A rather large hole in my brand new siding at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

It never rains, it hails

I live in Kansas. Have I mentioned that? Because I do. But I don’t just live in Kansas. I live in a small, remote area of wheat fields and sheep farms that tends to attract the most extreme weather in the state. And Kansas is a land of extreme weather.

I have multiple friends who are trained weather spotters, and one of them calls my house the Bermuda triangle of weather. Generally speaking, if there’s bad weather going on in Kansas, the strangest weather will be right over my house.

Take Wednesday night for example. The whole state had storms, yes. But the big, glaring red spot with Ping-Pong ball size hail was where? You betcha. Centered right over my house. And yesterday morning I got up for work and looked at the house, and in the morning light it looked fine. My brand new vinyl siding had weathered the storm! Hooray!

Well, hold your horses. I didn’t check the south side of the house where there were a dozen holes in the siding–some the size of tennis balls. Brand new siding–totaled. Brand new window screens–totaled. Brand new gutters–dented and dinged.

And this isn’t the first time this has happened. This same thing happened in 2007. We had a horrible storm, Broke windows, destroyed the siding, totaled the roof. So we got it fixed. And the week after–maybe even the day after–the last bit of work finished, another storm blew through and did twice as much damage.

And don’t think I’m complaining. This is life in Kansas. And we got off easy this time, honestly. None of the windows broke. The cars were all under cover. And all the trees that could have come down have already come down. If I wasn’t willing to handle this kind of life, I would have moved years ago.

But what struck me as I stood in the back yard, gawking at my Swiss- cheese-formerly-known-as-vinyl-siding is the timing. Oh, the timing of this storm is just amazing. Smack dab in some of the busiest months of my year. I’m running wild. My parents are running wild. And in the last few days, it feels like everything has just blown up.

What do you do in moments like that? How do you keep moving forward? How do you press on when it feels like every step you take is just the prelude to taking three steps backward?

A rather large hole in my brand new siding at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

A rather large hole in my brand new siding at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are 1 Peter 1:6-7.

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

Life here isn’t perfect, and it’s never going to be perfect. If we think it’s going to be, we’re just asking to be disappointed. And, let’s just face it, Christians, we have an enemy out there who doesn’t want to see us succeed for the cause of Christ.

Now, that doesn’t mean we should start jumping at shadows. I’ve met people who like blaming their difficult situations on Satan when it’s usually fairly obvious that their own bad choices have led them to where they are.

So don’t hesitate to examine your life. Check your heart. Check your attitude. See where you are with God. Before you start blaming all your life’s problems on Satan, make sure that you haven’t made decisions that have led to your current trouble. And if you find out that you have made mistakes, stop.

But, if you examine your life and you find that you have done the best you can, that you have held to what the Bible says, that you’ve put God first in every aspect of your life–and you’re still having crazy insane issues that don’t seem to stop? Well, then it’s a good chance that the Bad Guy is trying to slow you down.

And in that case? Don’t let him.

When you can step back and recognize that what you’re experiencing is simply our enemy picking on you, his petty schemes are easier to spot and they’re much easier to laugh at.

Yes. Laugh at.

And honestly that’s the best thing you can do. If he has to resort to throwing sticks and (hail)stones at us to upset us, he really must be desperate.

Don’t let him win. Don’t give in. Yes, it’s frustrating. Yes, it’s overwhelming. But think of the big picture. Remember who’s already won this war. And when you put the whole thing into context, you aren’t in as much trouble as you feel like.  Because God is bigger than anything Satan can throw at you.

So remember that the next time it hails on you. Siding can be replaced. Houses can be repaired. Lives can be rebuilt. And, in the end, Satan has already lost because he can’t take the things that really matter away as long as they already belong to Christ.

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Spring in Kansas (a.k.a. Bipolar weather in a state where the only constant is the wind)

Autumn is my favorite season, if I had to pick one. And I enjoy cold weather (although I’ve lost my fondness for it by this point). But there is something remarkable about spring. There’s something magical about watching the world coming back to life after it’s been sleeping for so long.

