A Life-Altering Souvenir

His smile was what first captivated me.  And then I learned that true joy was behind that smile.

This isn't my new friend but they have the same smile.   www.qs2i.com

This isn’t my new friend but they have the same smile.
http://www.qs2i.com

You can read about him here.

 

Advertisements

Talking Bird Feathers

Yesterday I just had to see the ocean. It’s been so cold in Florida (no jokes, northern friends, it’s been down into the 30’s and 40’s!) that I just needed to be reminded that in a couple of months I’ll be photographing little people on the beach again.

As Benny and I strolled down the beach I started noticing bird feathers and realized I should collect some for a science project two of my grandchildren are doing. While homeschooling some of them for their moms over the past few weeks, I learned some stuff about bird feathers, like when a feather is lost on one wing, a feather on the other wing in just about the same spot is also lost to keep the bird balanced.

This process of feather molting is a fascinating one! Here are some cool facts provided by Cornell University researchers:

  • Birds mature through seasons of molting.
  • One of the reasons for molting is when feathers get damaged beyond repair.
  • Molting frequently occurs during less stressful seasons of a bird’s life, like before migrating or after nesting.
  • Feathers are lost and new ones grow in a progression that protects the bird’s ability to fly. That’s why when a feather is lost on one wing, a commensurate feather on the other wing is also lost.

As I walked on the beach yesterday I thought this familiar passage from Matthew chapter 30:

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows (vs 29-31).

Think about it: If God so exquisitely cares for birds by making sure their wings stay balanced to fly by causing feathers to fall off in perfect order; protects them from danger by insuring that damaged feathers fall at just the right time to allow healthy ones to grow; uses “down” times in their lives to grow new feathers because of the work their little bodies exert to grow new feathers; and uses loss to insure that they mature…well…then how much more does He meticulously take care of those who are created in His very image?

You and I are worth more than birds to God. But from them we see how tenderly He cares for us.

Are you experiencing loss right now? Loss of reputation. Grief through the death of someone you love. Job or income loss. Brokenness and conflict in a treasured friendship. Lost hopes and dreams. Death of a long held dream. Recognition of personal limitations and weaknesses that leave you wondering who you are?

Life is a series of losses and gains; soaring joys and crushing disappointments; hopes and struggles; laughter and tears; cherished memories and sinking reminders. As Christ-imitators we are called to follow the One who grieved over the death of a friend but then rejoiced at his resurrection into a life characterized by both ecstatic joy and piercing suffering.

The feathers I collected on the beach yesterday reminded me that He who governs their every loss governs mine, too, because I’m worth way more than they are to the Savior who took my place on the cross to earn me a place in heaven where there will be no more loss.

Spiritual molting is to mature and help me fly, not to ground and render me ineffective. Honestly, there have been times in my life when loss seems to far outweigh growth. Know what I mean? In fact, the recent months have been one of those seasons. How wonderful to see God at work molting and protecting and preparing and loving me through losses scattered with new growth that reminds me I can still fly.

It’s good to know He keeps us balanced…even when it seems our wings are awfully bare.

Going Through Tough Times…Together

In recent months I’ve become aware of numerous marriages going through hard times. Perhaps my eyes and ears have been more attentive because Benny and I have been walking through some challenges ourselves. If you or someone you know is feeling alone in their marital struggles I pray this honest and gripping song by Steven Curtis Chapman, a man whose songs have ministered to me for many years, will bring comfort and hope.

Blessings!

Sheree

Who’s With You in the Mess?

Yesterday I talked about how much I hate being sad. Several women contacted me to say they were grateful that what is often the silent trial of sadness was brought into the light. They, too, are sad about unplanned singleness, relational challenges, distance from family, martial strife or ongoing struggles with weight.

It made me wonder why we’re sometimes afraid to admit we’re sad.

Is is because we will be perceived as ungrateful? Whiny? Discontent? Do we fear others will quickly point out all the things and people in our lives for which we should be thankful? Does being sad mean we are automatically ungrateful or discontent?

