When I Couldn’t See

When my daughter hurried to the car after stepping off the school bus, I knew something was wrong. “There’s a shooter,” she said.

She explained a few miles from our house, a man had shot at police and was on the run.

We hurried inside, locked the doors, and watched a plane as it began to circle our yard. It flew so low I wondered if it skimmed the top of the maple tree in the front. The growling of the engine grew loud every time the plane approached and became a small speck in the distant sky as it made its rounds, searching for the shooter.

This went on for hours.

I’d asked close friends to pray. Calls and texts came in, asking us if we were okay and telling us to stay inside.

I prayed while my daughter and I went room to room in our house as we watched the sky for the plane and searched the shadows of our yard for an armed stranger.

Of course God was there. And in the brightness of day as we kept watch, I had peace.

But night came and there was no keeping watch beyond the beam of my flashlight. The plane was gone and the quiet was unnerving. Police cars raced by our driveway, their lights flashing in the darkness, their sirens silenced.

I breathed easier thinking, They must have got him.

But another call came. “They think he’s somewhere on your road.”

I’d like to tell you I still had peace. I want to tell you I cried out to God in that very moment and He brought me His peace that surpasses all understanding.

But it didn’t happen that way. I didn’t cry out to God just then.

I’d been relying on my sight, and now it was extremely limited. My ability to monitor the situation had been stripped away with the light. I reasoned I could still listen.

But every creak in our house, every sound I’d heard a thousand times before suddenly made me question the source. My stomach soured and burned. My head started to throb when I heard a helicopter circling, the red infrared light hovering above the shadowed trees.

My husband was completely calm with the seriousness and stability of a soldier on duty while our daughter watched the helicopter in between answering her friends’ texts.

Me? I paced and sat. Paced and sat. Answered my phone and paced some more.

It wasn’t until I was in the shower, my sight and ability to hear limited to the confines within the shower curtain and the sound of gushing water, that I finally cried out to God. My flesh wanted to hurry, so I could get back to the living room and keep an eye on the helicopter or stand in our darkened bedroom to listen for sounds outside our window.

Thankfully, my spirit won over my flesh, and I stood in the shower and prayed.

Please, God. We need You. I don’t know how any of us will get any sleep tonight if this goes on. Please keep the police officers safe. Please protect the man they’re after too. Please Lord, help them find him.

When I returned to the living room after my shower, my husband told me, “You can relax now. They got him.”

You can relax now.

I have to wonder if my Heavenly Father told me that very thing the moment I finally cried out to Him instead of relying on me with all my ridiculously limited abilities.

Yes, I can hear Him now:

Relax, child. I am. And I am here.

I want to remember this:

Every time things are out of my control.

Every time I can’t see the outcome of a situation or even what’s going on around me.

Every time I stumble over my human reasoning and weaknesses instead of living by faith.

And I want to remember how God cares for His children, even when they are pacing in the dark or crying in the shower.

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7 ESV.)

Peace in the Midst of Chaos

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I’m a word girl. I know, big shocker there to discover a writer that likes words. What can I say? Words are the tools of my trade. Without them, I would be scribbling stick figures with awkward, uneven eyes and jagged lips doing all sorts of acrobatics to indicate their internal turmoil. It just wouldn’t make much sense.

Similarly, God’s Word is the tool of the Christian’s trade. That would explain how, when the world seems to be falling apart and is in total chaos, we can read God’s Word to find wisdom, understanding, direction, and peace when the world offers us none.

Instead of looking through our own eyes at what’s happening in the world today, we can look through eyes of faith and see things more clearly the way God intended through His Word:

“If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15 NIV, emphasis my own.)

The word that stood out to me was “devour.” I remembered reading that here:

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV, emphasis my own.)

Can you see how “devour” in both of these cases consumes in order to destroy?

There’s another word. Destroy.

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.” (John 10:10a NLT, emphasis my own.)

So our enemy, the devil, is out to destroy us, wanting to devour us. That’s his purpose. Can people actually be used by the enemy to destroy each other?  If they’re not filled with the Holy Spirit and staying alert to the enemy’s schemes, sadly, yes.

What does God’s Word say about how we should treat each other?

“This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15:17 NIV.)

 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8 NIV.)

“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” (Romans 12:9-10 NLT.)

There’s a powerful word. Love.

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1 Corinthians 13:7 NLT.)

So when we look through our eyes at a world that seems to be crumbling all around us, we have the opportunity to look through God’s Word and see. Really see. We can see through eyes of faith that the enemy is behind the killing, stealing, and destroying.

