Shining the light of God's word into our confused world.

Tag: patience

When You’re Ready to Throw In the Towel

God knows how to God

 

Note: I’m still doling out posts from the archives while I enjoy my summer break. This post originally appeared March 24, 2016. As I write this note and prepare to load this post into the publishing queue, it’s the Monday following my latest book launch and this message is one I really needed today. I’m sure there’s someone else out there who could use this reminder. If that’s you, hang in there, friend.

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“If this is my calling, why is it so hard?”

“If this is really what God wants me to do, why is there so much opposition?”

“Is this dream really from God? Is He trying to tell me I should just give up and stop wanting it?”

I’ve been in a place of asking these questions. Sometimes, I’m still there. But when I do, I’m reminded of the following:

We’re called to trust, to persevere, and to be patient. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to trust and submit, and then He’ll make our paths straight–not the other way around.

Trust isn’t really trust if the way is clear and easy.

Perseverance isn’t really perseverance if there’s no opposition.

Patience isn’t patience if the outcomes happen when and how I want them to.

Quick and easy is wonderful in the moment but then it’s over and it does nothing to strengthen our faith, sanctify us or grow us in our daily walk. And when the results come easily, we don’t appreciate them nearly as much as when we work hard and fight for them.

If you’re facing hard, if it seems like everything in the universe is trying to keep you from even trying, let alone achieving that thing you know deep in your bones you were put here to do — consider that you’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to, and the enemy is pulling out all the stops in an attempt to get you to give up, because he’s terrified of what will happen if you don’t.

So don’t.

Don’t give up.

Persevere. Keep going. One day at a time. One little hard-fought step at a time.

Be patient. Be flexible. Surrender the outcomes to God.

Trust with your WHOLE heart. Trust in His goodness and His complete love for you.

And in due time He will clear the way for you to be ALL He means for you to be. He promised.

You’re not fighting this fight alone. He’s with you every step of the way, ordering your steps. You don’t have to do it all, and you don’t have to do any of it by yourself. Your Maker has a plan for you, and HE will bring it about. ALL that’s required of you is obedience. Show up and be willing. He’ll take it from there.

Remember that God knows how to God. He’s got this.

And so do you.

Love,
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PS – Linking up this week with Holley Gerth’s Coffee For Your Heart, Missional Women’s Faith Filled Friday, and the Faith Barista.

Don’t Fence Me In

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I’m a country girl. I mean, I didn’t grow up on a farm or anything like that, but the housing addition I grew up in was out in the middle of the country, next to a lake, surrounded by woods and, beyond that, farm pastures and ranch land. The neighborhood itself was pretty spread out, with houses that sat on lots of an acre or more, the majority of which offered at least a glimpse of the lake, and plenty of empty, wooded lots, teaming with wildlife, scattered in between. There were few fences of any kind, and no privacy fences. You had to drive at least a dozen miles to get to the nearest grocery store. Life moved a little more slowly. There was plenty of space to roam and stretch out. Plenty of room to breathe.

When we bought our house in the city back in 2008, it was so exciting, all the hustle and bustle, being right in the middle of the action. We have multiple grocery stores within walking distance, not to mention restaurants and takeout places and drug stores and gas stations. We pretty much never need to travel more than a mile from our house unless we just want to. It was nice. For a while. But it didn’t take long for it to start feeling a little too exciting, too much action, too closed in. I feel claustrophobic here, and my soul yearns to return to the country, or at least someplace with a little elbow room, where the view beyond the fence offers something other than more fences and rooftops.

I’ve been struggling with this for quite a while now, puzzling over why God hasn’t responded to my yearnings and answered my prayers by opening a door for us to move out of the city. Why He seems to want us planted right here, seemingly indefinitely. I feel so limited here. So stuck. So hemmed in.

That feeling doesn’t just come from my physical location. I’m limited in many other ways. Chronic illness. ADD. Introversion. Only having so much energy and focus to give each day before it runs out and I become useless. God’s been working in me to get me to accept my limitations, even embrace them, recognize how some of them can be flipped around to become strengths.