In short, is sadness always rooted in sin in our hearts? If not, why do we and others often rush to “fix” the sadness with reminders of God’s blessings?

I’ll be honest.  I often want to “fix” others sadness because I don’t want to face their sadness either!  Recently one of my grandchildren was crying because she had lost a treasured toy. Her sadness threw me into high gear to help her find it! When we couldn’t locate the toy I pulled her onto my lap and attempted to talk her through the disappointment and assure her it would turn up soon. No amount of words helped. She wanted that toy in her little hands…now. After a few minutes of sitting in Granma’s lap she settled down and ran off to play.

When we hurt, others don’t know what to do. They want to fix our hurt or disappointment or sense of loss by helping us to see our sin, seeking to align our thinking with biblical truth or ask us what they can do to make things better.  But sometimes we just need to be held and told that God is with us. Human “fixes” don’t really deal with the pain when what we really need is His comforting presence.

A friend and I were talking last week and I was expressing to her my craving for relief from the sadness in my life.

“What would bring you relief, Sheree?” she asked.

footage.shutterstock.com

footage.shutterstock.com

I paused. The thoughts running through my mind all surrounded a change in my circumstances: better communication between Benny and me; fewer interruptions during the day from my mother-in-law; appreciation and understanding from an in-law with whom I had a recent conflict; etc. When I shared these things with her she listened patiently but even as I talked my words seemed hallow. There was something missing. I knew comfort and hope wouldn’t really be found by God fixing my circumstances but by doing something wonderful in my heart.

My wise and caring friend empathized with my struggles but then lovingly reminded me that the relief I sought wouldn’t be genuinely found by God dealing with the stuff on the list I had just shared with her. While this would be wonderful on one hand, deeper peace would come in enjoying His help and strength in the midst of my challenging circumstances. Because the Christian life is one of various trails and difficulties  (which are, in fact, promised because of our fallen lives and world) I needed to know that the Bible also promises that Someone is with me all the way.

“Sheree, what we all need to understand is that true relief is found in God walking with us through the messes of our broken and flawed lives. That’s why Jesus came into this dark and needy world: to bring His presence here.” She went on to communicate that the temporary relief from Him fixing the current circumstances would tempt me to find my hope in man, not Him.

Over the past week her words have meandered through my thoughts, bringing me hope. I’m a fixer. I find peace in order. I don’t do well in the midst of a mess (unless it’s created by my adorable grandchildren!). My good friend helped me to see that I was looking for relief in all the wrong places.

The source of your and my relief is God Himself. Not God plus an attentive husband or obedient kids or understanding in-laws or more money or less weight or living near family or fewer interruptions in our full days. Those things may happen or they may not. But what is always true no matter what messes we find ourselves in which bring sadness or pain is this: God is with us. He is faithful, good and loving — even when hardships expose our anger, resentment, self-pity, distrust of Him or ungratefulness.

God is with us in the mess and that’s where relief can truly be found.

And here’s another comforting reminder: not only is He with us but He is patient with our wrestlings. He is at work, moving us toward hope that His past faithfulness to carry us through dark times in the past is a pledge of His present and future grace to bring us through yet again.

Cleaning up the mess might seem like the best thing that could happen in our lives right now. But another mess is just down the road because we live in a fallen world with fellow sinners; a world that is literally groaning for Jesus to return and make all things new (Romans 8:22). Our own groanings for relief can be turned to humble cries to God to help us see and experience Him in the mess.

My sadness is still coming and going. But gratefully I am more aware of God’s comforting presence in the midst of it. He is opening my eyes to see that fixing the mess is far less important than experiencing His strength, tender love and comforting guidance in the mess. He is using His word and a dear friend to counsel me and I am finding growing peace even though my circumstances aren’t changing.

There is hope.

Something I truly Hate.

I dislike numerous things but honestly, I hate being sad.

