Moon setting at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Living quietly a moment at a time

Do you ever crave stillness? Where you have a moment to catch your breath without anyone’s expectations horning in on you? Where you can just enjoy the quiet without deadlines looming or people demanding things from you?

I didn’t used to. When I was younger, I loved being busy. And looking back, oh boy, was I busy! I can’t believe the schedule I kept when I was younger. I really have no idea how I did it without going crazy.

But now? Well, I still enjoy being busy. If I were bored, there would be something wrong. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to yearn for the quiet, alone moments of my younger years, where I didn’t have so many responsibilities and so many people didn’t rely on me.

Moon setting at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Moon setting at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 62:5.

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

It’s hard to be quiet when life is so loud. I don’t want to say it’s impossible, but it really is difficult to get focused when we have so many things screaming for our attention. But it’s important. It’s necessary.

If you live life in a constant flurry of activity, flitting from one crisis to the next, you never actually process the decisions you make. You can’t. You don’t have time. So you don’t learn from your mistakes. You don’t take time to enjoy your success.

So how do you wait quietly for God when life is spiraling out of control around you? How can you be quiet and still when that means you’ll fall behind?

What I’ve learned is that you can’t always be quiet and still. There’s too much to do. And if you are anything like me, you’ve probably gotten to the place in your life where you have so many people depending on you that if you changed directions suddenly, half a dozen ministries or projects would grind to a halt and fail utterly. If you back yourself into that kind of a corner, it’s my personal belief that you have a responsibility to see it through to the end.

That being said, you don’t have to eat, sleep, and breathe every project and ministry you’re involved in. If you can’t live your life quietly right now, learn to take advantage of the quiet moments when you have them.

When you get home from work, do you jump right into the next project on your list? Or do you take half an hour to decompress? When you finish one assignment, do you jump immediately into the next one, or do you take a walk and let your shoulders loosen up?

I’ve found that I’m actually more productive if I take a break between projects, than if I just power on through without stopping. If I take the time intentionally to breathe and rest and be quiet in between things, I can focus better and work faster.

People weren’t created to work all the time, to run crazy all the time, to kill ourselves on good things all the time. If we try to live that way, we’ll burn out.

So take the time to enjoy the quiet moments when they come. Don’t ignore them. Teach yourself to live quietly a bit at a time, and it won’t be long before you’ll find your whole life is a lot more quiet too.

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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.

Rainy afternoon in the hills around Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

Looking for the light when all you see is clouds

Have you ever experienced a season of life where nothing seemes to go right? Where every step you take is just another opportunity for something to go wrong? To blow up in your face? Just being honest, I’ve been there for most of this year.

Have you ever been there? Maybe you’re there right now. If you are, you know exactly what I’m talking about. You’ve experienced the exhaustion, the fatigue, the worry, and the stress. You’ve struggled through the things you can’t control and the things you can. And you’ve worn yourself out trying to plan for every eventuality, only to discover that it’s worse than you imagined when it happens.

In seasons like that, you have a choice. You can either choose to focus on everything that’s going wrong, or you can look for the tiny ray of light that’s shining through the clouds. Because it’s there. It may be small, but it exists. And it’s there to remind you that all things happen for a reason, especially the things that seem bad.

Rainy afternoon in the hills around Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

Rainy afternoon in the hills around Hadrian’s Wall, Northern England

Psalm 27

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
    so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
    so why should I tremble?
When evil people come to devour me,
    when my enemies and foes attack me,
    they will stumble and fall.
Though a mighty army surrounds me,
    my heart will not be afraid.
Even if I am attacked,
    I will remain confident.

The one thing I ask of the Lord—
    the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
    delighting in the Lord’s perfections
    and meditating in his Temple.
For he will conceal me there when troubles come;
    he will hide me in his sanctuary.
    He will place me out of reach on a high rock.
Then I will hold my head high
    above my enemies who surround me.
At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy,
    singing and praising the Lord with music.

Hear me as I pray, O Lord.
    Be merciful and answer me!
My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
    And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”
Do not turn your back on me.
    Do not reject your servant in anger.
    You have always been my helper.
Don’t leave me now; don’t abandon me,
    O God of my salvation!
Even if my father and mother abandon me,
    the Lord will hold me close.

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.

