Enjoying the Getting to There

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We’ve been driving for more than five hours. The rain is falling in droves around us, and the kids are quietly playing, I am quietly reading, Greg’s mom is quietly doing crossword puzzles, and Greg and his dad are quietly listening to college football on the radio. (Well, as quiet as that can be.)

We’re road-tripping for a week-long trip to Disney World. All is well.

We’ve been to Disney before together – in fact, Paxton is exactly the age Jaana was on her first trip – and as we journey down the interstate going a hair faster than the speed limit says we should, I watch my boy in a deep sleep, mouth agape and breathing deeply. And then I watch him wake up suddenly, wide-eyed and rested. And then I watch him play the shark game (again) on the iPad.

I watch him, knowing where we’re headed – to Disney World! – and he knows that too…he knows where we’re going. But I watch him and realize he has no idea where we’re going. He doesn’t understand the joy he’ll find there, the magic he’ll feel, the overwhelming sense of happiness that’s about to envelop him for four entire days as we laugh and play and experience the wonder of this gift.

I watch him.

He’s happily sucking his fingers all the while holding his ratty, four-year-old Elmo and making a shark attack an innocent swimmer. He’s laughing at the jokes flying between his Daddy and Papa. He’s nodding his head in beat to the music, asking for snacks and another drink.

I watch him enjoying the journey.

He knows where we’re going, and even though he doesn’t fully know where we’re going, he’s enjoying the moment. Enjoying the journey. He’s not asking questions about how we’ll get in to the park or where we’ll eat or will Elmo get to ride Dumbo with him…he’s just being.

I watch him, and I’m completely and absolutely struck by how much I need to be like him.

We all know those times – the ones that are the majority, not the minority – where God doesn’t tell us where we’re headed and we blindly hold His hand, letting Him lead and guide and as He pulls us to the left to avoid the potholes and to the right to avoid the cliffs. We pepper Him with a thousand questions, a barrage of Where are we going? and How long before we get there? and I’m a little bit hungry and tired and bored. He doesn’t usually answer — just quietly gives our hand a reassuring little squeeze, which shuts us up for about half an hour, and we keep walking.

And then…

Then there are the times – the ones that are completely the minority and never, ever the majority – when He does tell us where we’re headed. You’re going to Disneyland! And we know it’s supposedly magical and we’re told it’s a once-in-a-lifetime type trip, and if He’s taking us there, it must be because He loves us so very, very much.

What sacred journeys those should be…the journeys where the blindfold is off and we are able to walk side-by-side Him – not being pulled behind – fingers entwined and knowing smiles exchanged as we stroll in His love, mercy and grace.

Except…

Except that I don’t walk with Him that way during those times. Do you? I don’t walk with Him as a friend, or lover, or daughter. Instead I hang back — I resist, I pull, I shuffle. I ask questions — again with the questions — but now they sound more like accusations: Why is it taking so long? and Why doesn’t anyone else know where I’m going? and What’s it going to be like when I get there? and This is really hard, should we just go back?

And I think God looks at me and is tempted to say,

Just get up here and walk with Me. Hold my hand and let’s enjoy the journey. It’s going to be worth it. SO WORTH IT. Don’t you realize to get anywhere amazing requires a little effort on the journey? Be it through the wilderness or through a tomb or through exile, it’s going to require some fortitude and perseverance. But where I’m taking you is going to be better than Disney Land — it’s the Promised Land. You are going to FREAK OUT when you see what’s waiting for you there…but for now, just enjoy the Getting to There. 

I watch him.

He’s only almost-five and he doesn’t complain that it’s taking so long, or that the car is bumpy, or that we have to stop again for someone to use the bathroom. He’s only almost-five and he just happily be-bops along, completely content because he’s safe and he trusts who’s taking us there and he’s surrounded by people who love him more than life itself.

I watch him, and I’m completely and absolutely struck by how much I need to be like him.