Sadness is like a thick, wet blanket that closes in on me and tempts me to feel alone. Do you know what I mean?

richpersonality.blogspot.com

richpersonality.blogspot.com

Recently several things have brought sadness to my heart. Watching a friend deal with the debilitating illness and slow death of her husband. Caring for one dear woman dealing with the shock of an unplanned but healthy pregnancy while another suffers grief from a planned pregnancy that ended in miscarriage. Walking through some challenging circumstances in my marriage. Dealing with weighty adjustments to my elderly mother-in-law moving in with us. Missing a son who is away at college (oh, so much to miss about him!). Being misunderstood by an in-law. Being acutely reminded recently of how much I miss my long-gone Mom and Dad.

Walking through this season of sadness has reminded me of how good but hard it is to have a God-tenderized heart. You see, not everyone feels things the same as others. Some people either refuse to feel because it hurts too much; many elect not to feel because they’re afraid of where the grief will take them; still others have deeply painful things that happened in their past that make sadness utterly fearful and to be avoided; and some choose to embrace sadness because..well…because there’s no way out of it but through it. A tender heart (which is only possible with God’s help) makes sadness really hurt, but it brings with it a desire to take that path through it.

My friend Ginny calls this “processing.” In the nearly two years since I’ve known her I can’t recall the number of texts or emails or Community Group conversations when she’s mentioned she was processing a sermon, Bible passage or experience. To Ginny, processing means not rushing through the grief or confusion or temptation to be overwhelmed. Rather, the goal is trusting God even when sturdy answers can’t be found.

I’ve been processing my sadness. In fact, I still am.

A friend recently compared processing to having a “psalmists mentality.” People (like me at times) who avoid taking the often leisurely path that’s required to effectively deal with the sadness or grief that comes from painful situations in our lives or the lives of those we love  shortchange the process. Jumping from the sting of sadness to the unhelpful end of premature “acceptance” of the source of our grief cuts God out of the picture.

The psalmists didn’t rush the process. Rather, they honestly poured out their hearts and complaints to God. Why was this acceptable to a holy God? Why did He respond with compassion and help? Because their desire was to work it through to an honorable end.

I used to think that complaining to God was always wrong and that the mature and biblical thing to do when faced with sadness was to stop whining and accept God’s plan. I was right. Sorta. Whining, complaining and charging God is never the godly woman’s response to pain…longterm. But God is our Father; the One to whom we can pour out our hearts —  including our perplexities and complaints and the “Lord, what are you doing” cries — when the disorientation of sadness grabs our hearts and then twists them hard.

Are you sad today? Are you or someone you love facing painful circumstances that leave you feeling like a wet blanket is leaving you alone in your sadness?

I might know a little of how you feel. What I’m certain I know, though, is that you are not alone. If you are a Christian, God is with you.  His very name is Emmanuel, which means God with us. Even if you have no one to talk to or listen to your struggles or with whom you can share this burden, He is near. One of the first things that often happens to hurting people is a feeling of isolation that either says, “No one could know how I feel” or “No one cares.”

Someone does know how you feel and does care. Sometimes we don’t feel His nearness, comfort and help, but He promises He will “never leave or forsake us.”

Never leave. Even if you feel abandoned by those who you wish were close and considerate.  Or even if you wish you could help the person you’re grieving with and feel there’s just nothing you can do but pray.

thesimpltruths.wordpress.com

thesimpltruths.wordpress.com

Never forsake. Even if you’ve been betrayed by someone you thought you could trust or have been slandered by people you assumed knew better.

I pray that your sadness will be met with the tangible, real and promised help of the only One who can truly help you even when you crave human empathy. Pour out your heart to Him. And, yes, even your complaints. He’s been hearing some of mine recently and I’m thrilled to say that He really can help. When the heart of His sons and daughters are disposed to trust and honor Him and yet we’re struggling with the sadness of life, He is ready and eager to help.