As we know, the thief comes to cause harm, but Jesus Christ has come to give us life to the full (John 10:10) and peace. True peace which the world can never give us.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV.)

We are not to be troubled or afraid, my friends. We are to “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12 NIV.)

And when the world looks back and sees God’s children joyful in their hope as they seek their Father’s face, patiently awaiting His direction during times of disorder, and faithfully praying to God for each and every need and person the Holy Spirit guides them to pray for, then the world may very well get a glimpse of peace in the midst of chaos.

What a beautiful sight that would be for all eyes to see.

 

(Photo from pexels.com.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There Is Still Screaming in the World Today

 

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This world can be a painful place.  Cancer is ravaging our loved ones.  Alzheimer’s attacks without mercy. Children are suffering from hunger, neglect, and all sorts of horrific abuse.

And the coronavirus is out to steal, kill, and destroy our peace, lives, and finances.

Somewhere in all of this, there is screaming.

Can you hear it?  If you quiet yourself, you can.  Those suffering are screaming from the depths of their souls, crying out for help.  Just a word.  Something to give them hope that it will get better, that there is more than pain, fear, and lack.

They need to see that God is moving. And if they’ve never experienced Him before, they need to know He is real.

And sometimes God will choose to use you to show them. Sometimes He will use your mouth to encourage them, your creativity to be present in their lives while keeping socially distant, and sometimes, yes, your money to provide for them.

Are you letting Him?  Or are you keeping your mouth shut when you should speak up?  Are you so preoccupied with surviving the quarantine that God can’t possibly use you? Maybe you’re keeping your hands wrapped so tightly around your money “just in case” that He can’t use that either.

So while you’re keeping quiet and holding on to your checkbook, someone is screaming in God’s ear.

Of course, God hears it all. He sees it all. He sees one child hurting and crying out for help while the other with a heart too hard, too stubborn and self-absorbed to help.

Which child are you?

If you are one of those who are screaming, please know I’m praying for you. Don’t give up. Keep crying out to God. He hears you. Your rescue is coming.

You see, I’ve also screamed in God’s ear, begging for His rescue. And I’ve seen Him move in my life in miraculous ways, sometimes choosing to use others to reach me.

God knows how to reach you too.

Perhaps you are not screaming, but you can hear those who are. You can do something about it. Don’t let the enemy trick you into believing you are stuck at home with no options to reach out.

You can help by allowing God to use you to speak encouraging words through a phone call or to share kind words through a text or social media post; your words can offer hope to someone struggling. Your tender words are the closest thing to a hug you can offer right now. (Maybe you can even be creative in the approach – God will lead you.)

Perhaps you can provide financially for a need. The amount you can share may not seem like much to you, but to someone who is screaming, it is the answer to an agonizing prayer.

And regardless of age or location, no matter if you are completely isolated at home or cooped up with a few family members, you can pray for someone suffering physically, lifting them up to the One who continues to comfort and heal today.

Will you let God use you to ease the screaming in the world today?

Or will you wait until the screaming has stopped and hope seems lost?

“In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.” (Psalm 18:6 NIV.)

“Kind words heal and help.” (Proverbs 15:4a MSG.)

“Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” (Proverbs 16:24 NLT.)

“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:16 ESV.)

“I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. (Romans 15:30 NIV, emphasis my own.)

This is an updated version from an earlier post

 

(Photo from pexels.com.)

Focus

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Calling 911 and telling the operator our propane tank was leaking put a lot of things into perspective. But first, let me explain something.

The coronavirus is a thief and has been trying to steal my focus. (Is it trying to steal yours? Your peace?)

I was finally going to my first writer’s conference in Georgia at the end of March. I’d been hoping and praying about conferences for years, knowing it’s the best way to meet an agent.

Of course, roadblocks popped up in front of me concerning this conference, so I prayed about each one. And I watched as God made a way for me, removing each roadblock. (Conference cost, plane ticket cost, traveling alone, hotel cost, and our daughter’s school schedule – God provided through some lovely individuals who blessed me beyond words.)

But then came the coronavirus. (You know, the one we keep seeing pictures of, those little blobs floating around wearing spikes – a synonym for corona, by the way, and according to my medical dictionary, is “crown”). And so the conference was canceled.

I’m being honest here. I fell apart. I sobbed and questioned why God would move all of the other roadblocks and yet allow this one to stay. I wondered if I should still go to Georgia; if I might bump into the agent I was hoping to meet. When I asked God, I heard in my spirit:

Don’t look for the agent, look for Me.

