear for my safety-but I feared greatly for the safety of my children. I’m a momma bear by nature and will risk life and limb to protect my children.I also knew that I couldn’t stay where I was at because any traffic coming from either direction could’ve hit us. My daughter was riding in the front seat, my son in the back. All of us had seatbelts on. I grabbed my daughter’s hand. I told my kids I had to get us out of there and proceeded to straighten out my car. Each attempt pulled me closer to the drop off on the right side of the road. In my mind I had already accepted that rolling the vehicle was inevitable. But I spoke out to my children saying “It’s ok. We’re going to be ok. God is going to protect us.” Just as my vehicle pulled farther to the right and I knew we were going into that drop off, my vehicle straightened and I was facing the right direction again. I drove a few feet away from the drop off, pulled to the side of the road then called for help. Tears of fear and relief flowed as I sobbed on the phone to the person I called. God protected us in a mighty way that night. Do you know every winter I still get anxiety over driving on bad roads? Do you know I still wrestle with fear, struggling to sleep some times? I also avoid chasing my dreams and rarely putting myself out there because of fearing rejection. The verses from Psalms 56 were a great reminder to take my focus off fear and remember Who is really in control. It’s also a great reminder that He promises to protect us whether it be bad roads, bad relationships, poor health, toxic situations, etc. When we focus on the what-ifs we give fear and anxiety all the control. We may even become paralyzed and unable to move forward because we’re listening to fear (or get ourselves stuck in a ditch because we tried to handle the circumstance in our own wisdom.) But when we stand on the promises of Deuteronomy 31:6-8 and Psalms 56:3-4 peace overthrows fear because we know that God is watching over us. Fear is a choice. Trust is too. Do not fear. Choose instead to trust in the One who promises to protect us always.

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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.

A Little Faith

“Then he asked [her], “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?””

‭‭Mark‬ ‭4:40‬ ‭NLT‬‬

This past weekend I was updating my playlist on Spotify. When you look up a particular artist the site will make suggestions of other artists in that same genre. I was downloading some 1990’s pop music and came across Mandy Moore. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I’m a Mandy Moore fan so I downloaded a couple of her songs. One in particular was a rendition of “Have A Little Faith in Me.” I didn’t give it much thought then but later that afternoon when the song started playing God spoke deeply into me and the tears just flowed.

Are you familiar with the song? Read these two stanzas and I’m confident some if not most of you will be moved by them:

“When the road gets dark

And you can no longer see

Just let my love throw a spark

And have a little faith in me

And when the tears you cry

Are all you can believe

Just give these loving arms a try

And have a little faith in me…”

I immediately thought of my children and my heart’s desire for them. I long to be their constant and their comfort in this life. They are teenagers and faced with so many temptations and distractions from what God made them to be. I have to admit we aren’t diligent in attending church every week and our family prayers usually only occur during meal times and bed time. Family devotionals are non existent because of busyness and my being too tired to battle with them over a five minute reading. We do have talks about God but sadly they’re foundation is more sandy than on solid rock. I take full responsibility for failing in building a stronger spiritual foundation for them and my heart worries about their future far too often.

The first thing that ran through my mind when I heard this song was how deeply I long for my children to trust me. As their mom and the person responsible for molding them, I long for them to see that I have 20+ years of experience ahead of them and I only wish to use my wisdom to protect and guide them. As I was dwelling on these thoughts I felt the Lord tell that’s exactly how He feels about me and all of His children. He longs for us to trust in Him and to rely on His eternal wisdom to guide and protect us also.

God then reminded me of a text conversation I had with my daughter the week prior. It was past both our bedtimes and she texted me because she was afraid. She had watched a video on an end of the world prediction (stating the world is suppose to end April 18th) and it was so realistic to her that she was in a panic. I tried explaining the biblical version of the end of the world in an effort to bring her some peace of mind but it was ineffective. I felt myself getting frustrated because I was tired (I did mention it was past bedtime, right?) and being a believer in the Bible’s version of End times, I knew this prediction was utter nonsense. So of course I thought it was ridiculous to be panicked over nonsense.

I finally told her she had a choice to make. She could choose to believe her mom or to believe that video. She never answered that choice but after a few more texts she ended up falling asleep. I however was too on edge at that point to go back to sleep so I ended up watching an hour of a movie.

God used my own words to speak to me. He pointed out I (and you) can choose to trust God or we can choose to trust in our circumstances. When we have a little faith in Him (even faith the size of a mustard seed), we can move mountains (Matt 17:20.) When we choose to trust in our circumstances we build our foundation on sand which means our security and stability is ever changing, completely unstable and can be washed away with every ebb and wave life splashes upon us.

Did I mention that my daughter has admitted to not believing in God? Did I also mention that my son is struggling with his own rebellion that is not becoming of how he is being raised? My heart breaks for my children. My heart is desperate for them to be free of strongholds and walking in a close personal relationship with Jesus. My heart is filled with angst and guilt for the lack of effort I’ve made in developing them spiritually.

Yet God is faithful. He reminded of His work with Abraham and Isaac, Hagar and Ishmael, Jacob and Joseph, Moses and his mother, Hannah and Samuel, and of course Mary and Jesus. Each story is one of a parent or parents crying out to Abba over their child and God being faithful to protect them and bring salvation upon every one of them. He is calling me (and you) to trust that He will keep His promises over our children as well. Just as He did for those in the Bible, He will protect and bring salvation to my children and yours in His time and always in His way.

Take note-faith without actions is dead (James 2:17). So we need to plant seeds of salvation over our prodigal children. We need to cover them with prayer day and night. We need to call out the enemy and his henchmen binding up the enemy’s lies. We need to profess the blood of Jesus over ourselves and our children. And we need to NEVER stop believing in God’s ability to turn their hearts back to Him.

Just now God reminded me of St. Augustine. This was a man raised by a God fearing mother (St. Monica) and a pagan father. Although Augustine was raised in a church, when he reached a certain again his father sent him away to a place that exposed him to many worldly cultures. Monica’s heart was in total anguish. At one point, Augustine denounced God and even created his own religion. It was only when he had been stricken with a near fatal illness that he turned his heart and belief back to God and became an evangelist of his time. Just another example of a prodigal son whose prayer warrior momma refused to give up and whose faith moved mountains that brought about salvation.

Are you a prayer warrior momma bear like me? Are you an armor bearing dad who’s in the trenches willing to engage in spiritual warfare for your child’s eternity? Then fight with the faith of Gideon and pray with the persistence of this woman in Luke 18:

“There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’

Victory for our kids is certain by the power of Jesus Christ and the strength of our persistent prayers! Can I get an AMEN?!

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