You wouldn’t be reading this blog if you didn’t have a heart to know and follow God.

I don’t know all of you who visit here but God does.  And I’m stopping to ask Him to help you now.

Borrowed Trouble

Aside

She stood shaking on the side of the pool. At age ten, she desperately wanted to learn to dive. But each time she tried she ended up looking like a pretzel falling into the water. Head pointing down but feet curled up in a cannon ball-like pose, poor Jaime just couldn’t do it.

It didn’t matter how many times her dad and I tried to coerce her or how often we gently put her into the right position. She just couldn’t overcome the fear of letting herself fall into the water without the reflex to protect herself. Poor thing. She couldn’t even explain what she was afraid of!

Summer after summer she tried again. And again. Suddenly it happened. In her early 20’s she dove into the pool. Her shocked family clapped and cheered. She acted like she’d been doing it for years.

Sometimes we don’t know why we’re unable to do something. We’re afraid of something — and don’t know what it is. Self-protective reflexes kick in: defenses; withholding honest information about what we’re going through; fear of being hurt (again); unconfessed sin; anxious thoughts about being misunderstood.

The puritans used to call it “borrowing trouble.”

Jaime watched person after person dive into the pool without cracking their head open on the bottom of the pool or drowning. Time and time again she played Marco Polo without being able to get into the pool quickly like her siblings and friends. She felt uncoordinated — even though she tore it up on the basketball court. There was something, though, that made her fearful of thrusting herself head first into the pool. Something irrational but nevertheless real.

I’ve been borrowing trouble recently. And trouble isn’t worth borrowing. The Bible says today has “enough troubles of its own” — so why borrow more from the future? Why reach into an unknown future, whether days or weeks or years ahead, and borrow things that may not even happen? And even if the trouble we think may come does in fact happen, tomorrow’s grace and help can’t be borrowed either. Today has it’s own trouble and grace.

What Jaime didn’t know was that one day she would get the courage to go head first into the water. Once she did it, the anxiety would be replaced with joy…and she can now assure her kids that there is really nothing to fear.

Are you facing something or someone that is tempting you to be afraid? Do you find yourself borrowing trouble from an unknown, uncertain future? Is there a refreshing pool of water in front of you that you can’t enjoy because you’re afraid to dive in?

No worries. No amount of coercing from yourself or others is going to help you. The only thing that will help is your decision to just go for it and trust God to let you experience the joy that courage brings.

More on that next time.

You’re Really Not Alone, Mom

Over the past two days my daughter, Jaime, has shared how God has used motherhood to remind her of her desperate need for Him. I pray her experiences have encouraged you as mothering challenges are common — as is the grace to meet and grow from them!

Tomorrow and next week you will hear from three other moms whose stories will touch your heart.

Do you have a story of how God has used hard times as a mom to grow, strengthen and help you? If so, I would love to hear about it (see below). Because here’s the thing: we moms are tempted to think we’re alone in our struggles.

  • Battles with anger
  • Worries about our kids spiritual condition
  • Panic when signs of worldliness in them are exposed because we wonder where their temptations will lead
  • Fatigue
  • Tension in the marriage due to parenting demands
  • Financial strain
  • Unplanned — and perhaps unwanted — pregnancy
  • Guilt over feeling weak and needy
  • Envy of moms who seems to have it all together
  • Self-righteous pride when moms don’t have it all together — or at least lack self-discipline and falter when being a mom is just hard work, right?

The list goes on!

One of the primary reasons I started this blog over a year ago was to demonstrate and communicate that:

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear….” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

We too often feel alone in our struggles, temptations and even our sins. Just last night at my Community Group a mom was sharing her battle with fear over losing her unborn baby; a pregnancy that followed quickly on the heels of a miscarriage. She was lamenting the fact that she wants to trust God and enjoy every day of the pregnancy, even if it ends prematurely. She referred to herself as “faithless.”  One by one everyone in the room assured her that her anxieties were understandable and common. It was heartwarming to watch the group warmly remind her that we, too, struggle with fear and that her eagerness to fight for trust in God during this hard time is both inspiring and God-pleasing.