So when this virus began stealing everyone’s focus, I fought to look for God. (Not an easy task when the focus of the world all around seems to be on this virus!) I looked for God and saw Him in some pretty amazing ways. (Just look at the surge of scripture on social media!) But I had no idea I would see Him the way I did yesterday:

I realized I’d left our mudroom light on while backing out of the garage, so my daughter got out of the car to turn it off. That’s when we smelled it. I didn’t know what it was, but when she said it smelled like eggs, I knew I needed to check our propane tank.

Our propane tank was hissing and the smell was strong. I rushed back to the car, called 911, and drove to the end of our driveway.

Silence. I watched our house in the rearview mirror as we sat in the car and waited for the fire department.  And I cried out to God to protect everyone and our home, my voice breaking, the words falling short.

But I was looking for Him. In that moment of complete helplessness, I looked for God in that moment and cried out to Him.

And He showed up.

He came with the roaring siren of a fire truck and four firemen to turn off the tank and inspect our home. God protected everyone involved, and He kept our home safe. And when I walked side by side with those firemen back into the house, I knew God was already inside and everything was going to be okay.

When things leave us holding our breath, anticipating tragedy, look for God, my friends, and cry out to Him. Don’t allow those microscopic blobs wearing their tiny crowns to steal your focus or your peace.

Fix your eyes on the King of Kings who wears many crowns and has you in the palm of His hand.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV.)

“His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns.” (Revelation 19:12a NIV.)

“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:28 NIV.)

“That’s right. Because I, your God, have a firm grip on you and I’m not letting go. I’m telling you, ‘Don’t panic. I’m right here to help you.’” (Isaiah 41:13 MSG.)

(Photo from pexels.com.)

Turn Around

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Imagine that you’re staring down a closed door. You knock and knock hoping the door will open.  But it doesn’t.  You feel stuck, your face against the wood, your breath returning to you.  You whisper up a prayer for the door to open.

But it remains shut.

What’s on the other side of the door? It could be an opportunity you’re hoping will open up to you.  Or it could be a person.

A person?

That’s right. It could be a person you’ve been wanting to talk to, someone you’re wanting to walk beside and help carry the load, or someone you’ve drifted apart from. But this person simply won’t open the door.

You stand there staring at the door, waiting to see it pull away and open, waiting to hear the click or movement on the other side.

But there is only silence.

You pray and ask God for wisdom, to help you understand this closed door. And when you do you hear, “Turn around” gently whispered to your heart.

Waiting behind you are the people longing to be with you. They are the ones God blessed your life with and they’ve been waiting for you to turn around. You can hear them, but you’ve been too busy focusing on the door to really see them.

So you turn around and you step away from the closed door, away from the opportunity or the toxicity of a relationship beyond the door that God is trying to protect you from. Perhaps you need to guard your heart from what’s beyond the door. And trust God and His plan. He knows what He’s doing.

God doesn’t want you banging your fists, bloodying your knuckles on a door He’s keeping closed for your own good.  With His help you can turn around, walk away, and let go of what you think you should be doing or who you think you should have a relationship with.  And while you’re walking away, pray for the situation.  Pray for the person.

It’s time to let go of the guilt that was never yours to hold onto in the first place and extinguish those flaming accusations of a liar who wants nothing more than to render you useless. Satan would be thrilled to see you standing like a little kid in time-out with your nose stuck to a closed door.

But you are not in time-out. Actually, you need to get ready.  A new plan is in the works.  New and exciting times are coming.  And if you’ve got your face stuck to a door, you’re going to miss it.

Let God protect you, my friend, and enjoy the life He has waiting for you. Love and cherish those He’s brought into your life and let them love you back.

It’s time. Turn around and walk away from the door.

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (Proverbs 4:23 NLT.)

This is Between God and You

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How do you react when you see someone standing near the freeway or on a street corner holding a sign?  You’ve seen them, haven’t you?  Some are hungry and will work for food.  Others are in need and have children.  What do you do?

Maybe you noticed the cigarettes or the cell phone in his hand and you think, I’m not giving him a dime!

Or maybe you remembered when you were going through a difficult time and someone reached out to you, so you stick your hand out the window with a little cash. It’s not much, you think. But at least it’s something.

Perhaps you drove past the man and his sign and hurried to a fast-food restaurant to order some sort of meal deal with a drink.  You returned to him and handed over the bag and soda, immediately humbled when he thanks you.

Let me ask you this:  Did you ask God what to do?  Did you pray for wisdom?  Or were you too busy making a judgment while hitting the gas to get away from the man and his sign because he made you uncomfortable?

