“We’ve got to go!” I barked across the house while snatching my keys off the hook. Already running late, I decided to take a back route.
For me, being late is ranked right up there with a root canal. Tension bubbles. Blood boils. Frustration flows. And logical thinking, well, it flies right out the window!
With tunnel vision set on my destination and in a frenzy to be on time, we set out on a less congested, fewer lights, GET ME THERE ON TIME path. The only problem – I completely missed the “Road Closed” sign. My brilliant time-saving plan soon came to the screeching halt of a dead end.
In my 20 years of walking with the Lord, I have found myself at many crossroads. Frazzled by time and frustrated by delays, I have ventured ahead or lagged behind and complained when it didn’t work out. In one breath, I profess “Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths” (Psalm 25:4) while the next breath questions His ways and searches for the answers in my endless demands.
What about you? Have you found yourself facing a dead end wondering how you missed the signs? Or, perhaps you’ve poured your efforts into something for God to say “You’re not ready.” Maybe, like me, you’ve been frustrated by an obviously shorter route, tempting you to sprint ahead of God’s plan.
Thankfully, we serve a merciful God full of second, third, and fourth chances. The Ancient of Days who sees the end from the beginning, including every curvy diverted route, dry, barren desert, and dead-end.
Follow His Diverted Paths
Some of life’s hardest, most rewarding lessons are not learned in a short cliff note version. While we might think – and pray – God would lead us on the quickest route, His higher plan may include a diverted path.
As God prepared the Israelites to leave Egypt, He led them the long way for their protection. That’s right; there was a shorter way that God did not choose. God knew if they faced war, they would change their mind and return to slavery. His path of protection for your life might just be the long, less desirable route. Follow Him. He has prepared a path for you. A way to prepare you and use you.
- “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.”” Exodus 13:17
Wait On The Lord In The Desert
The Israelites prepared and readied themselves for the very thing God knew they weren’t ready for – battle. Sometimes we think we’re ready for “battle” only to have God lead us into the desert, knowing we’re not. Don’t get me wrong, waiting is one of this life’s hardest trials, but fight the temptation to run ahead. When we run ahead, we end up worshiping other things; building altars to the gods of our plans (Exodus 32:1). But there is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord (Proverbs 21:30).
People who faithfully waited fill the pages of Scripture. Abraham waited 25 years for the promised child. Joseph waited 22 years, suffering many trials before his dreams came true. The Old Testament fathers waited for the coming Messiah. And Jesus waited 30 years to enter His life’s mission.
So “trust the Lord; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.” (Psalm 37:3) Occupy the desert land under your feet and remain in His safe pasture as you wait patiently for Him.
- “So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.” Exodus 13:18
- “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.” Psalm 37:7
Trust His Sovereignty In Dead Ends
Sitting at the end of the road that day, unable to see past the barricades, I had a choice. I could continue to drive facing the consequences, or I could turn around and trust the signs. While the Israelites prepared to leave Egypt “armed for battle,” He was preparing them for a grand deliverance at the dead end of the Red Sea. Often, God has something great in mind, but when we face the dead-end, we grab hold of the reigns and run ahead.
Imagine what they would have missed had they said, “We’re armed for battle and know a shorter way.” Because our Great God is mighty in power with no limit to His understanding (Psalm 147:5), we can lean on Him. Fall on His understanding. If God has led you toward the Red Sea, trust God to part it.
- “So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.” Exodus 13:18
- “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)
That day, I learned a valuable lesson. Sometimes, my need to “be on time” is actually a rush to “do it in my time.” I end up missing signs and heading down a road that’s either not intended for me or not quite ready for me to travel. Sometimes the shortest route isn’t always the best or even the fastest.
The sun glistened on the fresh raindrops outside the car window. Partially dry windshield wipers screech across the window clearing the rain from the brief mid-June shower.
As I lifted my heavy head from my hands and wiped the pool of tears from my eyes, there painted across the sky in the most brilliant colors, was a rainbow. A promise. A covenant signifying hope after the storm, beauty after devastation.
Beauty, after this storm, Lord? Could there ever be?