“And please remember,” one man said, “Jesus fought for faith, too. In the garden He begged God for the cup of His impending death to pass. In His humanity He didn’t want to suffer and die. He wanted to avoid death and sweat blood over the agony of it. So your fear of losing another baby is perfectly understandable and we all understand.”

Peace came. Hope rose. Knowing we’re not alone in our struggles as people identify and empathize with us is comforting. But immeasurably more helpful is knowing Jesus Himself understands. Benny ended the meeting last night reading this passage:

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God,let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Are you struggling as a mom today? As you read through the list above did something inside you think, “Yes, that’s me and I’m so glad someone understands enough to include my struggle in that list!”? Do you feel desperate for God’s help?

Jesus knows just what you are experiencing. Obviously He was never a mom. But He was tempted with fear, anger, worry, pride, envy. He had challenging relationships and battled weariness. He wasn’t stoic and happily willing to do everything God required of Him without question or temptation.

So run to the throne of God’s grace when you’re tempted. The same grace Jesus Christ received from His father is mine and yours to also receive from Him. God didn’t scorn His son for being tempted and He won’t turn us away either.

P.S. And if you’d like to see if your story will encourage and help others let me know. I would love to consider sharing it. Just leave a brief description of how God has met you in the comment section and I will be in touch.

My Baby Girl’s Ordeal

When Mom asked me to share my story about times when I’ve felt desperate as a mother, the memories came flooding back.  (You can read my Wyatt story from yesterday here.) I have four children, and two had serious but short term health issues as newborns. Recalling what I went through made me think about whether some of you may have much more serious concerns with your children. I’m sure my story doesn’t compare with those of other moms who deal with the daily challenges of chronic illness or special needs children. You are my heroes and I hope my experiences don’t sound whiny compared to what you have gone or are going through.

I wanted to let you know that today’s story includes some images you may find disturbing. When I found them for Mom the tears came all over again. Let me explain.

Partly because Annie, our third, was nearly born in the car on the way to the hospital, PJ and I decided to have our fourth at home. With Dad and a couple of siblings speeding home from a youth retreat to try and make the birth (they arrived just 10 minutes late) and Mom coaching me again through transition, Danae Jewel arrived. She was perfect except for a cyst in her left nostril. Thinking it was simply a blocked tear duct, a specialist assured us everything would be fine. However, after attempting to drain the tear duct through her nose an infection broke out, resulting in the area around her eye swelling to about the size of a golf ball.  A follow up visit to the specialist was scary, especially when he panicked and rushed us to the hospital with warnings of cancer, infection hitting the optic nerve causing blindness or death, or other possible horrible outcomes.

It was hard to look at my baby girl without crying.

It was hard to look at my baby girl without crying.

Again I held a newborn baby in desperation.  She, unlike Wyatt, was not screaming. She was peaceful even in intense pain. She cried only when they put iv’s in her tiny head and then again right before she fell asleep before surgery. Once again I had a sick newborn that caused me to fall on my face because I felt so out of control and there was nothing else to do.

I cried out to God to protect my son from a life of disability and that we would make it just one more day. I prayed for myself – that my anger would not cause me to do something I would regret.  Then I sobbed in the hospital room looking at my baby girl covered in iv’s with her little face so swollen, yet giving me a big, dimpled smile.  I laid my hands on her many times a day praying, hoping she would not only fight the infection but also be spared from the scary side affects.

Things went from bad to worse. People looked away; I understood why.

Things went from bad to worse. People looked away; I understood why.

