Puffin floating on the water at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

How do I rest when life is too busy?

I could stand a little peace and quiet. How about you? I just came off a ridiculous weekend. Awesome and fun and exciting. But I’m tired. Even though so many exciting things are happening right now, there are still days when I just wish I could tell everyone and everything to be quiet and leave me alone so I can rest.

But even then, as much as I need rest, I usually don’t allow myself to take it. Because there are so many things going on, if I’m not involved surely something isn’t going to be done right. Can anyone else identify with that feeling? It’s okay if you can.

We can’t just run at top speed all the time. Well, you can. Been there, done that, don’t want to do it anymore. I’m not an expert, but I can speak from experience. And if you’re one of my performance-driven perfectionist brothers and sisters, I just want to ask you one question: What is the foundation for your hopes?

Everybody has hopes and dreams, expectations of what life is going to be like. I haven’t talked to anyone who didn’t have a hope of some kind. So take a long, hard look at what you hope for and figure out what you’re basing that hope on.

Is it something solid? Something proven? Something trustworthy? Or just some vague, general feeling?

Personally? I’ve got a lot of things I’m hoping for. I’m hoping that my mom’s re-evaluation at the Mayo Clinic in September comes back saying that she’s okay. I’m hoping that this crazy business venture I helped start in January really does manage to work. I’m hoping that two years from July 6 I’ll get to hug my best friend again. And those are just the top of the list.

Those are all great things to hope for, but it’s one thing to hope that all those things will happen. It’s something else to know that even if they don’t, everything will still be okay anyway.

Puffin floating on the water at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

Puffin floating on the water at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

Today’s verse is Psalm 62:5.

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
    for my hope is in him.

Hope is one of those fuzzy conceptual ideas (it floats, it has feathers, etc.) that it seems few people have a practical idea of how to implement. I’d crack an Emily Dickinson joke here, but I’m not sure if anyone would get it.

What does it look like to live a life where your hope is in God and not just some of it–all of it? We sang an old song at church this weekend that got me thinking about this.

I haven’t got it figured out yet, but God has taught me a lot about hope in the last few years. And I can tell you that if my hope is truly in God, I can let go.

Yes, I hope my mom’s test results will come back good. But you know what? They haven’t come back good since March 2013 and everything is still all right. We still have everything we need. He’s taking care of us. And He’s still obvious in our lives.

Yes, I hope that this crazy small press we started is going to work. I would love to see it flourish and grow. And I’d love for my novels to make it big. But if they don’t, I’m okay with that. If the business doesn’t work, I’ve learned so much, and it’s already been a fantastic adventure with three of my close friends.

Yes, I hope my best friend makes it across the pond safely and that God protects her in all her global wanderings in the next two years. But if that doesn’t work out the way I want it to, you know what? She’ll still be okay.

Because she belongs to Him. Because my business belongs to Him. Because my mom belongs to Him. Because I belong to Him. And God never treats His creation carelessly.

Remember that when life doesn’t go the way you want it to. Remember Who God is. Hope is less about the promise itself and more about who made it and whether or not that person can be trusted.

No matter what happens, if you put your hope in God, that means you aren’t relying on your own strength to make something happen. You aren’t depending on other people for an outcome. You aren’t building your foundation on unstable ground. And if you aren’t spending your time and energy and resources trying to make something happen or worrying about whether or not someone will come through, you can spend that time doing what you need to do–rest.

God can be trusted. Not only that, but God is the only one big enough to take the broken pieces of life and fit them back together again in a way that’s better than they were before.

So rest easy. Put your hope in God, and if your confidence falters, read up on how God has come through for other people throughout history.

Be honest with yourself. You aren’t big enough or strong enough to change anything. You don’t have as much control as you’ve convinced yourself you have. That doesn’t mean you sit back on your blessed assurance and do nothing. But it does mean you can let go of the things that are to big for you anyway–those giant things you couldn’t control anyway? You know what I’m talking about.

Stop trying to make them happen on your own. Have confidence in God and rest easy.

One of the horses that carried our team to the Kekchi village Esfuerzo Dos in Peten, Guatemala

Can I trust God with my dreams?

I am not scared of horses. I like horses–just from a distance. I didn’t grow up around them, so I wasn’t used to them. Since I really hadn’t had any experience with them, I had no reason to trust them. So when I ended up hiking through a Guatemalan jungle some time ago and I was given the option to ride a horse or walk, of course I chose to walk.

And if any of you know the story, you’ll know I ended up riding anyway. I’ll be the first to tell you I did not want to get on that horse. I had absolutely zero faith that it could support my weight. I had absolutely zero confidence that I was strong enough to stay on it or that I had enough balance to stay upright.