God will tell you what to do if you ask Him.  He’ll give you a nudge.  He’ll whisper softly to your heart.  He may even give you specifics, to buy the expensive and REAL burger for the man instead of the chicken sandwich because God knows he is anemic and needs iron.  God may give you the very word, a spark of  hope the man needs.  He may even have you offer the eternal hope of salvation when you tell the man that Jesus Christ is not only your best friend but your Lord and Savior and maybe he’d like to get to know Him too.

Or God may tell you to keep driving but pray for the man. Perhaps it is for your own protection.  Perhaps the man is dishonest and is not really in need. Or maybe the man has an addiction and one more dollar will be enough for his “just one more time” that could end his life.

Maybe God is telling you to keep driving so the man behind you in the pickup truck will be able to stop and share his testimony.  Only God knows both of these men and their stories and how one can truly reach the other.

You may never know the reason why God tells you what to buy for the man in need, or what to say, or why you are to keep driving and pray for him. You don’t need to know the reason.  You just need to listen to God.

Don’t doubt. Don’t question.  And don’t listen to someone ridiculing you later, saying it was foolish and the man is just going to spend your money on drugs or beer, when God instructed you to give him cash.

You see, your part is to seek God and His wisdom and then obey. That is between God and you.  That’s your part.  What the man does with what you’ve given, what God has given him through you, that’s between God and him.  You don’t need to fret or wonder if you did the right thing.

If you obeyed God, you did the right thing.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5 NIV.)

“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” (James 4:17 ESV.)

When Tragedy Strikes

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Mass shootings of innocent people. Horrific stabbings.  There is violence and death all around the world and for no known reason.  None of this makes any sense.  I hurt for the victims and their families.  I’ve only seen photographs, news reports.  I can’t even imagine the real pain they are going through.

Why did this happen? Why would a person do such a thing?  Why kill innocent people you don’t even know?

But this isn’t something we can understand with human reasoning. This is when we need God more than ever.  We need to lift up those in agony who’ve fallen to their knees, lift them up in prayer right into God’s arms.  And we need to run into His arms too and fall apart and cry.  We need His help to make sense out of all of this to avoid going crazy, to avoid losing hope, and to remind us that one day all of the ugliness, the cruelty, and the evil of this world will be gone.

There is something beautiful coming. Someone beautiful is coming soon.  Jesus.  We mustn’t lose hope.

Please, friends and neighbors, brothers and sisters in Christ, remember that evil is very real and roaming freely around the world. We are seeing it every day.  We must remember that a spiritual war is taking place all around us.  We must stand firm in the armor of God.  We must stand together as warriors, alert and praying.

And we must reach out in love and continue to pray for those who have been wounded by that evil.

Heavenly Father, we need You. We need You to help those we can’t reach from where we are, those who are suffering at the hands of evil all around the world, Lord.  You see them right now.  They are not alone.  You are with them, Lord, and we ask that You would comfort them.  Please Lord, meet them in their most painful moments and hold them in Your arms.  Make Your very presence known to them so they may cling to You.

And Lord, we pray that You would make us warriors, strong in the faith and ready to stand against all evil that attack the innocence of this world. Help us to know Your Word in our very hearts and to speak it out loud, boldly.  Lord, we rebuke Satan and all of his demons in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  The enemy has no hold on us.  We are bought with the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help us to remember who we are, Lord, and that we are Yours. Lord, we love You and we thank You for Your love and Your faithfulness and Your power.  It’s in the precious and holy name of Your Son, Jesus Christ we pray these things.  Amen.

“Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:11-12 NLT.)

“In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare.   Pray hard and long.  Pray for your brothers and sisters.  Keep your eyes open.  Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.” (Ephesians 6:18 MSG.)

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  (Revelation 21:1-4 NIV.)

 

 

Rest

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It can be pretty tough when circumstances in life suck the energy out of you like a leech the size of a small pony while leaving your brain in a fog.

Maybe you deal with food allergies and certain foods the rest of the world seems to devour without so much as a yawn set you into a tailspin of brain fog that only gets deeper as your mind plummets out of control, landing you on the couch for one sickening nap.

Maybe it’s work related; you work awful hours.  Or maybe it’s an unrelenting illness you battle daily or because of the medication.  Or maybe, just maybe, you’re left alone to tackle your corner of the world and you run on fragments of sleep and doses of caffeine so massive even a polar bear would get the jitters.

