Tomorrow will be better if you wait

[su_dropcap style=”simple” size=”5″]I[/su_dropcap] like coffee. Any kind of coffee. Hot or cold, blended or iced, black or with cream, Americano or latte, plain or flavored. Whatever. I like it all. In the heat of summertime in Kansas, there’s almost nothing better than a big Frappucino from Starbucks (yes, I like Starbucks coffee).

I didn’t used to like them, though, because they didn’t last very long. And once I finished, I was left with a cup full of partially melted ice mixed with watered-down coffee and slightly chocolate-flavored foamy stuff. Bleck! It was so much better to get hot coffee and sip it slowly.

But during the summer in Kansas where we had more than 30 days over 100 degrees, I broke down and bought a Frappucino. But something happened, and I had to let it sit for a moment before I could come back to it. And guess what? When I was done, I didn’t have ice left.

At first, I thought it was a fluke. But the next time I got a Frappucino, I let it sit for a little while, and the same thing happened. I let the ice get started melting, and I sipped it slowly. It lasted much longer, and it tasted much better than it did when I drank it all quickly.

It was better to wait

But waiting is hard. It takes effort and discipline. It takes concentration because you have to constantly remind yourself why you’re choosing to wait. You have to force your brain to remember that the end result will be better if you just hold your horses.

I’m not good at waiting. I see a path that looks promising, and I want to run down it at full speed, barefoot, hair loose, no bags packed or itinerary planned. And I don’t care if I skin my knees or break my toes or have to turn around seven times. At least I’m moving forward, right?

But sometimes moving forward only causes more trouble.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]You don’t escape from quicksand; you’re rescued.[/su_pullquote]

Think about quicksand. Your instinct is to fight to escape, to kick and thrash and flail, but that only makes you sink faster. But you don’t escape from quicksand; you’re rescued. And your best hope to survive is to hold still and wait.

Life’s like that too. But if you think that waiting is the same as doing nothing, you’re wrong.

Waiting is hardest job you’ll ever work. It’s the most challenging class in the school of hard knocks. It’s the most impossible obstacle course you’ll ever run.

Our culture has forgotten how to wait. We live in a world of instant gratification. We’re ruled by our watches and our calendars, and we’ve learned to settle for what’s passable and immediate rather than what’s excellent and inconvenient.

I’m so guilty of this, but I learned the hard way that I can’t rush God.

lam3-26He’s got plans for me, just like He has plans for you. But no matter how badly I want to achieve His goal for my life, I don’t get to decide when it happens. I can strive and fight and push and run as hard as I can, but I can’t move Him. God does what He wants. I can’t change that. And if I really understood His plans, I wouldn’t want to change it.

The Bible says it’s good to wait on God (Lamentations 3:26). I struggle with that. Nothing about waiting is good. It turns your stomach upside down. It turns your hair gray. It makes you cranky and irritable.

Or does it? Does waiting really do all that? Or do we do that to ourselves because we refuse to relinquish control of our lives, our dreams, our plans to the Person who already owns them?

Stuck in summer

I wake up in the morning, and I stare down a beautiful curving path into an autumn forest. Line with golden-leafed trees, blazing red maples and shimmering, white-barked aspens, and it smells like cinnamon and nutmeg and joy. There’s a giant pile of leaves just ready for me to dive into, and pumpkin-flavored everything is waiting just out of reach.

But I can’t get there because I’m stuck in summer. In the heat and the deadness of post-harvest dirt. There’s no end in sight. And I want that world so badly I can taste it, and I can see exactly how I’m supposed to get there. So why shouldn’t I run? Why shouldn’t I just leap forward and reach for that dream? It’s right there.

[su_pullquote] While I’m waiting, I’m learning who God is.[/su_pullquote]

But it isn’t just right there. I can’t see the twists and turns. I can’t see the distance or the effort or the disappointments or the successes that I’ll need to experience before I get there. But God can. And that’s why I have to wait.

That’s why waiting matters. That’s why waiting is good. Just like a Frappucino is better once the ice has started melting, tomorrow will be better if I wait until God says it’s time to run.

lam3-22-23Choosing to wait is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Making the conscious decision to set aside what I want right now in favor of what God wants right now has taken more faith than I thought I had. But I’m still here. I’m still waiting. And I’m not going to stop, because while I’m waiting, I’m learning who God is and who He wants me to be.