But this morning I realized something: limitations are not limits. God doesn’t give us limitations in order to fence us in and place boundaries on what we’re able to accomplish, but to provide us with opportunities to rely on His grace and strength in order to overcome our limitations and accomplish more than we ever even dreamed of.

For when I am weak, then I am strong. — 2 Corinthians 12:10 (emphasis added)

I’m coming to realize that God has us planted here because this is where He’s growing us. And I have faith that when we’re mature enough, he’ll transplant us somewhere else — somewhere with plenty of room to unfurl our leaves and achieve full blossom. Meanwhile, I’m learning to see beauty beyond our fence, interspersed with the chimneys and satellite dishes. And I’m learning to find joy right here in my own back yard. And I’m learning that the more I invite Him in and rest in His grace, the more I’m able to breathe, right where I am.

Sometimes, to attain a dream you first have to give it up.

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Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a writer. Actually, ever since I can remember being able to hold a pencil and form words, I’ve been a writer. I think it was probably sometime during junior high school when I decided I wanted to be a novelist.

This is my oldest, dearest dream, is what I’m saying.

If you follow this blog, then you know how this has been a year of learning to surrender my plans and wait for God’s timing and provision. God’s been working to undo a lifetime habit of running ahead and trying to make things happen in my own way, under my own power, on my own time table. And it hasn’t been an easy project. In a lot of ways, it’s still a work in progress.

About four years ago, one of the ways I ran ahead of God was to rush into self-publishing my fiction, starting with a paranormal romantic mystery called Restless Spirits. It was a short-cut to realizing my life-long dream. That short-cut had some rewards, but it was also filled with setbacks and disappointments. And, let’s face it: when teenaged me dreamed of one day becoming a professional novelist, that dream didn’t look anything like self-publishing.

One of the hardest things for me to let go of and surrender to God has been my writing dream. It hasn’t simply been a struggle; at times it’s been a straight-up fight. I’ve prayed about it. I’ve cried over it. I’ve pitched fits. I’ve lamented to God that I don’t know who I am if I’m not a fiction writer–that to take that from me was to strip me of my identity.

Gently, God helped me to realize that HE is my identity, not my writing. That the desire and ability He’s given me to write is for HIS purposes, not my own.

So at long last, I surrendered. I gave up my plans and desires, my dreams, to God, and asked Him to order my steps, shape my career according to HIS plan, and establish the work of my hands. I told Him that I longed for my writing to be used for HIS glory and not my own. And I meant it.

That’s the place I was at this summer when I launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise production funds for a sequel to Restless Spirits. Going into it, I entrusted the outcome completely to the Lord, believing that no matter how it turned out, He would use it for my good. I still believed that when the campaign ended without even coming close to my funding goal. And I committed to waiting and seeing what He had in store.

Just weeks after the campaign ended, completely out of the blue, I received an offer from Vinspire Publishing to repackage my novel Restless Spirits and write two full-length sequels. You can read that whole story here.

To that I’ll add that, though there was little doubt that this open door was from God, one of the things that cinched it for me is the fact that Vinspire, while not a “Christian Publisher” in the sense that they publish strictly inspirational and faith-based books, is a Christian organization that strives to meet a certain standard of family-friendliness in its publications.

You see, one of the things I’d been struggling with in my previous attempt to write a sequel was that it was taking a, shall we say, sexier route than the original. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with that, but I couldn’t really see a way around it. It was something I’d been praying about. When the Kickstarter failed, I took that to mean that God simply didn’t want me to write this series. But now I’m taking this as Him telling me to tell the story in a way that does a better job of honoring Him. And with the deal inked and the parameters in place, this new outline and draft is coming together much better than the first version did.