Whatever the cause, brain fog can be like pulling a tight, wool hat down over your face and walking around in a state of half-air, half-light.  Really, half YOU.  You can’t focus, can’t see straight, can’t remember what you just did or what you need to get done, and you feel drained on the inside of your brain somewhere.  Oh, and don’t forget to strap a miniature, yet just as hefty, sumo wrestler to each of your legs so you can get the full physical effect of your exhaustion every time you take a step.

It seems I lugged my sumo wrestlers around nearly all last week.  I know they like to jump on my feet and plop right down for a ride when I don’t eat right.  But I found out they also insist on tagging along when I switch to eating healthy foods too.  I started on a journey awhile back to take better care of my body (see the post, A New Journey) and getting my body acclimated to healthy foods was like sending my brain off on a cruise to the land of la-la where the fog hovered for days and the sumo wrestlers invited their friends to join in for a piggy back ride.

But here’s a thought:  God made our brains so of course He understands brain fog.  He understands exhaustion.  He really does.  And He makes a way through the fog and the weariness to get to us.  And He also knows how to peel off those sumo boys sitting on our feet.  It’s called:  R-E-S-T.

Wait a minute, did I just write that?  Are we actually supposed to rest when we don’t feel mentally “all there” or physically drained?

You bet we are.  I’m not saying you pull the school bus over and tell the kids to walk the rest of the way to school because you need a five minute power nap.  What I am saying is go easy on yourself and find time, no MAKE time, to rest.  Ask for help.  Tell so-and-so “NO” that you can’t do this-or-that today.  And don’t you dare feel guilty, my friend.

We all need moments of rest.

Even Jesus rested.  Do you remember He was sleeping in the boat during the storm before He was awakened to calm it?  (Matthew 8:23.)

But perhaps you have a house full of tornadic toddlers and a stack of laundry up to the ceiling fan and the idea of rest is as foreign to you as a moon rock, and actually, when you think about it, you’d like to tell me a thing or two just for bringing it up.  Wait!  I’m on your side.  And more importantly, God is on your side.  So talk to Him.  Pray.  (And I’ll be praying for you too.  See, I told you I’m on your side.)

That’s right.  Pray and ask God for help.  Right there while you’re driving home on fumes (not talking about the gas either) or mashing the potatoes or scrubbing the dishes.  Go ahead and cry in the sink of dirty dishes and let God hear how tired you are, how you want your mind back, your energy back.  Guess what?  He already knows.  He would never burst into your life and try to take over, but He will come when you call and sometimes in surprising ways.  Maybe a neighbor will stop by with a slow-cooker full of sloppy joes and an offer to babysit for the afternoon.  Ah, glorious naptime.

And just so you know, slowing down or resting is not a waste of time; something to rush out the door like an unwanted guest who will only embarrass you if your friends stop by.

Do you think receiving a blessing from God is a waste of time?  Well, if you don’t take care of YOU, why would He give you another blessing you might choose to ignore?

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NIV.)

Still Eating Sand?

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Have you ever been excited about something new? Ah yes, that new car smell comes to mind.  Or maybe a new job has your mind spinning and pumping with adrenaline.  Or perhaps something like a new hairstyle and a new pair of boots has you grinning a little bit more and walking a bit taller.  “New” does not always mean “stuff.”  In fact, I like it more when “new” is from God:  a new approach to someone who’s grumpy, a new and exciting task we never thought we could accomplish, a new door we never noticed.

So what’s our part in “new” when God’s at work? Wait and pray.  Watch and be excited.  (This is coming from God…it could be anything!)  And be willing to accept change.

Wait a minute. Change?  What if we don’t want to change?  What if we like things nice and comfy and predictable?   Do we really have to change?

If you want something new, yes, you need to be willing to change. I need to be willing to change too.

I mean, I used to eat mud pies and crunch on a little sand from time to time in our sandbox in the backyard when I was a little girl, BUT thankfully God lifted me up, wiped the mud and sand from my face, and guided me through years of changing from that little girl into a woman who wants to make Him smile; my heart set on Him and my eyes fixed on the horizon for whatever He doesn’t want me to miss.

Let me put it this way, you only have two hands. You can either hold a mud pie in one hand and clutch a handful of sand in the other OR you can drop them both and pick up the “new” God has for you, the “new” He has specifically designed for you at this very moment in your life.

If you’re trusting God and not running away from change and His “new” for you like it’s something dreadful lurking in the shadows, it may possibly emerge as one of the biggest surprises and blessings of your life. So don’t run away.  Just sit tight and wait on God to introduce you to this change, this “new” He has for you.  You don’t want to miss it.

I’m sure it will be a whole lot better than sitting in the sandbox eating sand.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”  (Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV.)