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When God is Gentle, Even When He Shouldn’t Be

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I’m sharing over at Be Still Be Free today, in our new blog linkups! Hop on over to read and link up!

It was one of the darkest times of my life, and yet I drove there and parked the car and walked in the front door. It was our weekly prayer group. A motley crew of five to eight of us who would barge through the front door and drop everything a heap right there in the doorway — our junk, our sin, our issues and our unrealized dreams — and we’d slide into a chair and heave a sigh.

We were safe there. No questions ever asked, no judgments ever given. Just prayer and love and Jesus.

Always Jesus.

It was the always Jesus that drove my car there that night and it was the always Jesus that parked the car and it was the always Jesus that got me through the front door.

It was one of the darkest times of my life. Have I mentioned that? It’s always dark — almost pitch black — when you’re standing in the bottom of a very deep pit…even if it’s a pit of your own digging in which you almost gleefully, almost excitedly dive in head-first.

Dark. Very dark, indeed.

Sitting at the bottom of this pit I could see light, but it was faint and distant. I could see the difference between where I was and where I should be and tried clawing my way out day after day, but could never seem to get a firm footing. The dirt would crumple in my fingers and my toes would slide right back to the bottom.

I never shared about this pit with anyone. I lived in fear of what others would think of me…lived in defiance to the judgment I knew I deserved but hadn’t yet received. I memorized speeches justifying all of it and placing the blame everywhere except on me.

So I hid. I literally and figuratively hid. I still attended church and Bible Study and my little prayer group…but I hid in the back row, and hid behind odd clothing, and hid behind strange behaviors and speech.

And I thought I was doing a bang-up job with my hiding. I really did. I think I even convinced myself that I was fooling God.

Until that night. That night when always Jesus drove me and parked me and ushered me through the front door of prayer group.

During a silent prayer time, each of us huddled with our journals and Bibles and pens, eyes closed and just being still and listening to God, a note was passed over to me. It was from a girl who wasn’t a regular, who knew absolutely nothing about me or my pit.

I quietly opened the note . . . Click over to BE to finish reading!

Loving Yourself Enough To Do The Scary Things

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The arena was jam-packed with women wearing their Sunday and Monday and Thursday and Saturday best. Their accessories matched their pocketbooks which matched their shoes which matched their Bible covers. An arena full of sopranos and altos and even a smattering of tenors harmonized during worship and their heads nodded during the lesson and their wallets poured out money during the love offering. Hands were raised in re-commitment to Jesus and tissues were dabbed across blurry eyes and when it was time to break it was as if there was one giant exhale in unison.

We strolled through the lobby deciding what to eat for lunch, my friend and I. We dodged women in their Tuesday and Friday best with their accessories that matched their shoes. Some were impatient with the lines at the food stands, some were frustrated with getting their pocketbooks (which matched their accessories) bumped. Some couldn’t believe there wasn’t enough lunch-time seating for all seven hundred million women jammed into the arena.

My friend and I grabbed lunch and searched for a place to sit among the bright patterns and matching Bible covers. As soon as we took our first bite, we saw him. He couldn’t have been more than 21 and he was dirty and his eyes were glazed and his shoes had holes and he appeared homeless. He walked the aimlessly amid the maze of nodded heads and tear-stained tissues trying to talk to the women, but was largely ignored or smiled at politely as they turned back to their conversation.

My friend and I looked at each other and I knew what she was thinking and she knew what I was thinking but we were both petrified of each other’s thoughts, afraid to say it out loud. I don’t remember who broke first, but the words rang loudly in our ears,

 “Should we pray for him?”

Click here to keep reading — I’m sharing over at my second home, Be Still Be Free today!

 

490 Planks

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I did it again.

I took my eyes off the mountain for just a minute and the pull of the valley brought me back low. The chaotic drama woke up a mama bear from hibernation, and though the situation had nothing to do with me at all, I threw my sword on the ground and was ready to fall on it with a mighty vengeance.