Every morning, I get to start over fresh (Lamentations 3:22-24). New day, new mercy, same God. He doesn’t change. He won’t be rushed. And His timing really is perfect.

We all owe someone something

Unexpected things happen all the time. You can plan and scheme and organize until you’re blue in the face, but it won’t guarantee that everything you want is going to happen the way you want it to happen. This past Saturday was my book release event at a local coffee shop in downtown Wichita. We’d been planning for months. We had everything worked out, and everything was going to be perfect. We were expecting big crowds and a lot of excitement.

Well, there were big crowds. But they weren’t there for the book release. Unbeknownst to me, the WSU Shockers decided to have a basketball game at the downtown arena at the same time as the book event, and there wasn’t a single place to park anywhere. I had to circle the block four times before I found a place about a mile or two away. It was my event, and I didn’t get there until fifteen minutes after it was supposed to start.

Needless to say, I was somewhat put out (to put it mildly).

But you know what? People still came. I was shocked and touched and humbled. Friends showed up to help with setup. Many made cookies and brought candy. And there were a lot of encouraging hugs and big smiles, and those were worth more than a big crowd to me. And it was a wonderful reminder for me that I have my plans, but God is going to do what He’s going to do in spite of my plans. And even though His way doesn’t seem better to me at the moment, it will be more satisfying in the end.

ZOM5QYEIMVToday’s verses are Job 23:10-14.

But he knows where I am going.
And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold.
For I have stayed on God’s paths;
I have followed his ways and not turned aside.
I have not departed from his commands,
but have treasured his words more than daily food.
But once he has made his decision, who can change his mind?
Whatever he wants to do, he does.
So he will do to me whatever he has planned.
He controls my destiny.

Maybe Job isn’t the best book to quote from, but you have to admit it’s accurate. Honestly, the only way Job could really understand all the horrible things that were happening in his life was to accept that God is God and He always knows best–even if it doesn’t feel like it. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but we need to be humble enough to grasp it.

I struggle with this. I like making my own decisions. I like being independent. I don’t like having to rely on anyone else for answers or help or guidance or support. I want to make my own way and not owe anyone anything. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Sure, but it’s completely impossible. No one can live that life. We all owe someone something. Isn’t it better to accept that the One you owe the most to is the Lord?

You don’t control your life. Your life is bigger than you are, and the only one strong enough to help you get through it is God. What you can control is how you react to events in your life. You can choose to see everything that’s wrong, or you can choose to believe that God has a plan and will eventually work it out for your benefit.

So where are you today? Are you in the middle of your master scheme that’s going perfectly? Or are you standing in the wreck of your carefully laid plans that have gone awry?

Take a step of faith and decide to trust the Lord. No matter how wrong things may feel like they’ve gone, God is big enough to find the silver lining for you. Just ask Him to help you see it too.

Why should we have confidence in God?

When I first started writing, I wasn’t very confident. I could write anything, but I had no faith that it was any good. Then, one day, I got brave enough to share it with a friend, and thanks to her positive feedback and encouragement, I kept writing. And I kept sharing it with friends, who also responded positively. But even then, I wasn’t what I would call confident.

It took years of writing (and a whole heck of a lot of rejection notices) before I started seeing my writing as something worthwhile. But the confidence didn’t come until I got hired on as a copywriter, where the people I worked with acknowledged that I could write. That sounds weird, maybe, because of course I can write. But it’s one thing to write for fun; it’s something else for people to pay for what you write.

I had to write for pay for three years before I truly began to feel confident in what I could do, and after that? After I figured out the confidence thing, writing was no problem. I can pick up a piece of paper and knock out a story in an hour. I can write a novel in a month or less. Maybe they won’t be very good, but that doesn’t bother me anymore. I know I can do it.

That’s where confidence comes from. You have confidence because you know for sure that your abilities (or the abilities of the one you’re relying on) are enough.

man-person-fog-mist_1516x1011Today’s verse are Psalm 27:11-14.