My season of waiting isn’t yet over. I’ve got other dreams I’ve surrendered–motherhood among them–and I’m still waiting to see what God will do. And with this new door open for my noveling career, it remains to be seen where or how far it will take me.

But this much I know: God is faithful, and He is trustworthy, and His timing is perfect. And His plans are so much better than my own.

Are you in a season of waiting? Tell me what you’re waiting for so I can pray for you.

In love,
Jean

God’s Path to Success

Isaiah 55:8

I may be starting to sound like a broken record with today’s post, but God keeps drilling this message into my head (and my heart). I feel like it’s important, and so I’m going to keep rewriting and rehearsing it here until I can articulate it just right. Also, there might be someone out there who needs this message just as much as I do. That message is this:

God’s way is not the world’s way.

This applies to–well, pretty much everything. But the specific area of my life where I keep getting reminded to apply it is in the area of achievement. I’ve mentioned here previously that, as a kid who struggled in school thanks to undiagnosed ADD, I often got slapped with labels like “lazy” and “underachiever.” I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to prove that those labels don’t apply to me, before finally figuring out that I don’t have to prove anything to anybody.

But in all of that trying, I tried a lot of worldly ways to succeed. I adhered to societally-acceptable beliefs such as hard work and sacrifices will lead to success. Sounds good, but by “hard work” what’s usually meant is pushing yourself to the point of sickness and exhaustion, and by “sacrifices” what’s often meant is sacrificing time with family and relationships and other things that are necessary for a happy, healthy existence. I’ve tried “set concrete goals” and “always have a five-year plan.” I’ve done “Go after your dreams at any cost.” I’ve done life hacks and organizational and time management apps and tricks and I’ve read self-help books and listened to TED talks and none of it ever got me anywhere except exhausted and depressed and wrung out and feeling like a hopeless failure.

Now I’m trying it God’s way, which is, in summary, this:

In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength. –Isaiah 30:15 {NIV}

God’s way is saying, “Okay, God. What do YOU want for my life? What are YOUR plans? What do YOU want me to do? Where do YOU want me to go? Please order my steps and make things clear.” And then trusting that He’ll do that, and waiting patiently for Him to do it according to His timing, which is perfect.

It’s also trusting that His plans are better than yours. That His dreams for you are better than anything you could’ve come up with on your own.

And that when you surrender, when you seek to accomplish HIS goals, in HIS timing, you will succeed.

This is a difficult concept to grasp, because it feels so passive. We’re ingrained to believe that we have to take charge and actively pursue our goals. And surrender often feels like giving up. Waiting feels like being idle. And rest feels self-indulgent.

But the truth is that there’s nothing passive about doing things God’s way. Surrender is a daily battle. Waiting produces patience, which leads to strong character, which leads to hope. Rest is simply being still and quiet and knowing that God is the one in control, not striving to make things happen on your own terms but trusting that they’ll happen on His terms. This time of waiting sharpens and refines us. Instead of actively pursuing some measurable milestone or achievement in our lives, as we wait we actively pursue becoming who God wants us to be–the person who is well and truly capable of handling what God has in store and ready to receive it.

And it doesn’t mean not working. I’m not talking about taking a vacation here. But it’s about trusting God to establish the work of your hands, to open doors and provide the work He wants you to be doing at the right time. It’s asking him to show you what’s required of you at this time, and being willing to show up and do it, and trusting that He’s big enough to take care of the rest.

I’ve tried (and tried and tried) to do it the world’s way. I’ve tried to do it my own way–which pretty much amounts to the same thing.

Now I’m doing it God’s way–and I have more peace, joy, contentment and sanity in my life than I’ve ever known. Even better, things are actually starting to happen. Doors are miraculously opening. A dream I’ve chased for decades is beginning to be my reality.

All that striving I did . . . the only good thing about it is that it brought me to a place where I was finally ready and willing to surrender. The world’s way broke me. God put me back together, and He’s still building me up. And His way is so, SO much better.

Sister, won’t you join me in trying it His way? I’m sure you could use the rest.