But I ended up on the dang horse anyway. And you know what? It did just fine. And so did I. The horse got me to the village, and then when the time came to get on another horse (that’s a whole different story in itself), I wasn’t nearly as hesitant. Why?

Well, the other horse held me up just fine, and I didn’t have a problem riding it. The other horse had shown me it was trustworthy.

Maybe that’s a lame example, but it’s what I think about now when I think about how I trust God…. or how I don’t trust Him.

One of the horses that carried our team to the Kekchi village Esfuerzo Dos in Peten, Guatemala

One of the horses that carried our team to the Kekchi village Esfuerzo Dos in Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verse is Isaiah 12:2.

See, God has come to save me.
    I will trust in him and not be afraid.
The Lord God is my strength and my song;
    he has given me victory.

I was talking with my best friend the other night about trusting God and what that looks like in our lives. There are so many areas in my life where I don’t have a problem trusting Him. But then, there are a few places where I just can’t let go. I want to hold on to my own plans, my own expectations, my own dreams and not let Him take over. Probably because I’m afraid He’ll take them away and not give them back.

What’s the reason for that? Why do I trust God in so many areas but not in those few? Well, to put it simply, God has already shown me that He can be trusted in those areas. He’s shown me that He can be trusted to mend broken relationships. He’s shown me that He can be trusted to never forsake us. He’s shown me that He can be trusted with my finances. And, most recently, with the coming release of my first novel, He’s shown me that He can be trusted with my dreams.

But that’s the thing. He’s shown me. Eventually I had to come to a place where I handed those worries and fears over to Him and let Him have His way. And when I did that, He proved to me (over and over and over again) that He is faithful and trustworthy to do what is best for me.

Granted, it didn’t always look like it would be what was best. Honestly, there were times when I was absolutely sure God had completely lost His marbles. But looking back now I can see exactly what He was doing. I can see His fingerprints all over my life, leading me to where I am today.

I know why I am afraid to turn over those areas of my life to God. All that remains is convincing my stubborn heart to let go, to pry my pointed fingers off the edges of those dreams and turn them over to the Lord of my life. It isn’t easy. If it were easy, I would have done it years ago.

So if you’ve got dreams you’re holding on to, don’t beat yourself up. Believe it or not, I really think it’s normal to want to hold on to your dreams. But the truth about dreams is that they will never become reality as long as you hold on to them. The truth? You have to turn loose of your dream and hold on to God, the only one who can make dreams come true.

Ask yourself. Would you rather huddle around your small little dream and keep it safe where you can control it? Or are you willing to let it become bigger than you? It’s a scary thought because as long as our dreams are small, we can manage them. But God doesn’t give us dreams as pacifiers. They aren’t cheap plastic toys He throws at us to keep us from fussing.

God gives us dreams so that we can accomplish amazing things for Him. We were created to bring glory to His name, and we can’t do that if we’re trapped in a prison of our own fears.

God is worthy of your trust. Think about all the times He’s come through for you. Think about all the things He’s done for you, things that shouldn’t have been possible, things that defy explanation. Now think about that area of your life that you’re holding back from Him. If God can provide for all the other areas of your life, don’t you think He can handle that one too?

Don’t let your fears control you. Don’t let what you don’t understand discourage you. God has a plan, and He’s working it out. And because He is good all the time, you can trust that His plans are good. So don’t be afraid to trust your dreams to Him, especially the dreams you think have no chance of coming true.

Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

Loving the differences in other people

Stop what you’re doing right now. Think about someone you know who you don’t understand. Not someone you get who does strange things. I mean someone who you genuinely don’t grasp the way his or her mind works.

We all have these people in our lives, and they come in all shapes and sizes. They’re in every kind of relationship. Close. Not-so-close. Distant. And they’re just puzzling. You scratch your head at them because no matter how you try, you just can’t figure them out.

But just because you don’t understand them doesn’t make them wrong. Have you ever thought about it that way? Sure it’s tempting to just write them off, but that’s not fair–to them or to you. Because if you write off someone with a different life perspective just because you don’t understand them, you’re missing the opportunity to see the world in a different way. And you never know. Maybe his or her different view of God can help you resolve the questions you didn’t even know you had.

Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

Combine harvesting across the street from Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Todays verses are 1 Corinthians 12:14-18.

Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.

We are all different. All of us. Every one. Not a single person is the same. Find two people who think the same, talk the same, finish each other’s sentences (or sandwiches, if you’ve seen Frozen), and you can still put their brains side by side and their thought processes will be entirely different.