My heart lashed out and rehearsed a thousand scenarios of what I would say and how I would respond and countless minutes — maybe even hours — were spent in conversations that would never actually take place.

Time I should have spent praying was instead invested in scouring the Bible for verses that would provide justification to my cause…confirmation that my anger was righteous and “godly.”

In my frantic, passive-aggressive search for verses to ambiguously confront, I found The Verse. But it turned out it wasn’t a verse that applied to the situation…

…it was instead a verse God applied to me:

Don’t think you can decide on your own what is right and what is wrong. Respect the Eternal; turn and run from evil. (Prov 3:7)

#ouch

My head hung low in resignation as the conviction stung deep in my heart.

Am I ever going to get it right the first time?

Don’t ignore the wooden plank in your eye, while you criticize the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eyelashes. (Matt 7:4)

“But God,” I pleaded, “My frustration and disappointment are justified! True injustice happened. It’s not fair!” (I might have clenched my fists and stomped my feet, too…I can’t be sure.)

You must forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven. (Matt 18:22)

I despise this answer. I know in the depths of my heart it’s true, but still I fight it. I want restitution, I want payback. I want to shout and maybe even wield a pitchfork. Maybe.

When will I learn? When will I learn that God holds me just as accountable for my reactions as He holds those who were wrong? That I do not have permission to turn around and engage in the same behavior?

Growing in God is JUST SO HARD.

#whine

This little exchange with God happened just hours after prepping for an upcoming talk about climbing your mountain to gain clearer perspective…climbing in order to be transformed…to be closer to Jesus.

So He gently began reminding me of everything I had passionately rehearsed earlier…

  • That in the valley difficulties seem larger than life and insurmountable
  • That we have to get to the mountain to gain godly and holy perspective
  • That when we get proper perspective, we see that nothing in the valley is bigger or badder or tougher than God is

My head hung low in humility as repentance oozed from my heart.

And then I heaved a big sigh and started climbing my mountain.

I call to You from the end of the earth when my heart is weak. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. (Psalm 61:2)

Getting to the top was everything I needed.

From the Rock, I can see past the immediacy of a frustrating situation.

From the Rock, I can see how these million little angry dots soften and melt into an entire glorious canvas, painted by a Master.

From the Rock, the shenanigans in the valley fall into the correct order of priority — under God.

From the Rock, I’m more concerned with getting 490 planks out of my eyes so I can enjoy the breathtaking view at the top. (click to tweet that)

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I’m so thankful that God loves me too much to let me remain stuck in a mentally destructive valley. I’m so grateful for His gentle reminders to look up and to see life through holy lenses and proper perspective.

And I’m so thrilled He doesn’t hold the planks in my own eyes against me…forgiving me much, much more than seventy times seven…every single time.

The Gentleness of God

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We met once a month at her house and we’d always sit on the couch with all the flowers that overlooked her garden. Her pup would sit between us on the cushions and sleep for the hour and a half we’d talk. I soaked up every single word she said in my Japanese-designed journal, furiously scribbling her every word with my mechanical pencil. Always a mechanical pencil.

Her wisdom ran deep and her gift of insight and prophecy were direct from God. She’d talk and I’d write and then often she’d pause to make a seemingly unrelated comment or ask a pointed question. But it was always related somehow and most often made tears spring from my eyes and it was as if God Himself were the one speaking. Always as if it were God.

One spring day, as the roses were blooming pink over my shoulder in the garden, I sipped iced tea and poured out my heart over a troubling issue I was facing. My heart was heavy and my mind in discord and she had been espousing all manner of wisdom and scripture related to the issue.

I sat with my head down, tears falling onto my flower-print cocktail napkin and she paused — one of those God-Speaking pauses — and she asked (in more of a statement than a question),

He’s always gentle with you, isn’t He?

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I’m sharing over at Be Still Be Free today! Hop over to read the rest!