In love,

Jean

 

 

 

{Find more encouragement at Holleygerth.com!}

Looking Past the Big NOs to See the Little Yeses

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It’s happening again. Life has stalled. Doors that I thought were a sure thing are closing–or are being super slow to open–and provision has slowed to a trickle.

Freelancing has always been a feast or famine endeavor. In the six years I’ve been doing it, we’ve had no shortage of opportunities to trust God just to get us through the month. It’s a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, holding tightly to God for dear life way to live.

And I can’t say He’s never let us fall.

A few years ago, our provision was almost completely cut off as every single one of my income streams stopped earning. Only for a couple of months, but that was enough to stir up a lot of stress and anxiety. It also woke us up to spiritual complacency, misplaced hope and areas that needed work.

It started my journey to understanding that I try to do too much on my own, that I can be impatient and controlling, and that I needed to learn to surrender, to wait, to be still and trust.

It’s a lesson I’m still learning.

So here we are as I seem to be getting yet another exercise in trusting that God’s in control. That He has a plan and is at work in my life even when I can’t see it. That it’s not my job to fix everything.

It’s not always easy. I’m not sure it’s ever really easy. Last week it was especially hard. Hormones were bubbling up and bringing emotions to the boiling point, and I wasn’t sleeping well. I was tired in body and soul and as I looked back, trying to see the ways He’s come through and proven His promises, all I could see were the times it seemed like He’d let go and let me fall. The time my business failed and my books stopped selling and we couldn’t buy groceries or make the house payment. The times He allowed my babies to die. All the closed doors, all the apparent NOs in answer to my prayers.

It’s so easy, sometimes, to get blinded by the big disappointments, the big NOs, and miss the small yeses, the little blessings, the quiet moments of grace that get us through those things.

When I looked more closely, I remembered how we had just enough food in the pantry to get us through those lean weeks; how the mortgage company not only didn’t take our house but worked with us to lower our payment; how I experienced His peace like never before in the wake of my miscarriages, and how He’s given me a heart to minister to other women who go through that.

Even now, as business is slow and things look uncertain, He keeps coming through with just what we need at just the right time.

That’s the key: at just the right time.

Today my husband and I are celebrating our ninth wedding anniversary. I didn’t meet Matt until I was 31. Before him I’d never even had a boyfriend. I had given up on the thought of ever finding someone to spend my life with.

But God didn’t.

And although these nine years have been wonderful overall, there were times early on that weren’t so wonderful, when we faced bumps in the road that looked like mountains, and I wasn’t sure we’d make it past them. But we did. God gave us what we needed to traverse those bumps, and when I look back it’s so amazing to see how far we’ve come together, and exciting to think about how far we’ve yet to go.

That’s the God I’m trusting. That’s where I’m putting my hope.

At times like these, when the waiting is so hard and I can’t imagine what God has in store for us, I think about Joseph. I’m sure it wasn’t part of his life plan to get sold into slavery by his brothers, or to get put in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. And as he spent all those years in prison, never losing his faith, trusting all the while that God had a purpose for his life, I’m sure it never even crossed his wildest imaginings that his deliverance would involve him becoming the second most powerful man in all of Egypt.

God might let us fall sometimes, but He won’t let us be hurled headlong. He might appear distant, but He’s there, working all things together for our good. Sometimes to reach His best we have to go through times that seem like the absolute worst.

But His best is coming, and it will arrive at just the right time. Nothing I can do will make it get here any faster. My only job is to wait, and trust. To lean into Him and believe with all my heart that He’s a loving Father who knows how to care for His children.

In love,

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P.S. – Once again I’m linking up with Holley Gerth. Check out her post for more encouragement and “Coffee for Your Heart.”

 

When You’re Weary of Waiting

 

Return, O Lord! How long? And have compassion on Your servants. 14  Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, That we may rejoice and be glad all our days! - Ps. 90:13-14

I have a confession to make: I haven’t been having a good week.