God used sick newborns to teach me something I didn’t learn from years of being raised in the church by godly parents: God’s grace is always sufficient even when I’m too tired to ask for it. God’s grace gave me strength to not only love my son, but to also form a bond with him that still grows to this day.  Because of his sickness, for six long months I was forced to hold and care for him when I was exhausted, and to spend what energy I had begging God for help. Then two years later that same grace was sufficient in the hospital room when dark thoughts came. When the enemy tempted me to believe that God would take my daughter as a test. When Mom left and I laid there holding my baby girl alone in the dark. When specialists couldn’t tell me exactly what would happen.

Danae third imageHis presence was there to comfort and to help me trust Him when my faith was weak.

Since Wyatt and Danae’s births more trials have come. Trials I would have never imagined I would face. The beautiful thing, though, is how God used the desperations I experienced as a mother to prepare me to rely on Him in some even darker times ahead.

God really does choose our trials. Health issues with my kids taught me to trust Him when life is out of control. I wish I could say I walked through the post newborn trials without faltering in my faith. I didn’t. In fact, I failed miserably at times. But when I read that “God causes all things to work together for good” now, I believe it as never before.

Such a happy baby. And now a happy little girl.

Such a happy baby. And now a happy little girl.

He could have chosen for Wyatt and Danae to have serious consequences from their newborn issues. Danae could have had cancer or died from the infection. I’m grateful that, as you can see below, they are healthy and just celebrated their 5th and 8th birthdays this past week. But I’m glad that He used them and their suffering to remind me that my only hope is in Jesus and that even when I’m weak and faithless He is strong and faithful.

That was worth it.

My princess at her princess birthday party last week.

My princess at her princess birthday party last week.

My little man. How I love him!

My little man. How I love him!

When Doubts Don’t Disqualify

Late one night in 2009 we got a call.  Our oldest daughter, Jaime, was upset. “Mom, you won’t believe it. Our house was hit by a bullet less than a foot below the girl’s room!”

In the few short years since they had moved into their beautiful new home, crime required them to make calls to the police. But this straw broken the camels back. PJ and Jaime decided that night they would be moving. Immediately.

Gratefully, they quickly found a landlord that would rent to a family with four young children — and a doberman. Jaime knew the decision was the right one, but a part of her was understandably sad to leave the house they had made into a home. Three of their four children were born while living there, and Danae made her entrance into the world in their bedroom upstairs. Memories made and hardships endured had endeared the house to her. She drove away wondering what the future held but eager to live in a safe place.

Two rental homes later, it looked hopeless that she and PJ would have a home to call their own anytime soon. Then when Redeemer Church was launched 40 minutes away and her dad and I started talking about moving, she battled discouragement. Last summer she and I discussed how sad we would be when she helped us pack up a moving van without any timetable for them to join us.

My grandchildren will soon be making messes and memories in this home.

My grandchildren will soon be making messes and memories in this home.

Yet this afternoon she and PJ will settle on a beautiful home in Lake Nona.

What happened? God intervened. He made the impossible possible. Through a sovereign stream of providential love He led them to a sale by owner home that perfectly suits their family. Just three months ago that which seemed like an impossibly distant dream has become a reality. And one happy Granma is thrilled that Kayla and Wyatt will be riding their bikes to my house after our own move there in early March.

Jaime was connecting the dots even before she and I talked yesterday.

“Mom, God knew when that bullet hit my house that this home would become mine. He knew it all when I was worried that I’d never own a nice home my kids could love like I did my childhood home. He was there when I was crying over feeling like we wouldn’t have roots anywhere. All along He was arranging everything so that I would have a school room and a backyard and a playroom and a house I can use for hospitality. Why in the world did I not trust Him???”

A friend once said something I remind myself of regularly: “Let’s all just admit it: trusting God is just plain hard work sometimes.” It’s true. Trusting God doesn’t come naturally. It’s a work of His indwelling spirit that alludes us when trials loom.

Over the years I’ve watched my daughter walk through some really hard stuff. When disappointment and fear stalked her and circumstances tempted her to distrust God’s compassionate care, she’s been honest about her struggles. She is like every other believer, including her mother, who has doubted the love of God during suffering. Author Jerry Bridges says, in fact, that questioning God’s love and care is a typical reaction of the struggling Christian. (His book, Trusting God, is one of my top five life changing books.)