Teach me how to live, O LORD.
Lead me along the right path,
for my enemies are waiting for me.
Do not let me fall into their hands.
For they accuse me of things I’ve never done;
with every breath they threaten me with violence.
Yet I am confident I will see the LORD’s goodness
while I am here in the land of the living.
Wait patiently for the LORD.
Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.

So when was the last time you had confidence in the Lord? I mean, it’s easy to have confidence in your own abilities. You can control those. You can see the results almost immediately. But confidence in God? God doesn’t always work the way I want Him to. Actually, He rarely does. How can I have confidence in God if He doesn’t work according to my timetable?

That’s a tough question because it touches on deeper issues than just having confidence in God. A question like that means your own schedule matters more to you than God’s plan. Just being honest here.

What it comes down to is who God is. If confidence stems from someone’s abilities, how can we not have confidence in God? God is God. He’s the Creator, the Maker, the Redeemer, the Father, the Lover, the Master, the Lord. He can do anything and everything. He can be anywhere and everywhere, whenever, wherever, and however He chooses.

So the question isn’t how we can have confidence in God. The question is why should we.

God is good. Truly good. He’s the only one who actually is good. So everything He does is good. Don’t get the brokenness of the world or the brokenness in our own lives mixed up. People question God’s goodness because bad things happen, but bad things happen because the world is circling the drain as a result of our own choices. It’s not because God isn’t good. God is so good that He offers us a way out when we don’t deserve it.

God always keeps His promises. His plans are for our best. He never makes mistakes. That’s the kind of person you can be confident in, because He won’t ever do anything that isn’t for our best. That’s what you can have confidence in. That’s why you can trust Him.

No, you may not always like the roads He takes you on, but those are the times that make you stronger. Those are the moments that teach you who God is. And when the struggle is over, you’ll have more confidence than ever in how much He loves you, because you’ve seen it firsthand.

The crooked path to the top of Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

Opportunities aren’t accidents

Have you ever had the opportunity to sit back and watch God work? There have been moments in my life where I’ve been able to see Him working in ways that only He could, but  I can honestly tell you that I’ve never seen Him so obviously than in the last six months.

God has opened so many doors. He’s been so present and has provided for me in so many different ways that I can’t even begin to explain it all. And I can trace it all back to a single moment in January this year when I finally said Yes to what He’d been telling me to do since last August.

God has plans, and they’re good plans. And He doesn’t just dump people into the midst of His plans when they aren’t prepared or equipped. Maybe they aren’t prepared or equipped when it starts, but by the time God says go, they’re ready.

But no matter how life works out, one thing is certain: We can plan and prepare and try to make up our own minds about our futures all day long, but God is the one who truly calls the shots. And we can either get on board with that or we can keep hurtling helter-skelter down a path we’re forging on our own, blind and ineffective until we wear ourselves out and end up going back to Him anyway.

The crooked path to the top of Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

The crooked path to the top of Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Jeremiah 10:23.

I know, Lord, that our lives are not our own.
    We are not able to plan our own course.

So much of life is waiting. I’ve blogged about that before. I hate waiting. I hate it. I want to be up doing something, preparing for what’s ahead so I can anticipate and control a situation and pretend like I have some type of command.

I’m trying to learn to love waiting, and in the last six months, I’ve made great strides toward that because it’s become more apparent to me than ever how and why God makes us wait.

I was talking to a friend in the Starbucks parking lot the other night about baking cakes. When you mix up a cake and throw it in the oven, it would be so much easier to just eat the batter right then. Cake batter is awesome. But it’s not cake. If you want cake, you have to wait (yes, even if the cake is a lie, you still have to wait).

God often calls us to a time of waiting so we can develop and grow and get stronger and learn what we need to learn. Maybe we just need to learn how to trust Him.

Waiting isn’t punishment or a curse. It’s a gift, marvelous, quiet downtime when you realign and get your thoughts straight and focus on grounding yourself in truth. Because when God says jump, you’d better be ready to jump.

When God is ready for you to go, you need to go. And when you say yes, don’t think for a moment that things will slow down. Actually, they’ll get faster and crazier and more awesome than you imagine.