Spring is a beautiful reminder of how God works, I think. After a long season of struggling and discouragement, He renews everything and everything gets another chance to live again. It’s hard to remember though because winter can seem so very long. But spring always comes one way or another (although in Kansas, it seems to hang on longer every year . . . . blizzards in April?).

I guess to someone who has never lived in a bipolar place like Kansas, our winters might surprise them. We aren’t known for getting intense amounts of snow like New England. We aren’t known for consistent artic temperatures like Alaska. If we’re known for anything, it’s for our weather’s confusion. It’s not unusual in a Kansas winter to have the temperature vary 60 degrees in a day. This past winter, we had a 95-degree difference in less than a week. One day the high temperature was around -20 (without figuring in the wind) and less than a week later, it was like 75.

To someone who has never experienced Kansas weather, I think this state might confuse and frustrate them. Because when you’re ready for snow and ice, Kansas gives you fog and rain. And when you’re ready for rain, Kansas gives you a drought. And when you’re expecting a drought, you get tornadoes and hail the size of soft balls. In the winter, especially, the weather never does what it’s “supposed” to do. The only constant in Kansas weather is the wind (unless a tornado is on the way; then when it gets quiet, you need to run for your basement).

So I can imagine how frustrating it might be to someone who has experienced winter in other more consistent places. For example, if you live in New England, you know you’re going to get snow. And you know it’s going to be cold. Oppositely, if you live in California, you know the weather is going to stay in the 70s and be dry and beautiful.

Here? We freeze our butts off for a week and then we see the sun and can run around without a jacket on. It’s like the weather loves to show us a glimpse of warmth and then revels in dashing our hopes with a blizzard that leaves us buried in snow, topped with ice and finished off with freezing fog. And if you didn’t know that that’s just the way Kansas weather is, I could see that it might discourage you.

Life is kind of like that, though. Don’t you think? James 1:12 says this:

 12 God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

 Those of us who’ve lived in Kansas for a long time know that if you don’t like the weather, all you have to do is wait it out. Because our winters might be frigid and artic and frustrating, but our summers are hot and humid and fierce. If you’re not a winter person, just wait for summer because it will come.

I’ve found my relationship with God to be very much like Kansas weather. He never changes, of course. He always stays the same, and it’s me who does the changing. But there are times when stuff comes into my life that I don’t like. And it’s not necessarily because of anything I’ve done (although sometimes it is, and I’m just dealing with personal consequences). But most of the time, life just happens. Kind of like the weather. And at that point, I have two choices in how to respond to it — I can pout and be difficult and blue and unhappy; or I can just press on, doing the best I can, knowing that the weather will improve if I just give it time.

Trials and testing in our lives as Christians give us an amazing opportunity to put God to the test. If we are able to keep trusting Him even when nothing seems like it’s going right, we will be blessed. Now . . . notice that this particular verse doesn’t exactly imply that we’ll be blessed while we’re struggling. It actually seems to focus more on the fact that we’ll receive a reward when the trials/testing are over (this specific reward, the Crown of Life, is something we’ll be given when we get to heaven). But in any case, patiently enduring trouble that comes our way gives us the chance to know God for who He really is.

It’s kind of like stargazing. The best time to stargaze is in the winter. The night is clear and the stars are brighter. The only trouble is you go numb if you spend too much time outside looking up at the stars. But it’s worth it because you can see the stars and planets better than any other time. And if you wait until you’re comfortable outside, you won’t get as good a view.

If you wait until you’re comfortable in your life, you won’t get to know God very well because you don’t “need” Him as much as you do when you’re struggling.

I enjoy winter. I like snow (when I don’t have to drive on it), but by the end of the season I’m ready for it to go away. I’m ready for spring. I’m ready to watch the world come back to life, and there is something so wonderful about seeing flowers burst out all over trees, seeing grass climb out of the ground, seeing wheat growing in the field across from my home. It’s wonderful because it reminds me that God has kept His promise to return life to the Earth, and it encourages me because it reminds me that God will keep His promise to me.

Trials and testing don’t last forever. Just like Kansas weather, if you don’t like it, just be patient and try to make the best of it. Because it’s guaranteed to change.