Are you struggling through a season where doubts of God’s tenderness and care are stalking you, too? Are waves of disappointment, sadness or discouragement beating against your heart and tempting you to wonder if He is really in control? Do unanswered prayers make it seem like hopes for the future will never happen for you while you watch others enjoy blessings and fulfilled dreams?

When God’s delays tempt you to wonder if you’re loved, perhaps you can remember Jaime.

In 2003 a house was built. Six years later she and her family would move into a home one hour north; a house in which she planned to spend many memorable years. God knew what she didn’t. Circumstances would require that she, her husband and their four children would move into three different homes during the following four years until that house built in 2003 would become theirs through a set of only-God-could-do-this circumstances.

Understanding why the twists and turns of life happen is hard. Trusting God through those unwanted changes is often harder. How comforting to know that our distrustful hearts don’t disqualify us from His provision.

I’m happy that my daughter and her family have a lovely new home. And that she knows Who provided it.

Despite her doubts.

No Sold Sign…Yet

My house is still for sale. I was hoping it will sell quickly but it’s been a month now.

I hate waiting.

I’ve never been a good waiter. The other day I was sitting at a light and heard myself say to my daughter, “Geesh, this light is long.” We had been sitting there for maybe three minutes and I was itching to step on the gas. Seriously? There minutes isn’t a long time…unless you’re a bad waiter.

But there are good things about waiting. For me, knowing a realtor can call any day to ask to bring a potential buyer helps me keep my house tidy and vacuum dog hair more often than I would otherwise. It helped last week when someone showed up without calling. (After they left I wondered if they noticed the pair of one of my grandson’s underwear on the floor in the guest room? Oh well.)

What are you waiting for?

Sometimes waiting is something we can control. Like when you walk into a restaurant and choose to go elsewhere rather than standing in a crowded lobby for an hour while your stomach growls. But often the waiting is providential: God is in control and there’s nothing you can do to speed Him up.

Psalm 40:31 tells us that waiting on God renews our strength. I’m been thinking about this lately. How can waiting make us stronger? Too often for me, waiting makes me nothing but impatient, discontented or self-pitying!

Waiting on a house to sell is nothing compared to waiting for a baby to fill your empty arms, money to buy groceries, relief from chronic pain or that a loved one will turn to God. But I don’t think the reason for the wait is as important as the intended strength the Lord can forge in the process.

Strength through waiting is something only He can grow.

Strength to say no to whining and complaining at His timetable. To trust when delays assault His faithfulness. To cry out for comfort and help when weakness sets in. To repent when treasonous thoughts tempt us to doubt His fatherly love. To fight for joy when yet another day or week or year or decade goes by without getting what we want.

Getting impatient is a common temptation in our debt-infested, eat on the run, hurry-up culture where nobody wants to wait on much of anything. I’m realizing that it’s likely God’s kindness that motivates His slowness at times. Wise parents realize that character is built when kids learn they can’t always get what they want when they want it. And God, as our Father, is the best parent of all.

There’s a part of me that keeps thinking, “Once I really get to the place of trusting God for the sale of our house, then it will sell.” Silly me. That means God is the one waiting for me to get my act together before He answers my prayer. Who does that mean is actually in control, then?

No. God’s plans are not controlled by me or you. Thankfully, even our salvation was His initiative. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” He didn’t wait for us to pursue Him, but pursued us when we were helpless sinners. I think He demonstrated then that the  waiting was on us, not Him.

My house won’t sell because of something I’m doing or not doing…well…other than keeping it clean and attractive for potential buyers. It will sell when God moves the heart of someone to want to hang pictures of their family members on the walls here. Until then, I wait.

And gain strength to be patient, trusting and joyful until the “sold” sign shows up.