God has planned the direction of your life, and it’s up to you to say yes to His will. Or do you think He forces you? No. God doesn’t force us to do anything, but He won’t always intervene when we end up stuck in the hole we dug for ourselves.

What is God telling you to do today? Is He telling you to wait? Is He telling you to jump? Whatever it is, just say yes. Do what He’s telling you to do. Stop fighting Him.

If He’s opened a door and made a way for you to do something, do it. Make sure it’s from Him–make sure it’s in line with Scripture and it won’t cause you to compromise on the truth of Scripture–and go for it with everything you have.

Opportunities in your path aren’t accidents. They’re strategic. God has created you unique. Whether you believe it or not, you have gifts and abilities that no one else has, and God wants you to be able to use those talents to reach other people with His love.

Don’t doubt the gifts God’s given you. Don’t take credit for them either, but don’t doubt them. Doubting them isn’t humility; it’s insecurity and fear. God has made you to do awesome things for Him.

Don’t doubt Him. Don’t doubt His plan. It’s okay to be afraid, but don’t let that fear keep you from saying yes to God.

Happy sunflower at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

God does amazing things

Late miracles are still miracles. That’s what I posted yesterday from the 15th floor waiting area at the Minnesota campus of the Mayo Clinic. My parents and I had been waiting for days for the impossible, and it was looking like we weren’t going to get in. We fully expected to have to wait until next Wednesday, using up vacation time so my mom could get in to see this specialist.

So that’s why I posted what I did yesterday, because I wanted to get my perspective straight. The moment I pushed the publish button on yesterday’s post, the nurse called us. We had an appointment the next day.

We are meeting with an allergy specialist at 9:45 this morning. It’s not the doctor we were expecting, who was both an allergy specialist and an immune system specialist. But we’re trusting there’s a reason a door opened with this one instead. I mean, if God has been faithful enough to get us in to see anyone at Mayo, He’s not going to get us in with a doctor for no reason.

Happy sunflower at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Happy sunflower at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is 1 Chronicles 16:24.

Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.
Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.

Like I mentioned yesterday, how often do miracles go unnoticed? How often does God do something amazing in our life and we don’t take the time to recognize it? I’m afraid it happens more frequently in my life than I’m comfortable admitting.

Well, I want to recognize this one. We asked God to open a door for us, and He did. So now we’re going to sit back and see what God does today.

Don’t be shy about sharing what God has done in your life. You might come off like a crazy person, sure. But you also might catch somebody’s attention, someone who thinks God has given up on them or who believes that God doesn’t get involved in our lives.

Parents, tell your kids what God has done. Tell your friends. Tell your family. Tell anyone who will listen.  You never know how your story might help someone else.

God does great, amazing things. Yes, He does them in His time, and usually that’s better than our time anyway.

Tractor tracks on Pleasant Valley Road, Haven, KS

Don’t get sidetracked

Have you ever started a year trying to plan ahead because you know it’s going to be wild and crazy? I still think it’s a good idea because you have to know what resources will be available, and you won’t know that until you set it all down and look at the  big picture. But what happens when your year gets wilder and crazier than you expected? What happens to your carefully laid plans then?

I’ve posted about this before, and I’m posting about it again because it’s something I’m struggling with. Nearly everything I’ve planned for this year has changed due to circumstances beyond my control, and I’m not upset about it. I’m just trying to figure out how to cope. And I really think that’s part of the danger of planning too well. When life throws you a curve ball, you don’t always know how to hit it because you’re too busy looking in all the directions you think it might go instead of watching the ball itself.

Tractor tracks on Pleasant Valley Road, Haven, KS

Tractor tracks on Pleasant Valley Road, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Proverbs 4:25-26.

Look straight ahead,
and fix your eyes on what lies before you.
Mark out a straight path for your feet;
stay on the safe path.

When you have so many things happening, so many issues to take care of, so many things going wrong or even going right in some instances, it’s really easy to let your focus slide. That doesn’t sound possible, but it happens, doesn’t it? Or maybe it just happens to me. I find that when one plan changes, it changes all my other plans. So while I’m scrambling trying to make sense of the rest of my life and salvage what I can from my plans that are falling through, I neglect the reason the first plan changed. And usually it’s because of something happening right in front of me.