Nothing would bring my brother back. Not only was I was mourning the loss of someone precious to me, but hopeless thoughts of his eternal home sank deep into my soul. Questions raced. Bargaining of “what if” and regret of “if only” stifled any strength I had left. How can anything beautiful come from such a tragic ending?
While I will never understand why this or other tragedies have to happen, I now know a side of my Father I never knew before. My Merciful Helper showed up with unparalleled strength, matchless healing, and restoration of hope.
Perhaps, you find yourself grieving the loss of a loved one, miscarriage, a broken marriage, health, stability, or a dream. I’m here to assure you there is One who can take your wounded, weary, burdened soul and fill you with hope and joy in return.
But what do you do while you travel through this valley of despair? How do you get to the other side when you feel like you’re surrounded by nothing but lifeless, dry bones? Grieve. Receive. Believe. And Agree.
1. Allow Yourself To Grieve.
Grieving is a natural response to pain and loss. Psalm 126:5 says, “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy (NIV).” Did you know the chemical makeup found in emotional tears are extremely different than normal lubricating tears? Filled with higher levels of manganese, they provide a “mental cleansing” and increased mood. But, there’s no wrong or right way to grieve. The point is to permit yourself to do so, not to ignore or suppress your feelings. Roller coaster emotions are common: there will be good days and indeed hard days. Sow, scatter, shed your tears. However, whenever, wherever and with whomever.
- Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him. Psalm 126:5-6 NIV
- Then David and the people who were with him raised their voices and wept until they had no more strength to weep. 1 Samuel 30:4
- Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4 NIV
2. Be Willing To Do Your Part.
Notice, in Psalm 126:6, the person goes out weeping BUT still carrying seed to sow. We must be willing to do our part in the healing process. In addition to seeking God, this may include talking to friends, church family, or counseling. As an introvert, all I wanted to do was withdraw, avoiding any contact with the outside world. But, isolation only makes you vulnerable to enemy invasion. As hard as it seems, keep living. Go out weeping, and you WILL return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves of healing with you.
- Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV
1. Sorrow Is Temporary.
When you’re in the midst of grief’s valley and all you see are the mountains of despair hovering over you, it’s hard to believe there will ever be better days. Eyes grow weak with tears, the body weary with sorrow, and anguish consumes strength. Walk through the valley but don’t get stuck there. Don’t stop and build a tent somewhere along grief’s journey. It’s been a little over two years since my brother’s death and not a day goes by that I don’t think of him, but the sorrow that gripped me has diminished. There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance (Ecclesiastes 3:4 NIV).
- Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 NIV
- … weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5 NIV
2. God’s Word
This might go without saying, but God speaks most through His Word. When you need to hear His comforting voice, dig into His love letter to you. I can’t tell you how many times God met me on the pages of Psalms. During the darkest time of my grieving, when I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face, Psalm 119:105 became my lifeline verse. His word gave me just enough light to see each next step, guiding me through the valley and onto healing. If you don’t know where to start, the book of Psalms is a great place. Be prepared to be met by His comforting arms.
- Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105 NIV
- The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 NIV
1. God Will Bring Good Out Of Tragedy
For a child of God, suffering is never wasted. He alone can bring good out of our tragedies. If we allow God to use our pain, we will once again sing with joy. God can multiply the seeds, make them grow, and return them a thousand fold like sheaves. But, just like a seed looks completely different than the growing plant, our “sheaves” may look completely different than what we sow and expect. Either way, only our Redeemer can wipe every tear from your eyes and return what the enemy has stolen.
- And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 NIV
2. Times of Refreshing Are Coming
Be patient. Waiting on the Lord’s timing, not leaning on our understanding, is a test of trust. Will we wait for His leading or, out of frustration, will we jump ahead to what we think is best for our lives? Like a farmer who sows seeds and waits to carry sheaves, we too must wait on the Lord to renew our strength and replace our joy. He will give you wings to soar above the circumstances, to run the course and not grow weary, and to walk this season of sorrow and not faint.