2013 has been a difficult year in so many ways. Name it and it’s probably gone wrong. But at the same time, it’s been an awesome year. God has given me opportunities to do things I never would have dreamed, and He’s opened doors in ways I never expected. So it’s up to me whether I choose to focus on everything that’s gone wrong this year, or choose to focus on everything that’s gone right because of what’s gone wrong. That’s the key. Nothing really “goes wrong” when you’re following God; it just means you (through God’s strength) have an opportunity to turn something our enemy intends for evil into something that can bless other people.

That can be difficult to remember. But God doesn’t let anything touch us without permission. God doesn’t allow anything into our lives with no purpose. He absolutely doesn’t leave us to face it alone. And when you least expect it, He makes Himself known in a way you won’t see coming. It’s happened so many times in the past year. When I’m down and discouraged and feeling alone, God sends someone into my path who reminds me exactly who He is. Whether that’s what they intend to do or not (sometimes they aren’t even believers), God uses them to help me see that I’m not alone and that none of this is futile. (You may notice this blog now has no ads on it, thanks to one of these reminders I’m talking about.)

So keep your eyes open. Choose to see the opportunities God is giving you rather than the ones you think He’s taking away. Wait patiently and attentively, and you’ll see Him. And remember you’re not on your own.

Snow in the chicken wire

You can’t trust the weather in Kansas

Winter is the longest season. I love winter. I love snow, when I don’t have to drive on it. The same with ice. And I actually like being cold because I can always get warm. But by the middle of winter, it gets old. Carrying a coat and bundling up is a hassle. I miss my flip-flops and tank tops. I miss flowers and leaves. By the middle of winter I’m ready for spring.

Today’s verse is actually a whole Psalm. I tried to pull out a verse or two, but the whole thing is just so good, I couldn’t pick one. It’s short, though.

Snow in the chicken wire

Snow in the chicken wire - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

 Psalm 130

1 From the depths of despair, O LORD,
      I call for your help.
 2 Hear my cry, O Lord.
      Pay attention to my prayer.

 3 LORD, if you kept a record of our sins,
      who, O Lord, could ever survive?
 4 But you offer forgiveness,
      that we might learn to fear you.

 5 I am counting on the LORD;
      yes, I am counting on him.
      I have put my hope in his word.
 6 I long for the Lord
      more than sentries long for the dawn,
      yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.

 7 O Israel, hope in the LORD;
      for with the LORD there is unfailing love.
      His redemption overflows.
 8 He himself will redeem Israel
      from every kind of sin.

Life is something like the seasons. We go through periods of growth, where everything we touch blossoms. We go through droughts. We go through periods of change. And we go through times of difficulty when nothing grows and everything looks dead. And in the winters of our lives, it can be challenging to remember that spring always comes again. The seasons are an example of how God sometimes chooses to work in our lives.

As a Kansan, I have learned not to trust the seasons. I’m thankful to live in a state that experiences all four seasons, even though sometimes we experience all four seasons in the same week. But I don’t trust the weather. At all. This winter has been very strange in south-central Kansas. We just finished days in the 70s only to drop into highs in the 30s and 40s.

The main image for this post was taken on February 7. Here’s another image that was taken yesterday, March 7:

Apricot blossoms

Yes. Apricot blossoms. On my apricot trees. I took this photo yesterday, without a coat. Then, overnight, we had a thunderstorm and it hailed. A lot. So it’s likely that all my apricot blossoms are now gone, beaten to death and blown away, and the ones that remained were probably frozen because it’s currently around 30 outside now. This is life in Kansas. As it has been established in previous posts, I don’t like waiting. And though I’m thankful for the warmer weather, I want it to be cold and get it over with. Because then spring can come for real and things can start growing again.

Just like you can’t trust the weather in Kansas, you can’t trust the seasons of your life. Even though you may be struggling through a drought, that doesn’t mean God won’t send rain. Even though you may be cold and alone in the dark, that doesn’t mean you won’t still be blessed. And in the days when everything is going well, you’ll still experienced storms.

The one factor you can trust is God.

We can count on Him. We can put our hope in Him. Because He has proven Himself over and over and over again throughout thousands of years of human history.

So no matter what season of life you’re in right now, don’t let the weather get you down. If it’s unusually cold for summer or spring, enjoy it. If it’s unusually warm for winter or fall, enjoy it. If it’s what you expected, enjoy it. If it’s not anything like what you expected, find a way to enjoy it. Because it will change. That’s what seasons do. And you can trust that God won’t allow anything into your life that won’t help you grow closer to Him.