That’s the beauty and the brilliance and the sheer uniqueness of God’s creation.  We are all designed to fulfill different roles. We are meant to do different things, and if we start envying the roles of other people, we lose sight of what makes us unique.

Me with my amazing, beautiful sisters--Jessica Hoover, Kristina Buller, and Katie Morford

Me with my amazing, beautiful sisters–Jessica Hoover, Kristina Buller, and Katie Morford

I thought I’d add this photo in for a laugh. These are my sisters. Not by blood but by choice. The four of us are really odd, and for being so completely different from each other, we have a lot in common. We embrace what makes us different from each other. Where one of us is weak, someone else is strong.

That’s the key. Embracing what makes us different. So you’re good at speaking? Awesome. I’m not, and I’m fine with not being good at speaking. But I’m great at putting words together on a page so you can read them to a room full of people. We can help each other. We can work together to accomplish something awesome for God. Instead of focusing on how our differences separate us, maybe we should focus on how we can use our different talents to bring glory to the One who created us.

But it’s not easy. If you’ve ever tried to understand someone  else who is wired completely differently than you are, you know it’s not easy. And that’s why I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the chapter in the Bible about embracing our differences is followed directly by the chapter about how to love each other.

1 Corinthians 13 is called the Love Chapter. Sounds like a cheesy romance book, I know, but bear with me. 1 Corinthians 13 is one of the greatest chapters in the Bible, and it’s all about the kind of love that only comes from God. It’s the kind of love Christians are to have for each other.

We won’t make it without this kind of love. Without this kind of love, the differences between people will drive them apart. Without this kind of love, a person can’t live. Not really.

So what does this mean for us today? Well, consider that friend of yours, the one you can’t understand. Instead of getting frustrated that they can’t see things from your perspective, try to see things from their perspective. Be kind. Be patient. Love like it says to love in 1 Corinthians 13, and not only will you learn something about that friend, you’ll probably learn something about yourself.

The wheat field across from Safe Haven Farm ready for harvest, Haven, KS

Walking by faith and living in grace

The Bible never ceases to amaze me. Just when I start thinking I understand it as well as I’m going to, God shows me something I never saw before.

Did you realize that most–if not all–of Paul’s letters in the New Testament (Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon) all begin and end with a similar statement? “May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.”

Not word for word every time, though in some of them it is word for word. Paul starts his letters with a prayer for grace and ends them the same way. I have never noticed that before. I guess I just chocked it up to him being unoriginal in his openings and his conclusions, and admitting to that sounds horrible. But that’s really what I thought.

It’s the opening of a letter. It’s the conclusion of a letter. What spiritual truth can you gain from the equivalent of a Dear John or a Sincerely Yours?

The wheat field across from Safe Haven Farm ready for harvest, Haven, KS

The wheat field across from Safe Haven Farm ready for harvest, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Ephesians 2:4-7.

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

Grace is one of those Christian buzz words that gets thrown around a lot. You hear it in songs. You hear it in sermons. You hear it in prayers. Grace is great. We couldn’t live without it. We wouldn’t be saved without it. We get that.

Maybe we don’t understand how God does it or why He does it (I truly believe His love is too great for us to comprehend), but we get the concept that we are saved by grace. But what does it mean to live in grace? To walk in grace?

We walk by faith, yes. That means we live our lives trusting that God knows what He’s doing and obeying Him even when things don’t always make sense. But living in grace? Walking in grace? How does grace make itself obvious in our everyday lives? Have you ever thought of that?

Grace is supposed to be a part of every moment, from the beginning of our day to the end of it. From the very opening of our letter to the end, everything we say, everything we do, should be full of God’s grace.

Grace for ourselves. Grace for others. Grace for the people who hurt us. Grace for the people who disappoint us.

So what does someone who is full of grace look like? Well, I don’t think there’s a better example than Jesus. Jesus showed us how to live.

One of the many things that fascinate me about Jesus is how He attracted people. People came from everywhere to see Him, to hear Him, to talk to Him. Every sort of person. The educated and the uneducated, the scholars and day laborers, men and women, married and single–and children. Lots of children.

And I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a child run into the arms of a grouch. I’ve never seen someone eager to talk to an unpleasant person. I’ve never seen anybody look forward to spending time with someone who finds zero joy in life.

Have you?

Jesus lived an approachable life. He was the kind of person who anyone could talk to. Anyone could walk right up to Him and ask Him questions, and He invited it. And that makes me take a very stern look at my own life. Do I live that way? Am I the sort of person who extends grace to everyone around me? The irritating? The obnoxious? The ridiculous?