It’s not that it’s been particularly busy or stressful or difficult. I’m not even sure what my problem is, really. I was fine when I woke up on Monday morning, but at some point during the day, discouragement settled over me and I’ve been having a hard time shaking it off.

Because sometimes it’s not that simple.

Actually, I do know what the problem was. I’d grown weary of waiting. I’ve been blogging a lot here about how the Lord has been teaching me to be patient and wait for Him to move on His timetable instead of trying to hurry Him up and make things happen. But He also made me to be a doer and a planner, and even after all this time I’m just not very good at sitting still and waiting.

Which, I suppose, is why He’s been giving me so much practice at it these last few years.

I’m getting better at it, but sometimes it’s still hard, and it makes me really tired. It’s amazing how waiting, which is essentially doing nothing, can make us so weary.

Thankfully, I’m not alone in this (and, dear reader, neither are you!). The Bible is full of people who are tired of their circumstances and weary of waiting for them to change. People with amazing faith and commitment to God. People like Moses, weary from wandering in the desert, who cried out in Psalm 90, “How long?” People like David, who wrote psalm after psalm asking God to be merciful and end his suffering when he was being hunted by King Saul. People like Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel, who cried bitter tears as she prayed fervently for a child, so tired of waiting for God to hear her prayers and heal her womb.

It’s not a sin to be discouraged and tired of your circumstances. It’s not a sin to grow weary of waiting.

Wallowing in these feelings, on the other hand…

I knew what I needed to do. I needed to spend some quality time with the Lord, praying and reading his word. But the last couple of days were too busy to allow much of that, and by the end of the day my mind was too worn out to think clearly, let alone pray effectively.

So this morning, after errands, I made the time. I confessed my negative feelings, spent time reading and praying through scripture, and asked God to create a renewed spirit within me. Then I asked Him again, like the persistent widow in Luke 8, for all of the things I’m getting impatient to receive, and committed again to waiting for His answers to unfold in His good time.

And I know they will. I just have to–say it with me now–be patient. Just a little while longer.

And I’m back in a place where I can do that. It’s a good place. A place of peace.

What are you being asked to wait patiently for, dear reader? Tell me in the comments how I can pray for you today.

In love,
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Don’t Lose Heart.

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. — Psalm 27:13

“Lord, speak into my life today and tell me the words I need to hear right now,” I prayed this morning as I stood in the kitchen waiting for my coffee to brew.

What followed was a hectic morning that was too full of chaos, stress and distraction to hear anything that wasn’t my husband and I griping about slow computers and lost wifi connections and things not working like they’re supposed to, causing what should be quick and simple tasks to take two hours to get done.

When I finally got a break and a chance for some quiet time to regroup, I made some tea and sat down to read a devotional. That’s when I stumbled across the verse above.

I backed up and re-read these words: “in the land of the living.”

And then I burst into tears.

Joyful tears.

Relieved tears.

Tears of gratitude.

You see, I was beginning to lose heart. I was starting to suspect that maybe this is all there is or ever will be for us in this life. That we were being called to keep on growing in patience until we die, and only then would we finally be rewarded in eternity for our steadfastness.

But that’s nonsense. This verse tells me that God wants to show us His goodness in this life.

It’s not that we’re miserable, not by any means. We have all of our needs met. We have plenty to be thankful for.

But I want to be a mom someday. I want to make a living writing fiction. I want the freedom to devote time to writing devotionals and books that minister to hurting people. I want my husband to walk again, and to be able to finish his degree.

And I feel like God is telling me today that it’s okay to hope for these things. Of course He wants us, as Christians, to stay focused on eternal reward, but He also wants to give us things to look forward to on this earth.

I need to keep being patient a little longer, but sooner or later, when the timing is right and when we’re ready, we will be rewarded in this life.

I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Moreso than I’ve already seen it.

Keep hoping. Keep dreaming.

Hang in there. It will get better.

Love,