- But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
- Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord! Psalm 31:24
- The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23
1. To Share Your Story
There is a gift of understanding that comes from sharing your story with others. Understanding you’re not alone. Not in your suffering, your feelings, your fears, your thoughts … NOTHING. A gift of understanding that, while some may be a little further ahead or behind, others are traveling the same journey to find hope and healing. God has strategically aligned my path with others going through similar grief and used my story as a key to lifting their burden on the journey. So, allow your pain to bring healing to someone else.
- Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
What if you’re not the one going through the grief. What can you do to for others?
To read about some ways you can help those grieving, join me over at DebbieKitterman.com where I’m guest posting. I hope to see you there!
“If it doesn’t fall out in the next week, we’ll need to pull it,” the dentist said, further explaining the implications on the permanent tooth.
My daughter is at that age where it seems as though all her friends are having some form of dental work – teeth pulled, expanders, braces or a combination. The reality is their mouths are limited in space. Not big enough for the new teeth coming in, their mouths become crowded leaving permanent teeth searching for a resting place.
Our time on earth is a lot like their mouths – limited. So often, I have tried to cram things into my already busy schedule. All the while, they push, twist and misalign God’s plan, leaving His eternal work, well, searching for a resting place or worse – not coming in at all.
To expand our time and align our schedules, we may need to pull some things from our limited resource of time. While this will come with some temporary discomfort, it’s necessary to making room for permanent, eternal things.
1.) Determine Which “Teeth” Are Crowding
Time is a precious resource which, to be honest, can run out at any time. As short or long as it is, our time belongs to God. Unfortunately, busyness has become a badge we wear with honor. When we prayerfully seek first His kingdom and righteousness, all other things – including our calendar – fall into place. To live on purpose and make time count for eternity, seek His guidance on what activities have little “return on investment.”
- But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God. My times are in your hands.” Psalm 31:14-15 NIV
- But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be given to you. Matthew 6:33 NIV
2.) Pull Unnecessary Baby “Teeth” Activities
The longer they sit there, the more crowded our life becomes and the more distorted our calendars look. There’s no room for incoming “new teeth” because the old ones are still there. Like my daughter’s permanent tooth, eternal things find its resting place hidden behind the temporary baby activities. The writer of Hebrews tells us to throw off everything that hinders the race marked out for us. Not everything that distracts us is sinful, but everything that distracts us takes our eyes of the Author and Perfector of our faith.
- … Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1 NIV
- For if these things reside in you and abound, they ensure that you will neither be useless nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:8 NIV
3.) Set Braces In Place
For those who have worn braces, you know there are certain off limit foods – no exceptions. To create a straight calendar, we must wear Godly braces. This may mean saying no to certain things until you have complete alignment. In Biblical times, walls were a means of protection from enemy invasion. In the same way, setting braces in place creates protection from attacks on our time. God thought enough about “braces” to establish the Sabbath, a day of rest from the busyness of life.
- Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control. Proverbs 25:28 NIV
- Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. Exodus 20:9-10 NIV
4.) Wear A Retainer
Perhaps one of the most important things to do once our schedules are aligned is to “wear” a retainer. Just as teeth have a way of slipping back to their memory spot, humans have a high tendency to return to former ways. For our family, this retainer means committing to nothing other than church on Sundays. With this retainer in place, it’s an automatic NO to sports with practices or games and even Bible study groups that meet on this day. Choosing to be unmovable gives us the margin to abound in His work.
- Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV
Did my little girl have to have her tooth pulled? Nope! I’m happy to say after days of pulling, pushing, and wiggling that stubborn tooth; it finally fell out. Instead of waking up with a tooth extraction appointment, she woke to a tooth fairy reward nicely tucked under the pillow.
Savior, we don’t want to regret the time we’ve spent on “baby teeth” when we could have made that time count for eternity. Help us not to cheat our lives of the great blessings you invite us to. Give us the strength to pull meaningless tasks from our schedule and make room for what matters most. May Your reward be tucked into the crevices of a heart set on you. In Jesus name, Amen!
And there we were, at the end of another school year. A year started with great intentionality, purposed to hide God’s word in my little girl’s heart, steer her eyes toward Him, and anchor her heart to His. Intentionality – my deliberately designed, thought out plan – took a backseat to everyday demands.