I get focused on the future. I get focused on what might happen. I get focused on the plans that aren’t even taking shape yet, and I forget about what’s happening today. Maybe that’s part of being a big picture person. Maybe that’s because I don’t like detail. I don’t know, but it’s not a very smart way to live because instead of hitting home runs, the balls keep hitting me.

So I needed today’s verses. I need to remember to look straight ahead at what is right in front of me. It’s not bad to look to the future. It’s not bad to plan for what might happen, but we can’t forget what’s happening right now.

We can’t control tomorrow. Honestly, we can’t even control what happens today. We can only control how we react to what happens today, and that has more power over what happens tomorrow than any of our careful planning.

And when you get focused on what’s in front of you, don’t get distracted looking at the sides. Don’t let your focus drift. Nothing wastes more time (time that you probably don’t have) than fooling around with issues that aren’t even on the road you’re walking.

Taking an alternative route is fine as long as it’s God who leads you down that path, but if you’re getting off the road He set you on just to satisfy your own curiosity or to make someone else happy, you’re asking to get lost.

Keep your eyes straight ahead. Plan where you’re going today. Have an idea of what you’re going to do tomorrow, but don’t count on it too strongly because you don’t know what’s going to happen. The only thing you should believe in 100% when it comes to planning is that God’s going to do what He’s going to do, and it will be better than what you’ve got planned.

So walk straight. Deal with what’s in front of you, and don’t worry when your plans change. In my experience, even if the change isn’t welcome, it will work out for the better in the end.

Stone steps along Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

Life has no coincidences

 

I was marveling yesterday how events in my life (and in the lives of others) have truly unfolded in the best way possible. No, not everything that has happened has been good in the traditional definition of good. But what has taken place in our lives seems to have happened at just the right moment, like a puzzle piece snapping into place.

Is that just a coincidence? Coincidence is based on random chance, and maybe there are times when random chance sounds appealing, but I find more comfort in the concept of intentional design.

Stone steps along Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

Stone steps along Hadrian’s Wall, Northern England

Today’s verse is Psalm 37:23.

The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
    He delights in every detail of their lives.

When my brother and I were in England visiting the other half of my brain, we got the chance to go to Hadrian’s Wall. If you’re a Roman history buff or a history buff in general, you’ll know what it is. If you aren’t, well, it’s a long stone wall in northern England that’s really old. My friend had a coworker who doubled as a wall warden up there, so he took us along the wall and explained the history behind it and so on and so forth. All along the wall there was a path that stretched out before us. Sometimes it was straight. Other times it went crooked. Most of the time it went up very steeply. We didn’t have to stay on the path, but honestly along those treacherous rises and fells and steep drops, the path was the best place to be.

I think God’s plan often looks like a difficult and challenge path laid out before us. God has a plan for all of us, and if you’re a Christ-follower He’s working everything out in our lives for our good and His glory. Only God is big enough to take the scattered, senseless, chaotic bits of our lives and weave them into a beautiful tapestry.

It’s easy for me to forget sometimes how carefully He has designed my life. Down to the last split second of every moment I live, He knows everything that’s going to happen to me and everything I need. And if I don’t have what I need before I reach those parts of my life, He will supply them. By the time I reach the decisions points in my life, God will have given me everything I need to not only survive but to thrive.

Things don’t just happen in our lives for no reason. No, they’re not always good. Sometimes they’re bad. Sometimes they’re great and wonderful, and in those moments we need to rejoice and thank God for giving us a situation that worked out. But in the times that aren’t so good, we need to rejoice and thank God that He’s got a plan.

If you’re a Christ-follower, God has ordered your steps. He knows where you’re going, and He knows what you will need along the way. And He’s big enough to orchestrate events in your life to help prepare you for what’s coming.

It’s your choice whether to stay on the path He’s laid out or not. That’s entirely up to you. And even if you get off the path, you can still get back on, but ask yourself what it may cost you if you do before you choose.

The path God has laid out for us may not be easy. On the contrary, it may be really hard, really challenging, but He doesn’t ever do anything without a reason. And that means we’ll learn something along the way that we’ll need later on. We won’t have to walk the path alone either; He’ll be there every step of the way.