I hope so. God has extended so much grace toward me, how can I not give it out freely to everyone who comes my way? I struggle with this because I have very little patience with stupid people. But I have my stupid days. Shoot, I have stupid weeks and months, and God doesn’t give up on me. He doesn’t wash His hands and declare me unworthy of His time.

No! And I’m so thankful that He does.

I want to find the balance where I can live holy–obviously belonging to God, obviously following Christ–but I don’t want to become unapproachable, so holy that others are afraid to come talk to me for fear of being judged. I never want to lose track of the fact that God saved me by His grace.

I need grace. Every moment of every day, I need grace. Everyone does. And if we walk and live every moment of our lives with that in mind, I think it will change the way we see others. When we remember just how broken we were before we met Christ, it’s easier to love others who don’t know Him yet.

Don’t be stingy with grace. Give it away. Try it. I guarantee you’ll never run out of grace to give other people because the grace you’ve been given comes from a well that never runs dry.

51 copies of my debut novel, Nameless, on the day they arrived at my door

Braving the right road

Life rarely works out the way we expect it to. Or is that just me? In my experience, the aspects of life I thought I had figured out were the ones I ended up knowing the least about. I haven’t lived a very long time, but I’ve lived long enough to understand that God’s plans are bigger than my imagination–and often beyond my understanding.

I’ve said it before. If I could have told the me of 10 years ago everything that was going to happen in my life, I would have been terrified. I wouldn’t have wanted anything to do with it. I would have given up before I even started because I wasn’t ready for it.

Why else do you think we face trials and frustrations on a daily basis? Or do you really think God has nothing better to do than to mess with you?

51 copies of my debut novel, Nameless, on the day they arrived at my door

51 copies of my debut novel, Nameless, on the day they arrived at my door

Today’s verses are James 1:2-4.

Dear brothers and sisters,when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

On May 21, three heavy boxes were delivered to my front porch. My roomie had to carry them in for me because I was at work, but I knew what was in them. The moment I’d been waiting for had arrived, a moment more than 10 years in the making. Far more than that actually, if you want to be technical about it.

My first published novel.

I can’t even express the excitement I was feeling. Honestly, I think I was repressing it because I wouldn’t have been able to focus on anything else if I hadn’t. For 10 years, I’d worked on this manuscript. I’d written and rewritten and plotted and planned and scrapped and rewrote and edited and rewrote again. For 10 years. And then, in preparation for this official publishing venture, I edited it some more, with my awesome editor’s assistance, of course.

It felt like the beginning of a new era. I’d worked so hard to get this book to where it was, sacrificed time with family and friends, did whatever I could to make it happen because I believed it was what God was calling me to do.

So you can imagine what I felt when I opened that book up and spotted a typo.

And not just one. Two. On the very opening pages, no less. Two typos! They survived three rounds of harsh proofing. Irritating. Irritating beyond comprehension. But not the end of the world. Two typos. I could handle that.

And then, after I sold a couple, a dear friend told me so very kindly that she’d uncovered a handful more throughout the book.

Seriously. I could have bashed my head through a wall. Two typos on a usually ignored page I could deal with. Obvious, stupid typos scattered throughout? Not good.

And here’s the hard part. The physical copy of the book isn’t hard to change. It’s the electronic copies that are killers.

That’s right. Two versions of the book were already uploaded and waiting to be released for Kindle and Nook, and finding these typos meant I had to pull them down and edit them myself because I didn’t want to pay to have the files reformatted again.

And that’s how I came to a crossroad. It would be easy to leave the typos alone. I mean, after all, how many people really notice them? It’s really only the writers who pick up on that stuff, right?

Ha.

The decision to fix the typos came down to choosing between what is easy and what is right, and many times that’s the same choice we face in every other aspect of life. What’s right? What’s easy? They rarely coincide. It’s unusual to take the right path and find it’s easy going.

But in choosing the right path, in fighting through the daily struggles and the numerous frustrations, we learn things we wouldn’t have learned otherwise. We learn who God is. We learn who we are. We learn what it means to follow Christ.

For example? I learned how to edit .mobi and .epub files. And that’s valuable because Crosshair Press has two more books coming out after Nameless, and now I know how to fix them up properly. I wouldn’t have know that if I hadn’t made the decision to fix my stupid typos.

So what trouble is facing you today? What decision do you have to make today? Sure, taking the easy road might seem like the best option right now, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be the best option tomorrow. Maybe the right road looks tough and challenging and difficult, and you know what? It probably is. But instead of focusing on how hard it is, think instead about how much stronger you’ll be on the other side.

God has awesome things planned for all of us, and we won’t be ready for them if we chicken out and take the path of least resistance. Brave the right road and get stronger. It won’t be easy, but you won’t be sorry.