In her book, The Power of a Praying Parent, Stormie Omartian said, “The battle for our children’s lives is waged on our knees. When we don’t pray, it’s like sitting on the sidelines watching our children in a war zone getting shot at from every angle. When we do pray, we’re in the battle alongside them, appropriating God’s power on their behalf.”
In fact, I would take it one step further and say that if we’re not equipping our children, we’re sending them out into the war zone with no weapons at all, no training for real warfare. Intentionality happens every day as we mold the little hearts God has entrusted to us, igniting the eternity He set in their hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). How can we take “deliberately designed, thought out plans” one step further? I’m so glad you asked! I’d love to share a few things that have helped me the past four years.
1. Seek The Lord For Guidance
In Judges 13, we find the story of Samson, a child set apart at birth by God. In verse 8, Samson’s father “begs” the Lord to teach them how to bring up the boy. Not stopping there, he asks in verse 12 about the “rule for the boy’s life and what he will do for work.” Perhaps what I love most about this story is that the Angel of the Lord came to the women, not once but twice. Like Mary with Jesus, God told Samson’s mama who he would be. Friends, even now God is setting apart children at birth for the deliverance of others. Although we know our kiddos better than anyone in the world, only the Master Electrician knows how they are wired and what they are wired to do. He has called us to partner with Him, giving us the unique job of raising them in the ways of the Lord. So, first thing, go to the Lord for guidance, “beg” the Lord to teach you how to bring up your kiddo, and wait with anticipation as He answers.
2. Plan Ahead
What’s the saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” In Proverbs 21:5, Solomon put it this way, “The plans of the diligent lead to abundance.” I want an abundance of God’s word tucked into my daughter’s heart so, after seeking the Lord to make the path straight (Proverbs 3:6), careful planning takes center stage.
At the end of each month, I sit down with a calendar and plan out the next month’s verses. I find the key is to choose one particular area to focus on each month such as a character trait or fruit of the spirit. Then, choose four (or five depending on the number of weeks) of the best scriptures that are age-appropriate to memorize.
3. Prepare For The Week
Typically on Sunday afternoons, I sit down to plan for the week ahead: menu, grocery list, chores, blog, business, and school plans are combined in my planner. Sundays may not work for you, and that’s ok. Any day that works is a great day. Use the time the kids are at soccer practice, while they read at the library, or play at the park. Planning is essential to finding focus, setting a solid foundation, and follow through. Honestly, if I fall off the wagon before this point, I rarely get back on. Just saying!
4. Make A Game Of It
You’ve prepared the field, planted the seeds, now it’s time to water it and watch it grow. For a child, playing is the key to learning. In our kitchen, right next to the fridge (score!), we have a chalkboard where we write the weekly verse. Incorporate the kiddos by letting them take turns writing it out. Throughout the week, look for fun ways to infuse your children with the verse. Write it on a piece of paper and cut it into a puzzle. Fill in the blank. Word scrambles. Coloring sheets. Draw a picture of what it means. Questions on the meaning of words. Riddles or jokes. Word search. Have them act the verse out in a game of charades. Try adding them to lunchboxes for a mid-day “lesson.” Making it fun for them increases engagement, memory retention, and future application.
To read additional tips on how to have a great intentional year of shepherding your child’s heart, join me over at MaryAnderingCreatively.com where I’m guest posting! Hope to see you there!
When the multitude of anxious thoughts flood your mind today, can He be your consolation? When the worries of the world, the chaos of life, and fear of tomorrow take center stage, will you let Him bring you delight, cheer, and rejoicing to your soul?
Today, when your foot feels like it’s slipping, let His loving-kindness and mercy hold you up.
When doubt takes your mind captive, He is the soothing hand to comfort you.
When the butterflies take flight in you, He is the soft voice whispering words of comfort.
When an anxious cold sweat overtakes your flesh, He is the cool breeze of help blowing through your hair.
When your heart races ahead of your chest, He is the peace that holds you in place.
He is your calm, your joy, your rest – today.
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul. Psalm 94:19 NIV