Taking the Next Step

Taking the Next Step

Sometimes life takes an unexpected turn that sends us reeling, wondering how to take the next step. That’s what happened last week when we found out our house sale was not going to happen. After all the planning we had set in motion, we found ourselves back at square one, not sure what to do next. For several days I felt like I was just wandering aimlessly around the house, in a total fog. Yes, I was doing the necessary things to keep the household running, but beyond that, I had no sense of direction.

What can we do when life throws us a curve ball like that? Yes, we pray. We dig into God’s Word. We keep trusting Him. Those spiritual practices must be our anchors. We draw closer to God in the hard times than the easy ones, certainly. But what do we do practically to keep moving forward in the day to day? How do we come out of that fog and regain a sense of direction?

For me, I think I need to go back to the goals I made at the beginning of the year. I need to remember the fundamental vision I have for my relationships, my work, and my personal well-being. My situation may change, but the basic desires of my heart are the same. I want to grow in and through trials, and I need to remember that good growth happens slowly, one tiny step at a time. Even though I can’t see very far down the road, I can see far enough to take the next small step, to do the next right thing.

Drink an extra glass of water.

Do a load of laundry.

Read a book or two to my daughter.

Play a board game with my son.

Make extra time for my husband in the evening.

Set up some time out with a friend next week.

Create that new webpage I’ve been planning.

Finish that spiritual growth book I’ve been reading.

These are relatively small things. But they add up to growth. They get me moving in the right direction toward my goals. I have to keep just putting one foot in front of the other, trusting God to lay the path to bigger things before me while being faithful in the small ones.

What do you do when life throws you for a loop? How do you take the next step forward in faith? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. I try to reply to every one!

Fullness of Joy – New Scripture Printable – Psalm 16:11

Psalm 16:11 Printable

When I created this Psalm 16 printable I did not expect to be posting it on the same day that our family received some bad news about the pending sale of our house in Illinois. Some problems came up unexpectedly, and now we are uncertain about what is going to happen next. Everything is completely up in the air and out of our control. To say today has been difficult would be an understatement.

How timely, then, that our pastor’s sermon Sunday was all about giving God praise and focussing on His attributes in our prayers rather than on our problems. So all evening I have been praying and meditating on some of my favorite Psalms, trying to fill my mind with His truth in place of all my worries. When I considered what I wanted to blog about tonight, I saw this printable waiting to be posted. What better time than now?

Psalm 16:11 speaks to the guidance and sufficiency of the Lord. Even in the midst of difficult physical circumstances, He lavishes us with every spiritual blessing. I look around at my situation and feel like everything is fall apart at the seams. But if I look at my good Father, I am reminded that He is fully in control and will take care of me. He can fill me with joy and abundance by His Spirit, even if I have nothing on earth. I just have to choose to look to Him, not at my temporary troubles. Admittedly, that is easier said than done! (Printing this Scripture print, however is as simple as this: click on the image above to download the PDF and print it out.)

May this Scripture printable be an encouragement to you as it has been to me!

Lessons from Fasting: Letting Go

As I mentioned in my post on my personal goals for 2018, I am participating in a 40 Day Sugar Fast hosted by Wendy Speake. When I started this fast, I really did just want to get free of my sugar addiction. I know that sugar is not good for me, in more than just a physical sense. I can tell that it affects my mind and emotions as well. I have gone without sweeteners before when doing Whole30, but whenever the diet period is over, I always creep back into my old habits. This year I decided I had finally had enough of feeling enslaved to my cravings for cookies or candy, and this fast seemed to be the perfect opportunity to do just that.

What I did not realize was that through Wendy and the other fasting group leaders, the Lord was going to ask for more than just my sugar during these 40 days. Right from the start, I realized that I had two choices. I could go along day by day using will power to turn down sweet foods and hope that at the end of the 40 days I’d have replaced my sweet tooth with a taste for more healthy options. Or, I could actually treat this fast as a spiritual experience and seek the Lord at those times when I usually would have gone to the cupboard for a sugary snack, which was what Wendy suggested.

At first, I admit, I was reluctant to try the second option. Honestly, I was afraid of what God might have to say to me in those quiet moments. I was afraid of being uncomfortable, of feeling hungry. I did not want to admit, even to myself, that I had been looking to food for comfort and happiness instead of going to God for those things. Yikes. Finally, however, I pushed past all those fears and decided to let God speak to my heart during this time.

The first few days after that decision, everything still seemed very much the same. But yesterday, I felt a heavy weight on my heart. I knew that the Lord was asking me to give Him than my sugar addiction, and I didn’t want to hear that. All day long I was irritable and moody. When my husband got home from work, I told him how I was feeling, and he told me to take some time to myself after dinner. I went to my room and sat there with my Bible and journal and started the hard work of asking God what it was He wanted me to let go of besides my comfort foods.

Immediately, an image came to my mind of a toddler holding onto a sharp and dangerous knife. She thought it was pretty and looked like a fun toy, so she grabbed it and held on with all her might. But then her father came and asked her to let it go. He knew it was going to hurt her if she didn’t. He gently but firmly took her wrist in his hand, and the toddler started kicking and screaming because she didn’t want him to take her shiny toy. Her father told her he had something much better for her if she would only give him the knife. But she didn’t want to. She didn’t see anything in his other hand. She wasn’t sure if she could trust him.

That toddler was me.

I think the Lord gave me that image as an answer to a prayer I prayed earlier on in the fast, a prayer for a vision of what He wanted to do in my heart and life. I know that there are some idols I have been holding onto, some things that I have been thinking were good for me, that my Heavenly Father wants me to let go of. He wants to give me something better. I just have to trust Him, even though I don’t see how He is going to do it.

I know this is just the beginning of the work that God has started in my heart. I hope to write more as the fast progresses. I am looking forward to seeing how my faith increases and how He breaks through some strongholds in my life. I have some big prayers. But I have an even bigger God!

How about you? Have you ever had a time when God asked you to let go of something so He could give you something better? I’d love to hear your story in the comments!

Psalm 121: Help for Your Journey (and a FREE Printable!)

On Sunday, the pastor at our temporary church home taught from Psalm 121. This psalm has long been one of my favorites, and each time I read it, I am reminded of the Lord’s protection. If you are not familiar with Psalm 121, it starts out like this:

I lift up my eyes to the hills.

From where does my help come?

My help comes from the Lord,

who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1-2

This psalm is part of a group of psalms known as the Songs of Ascent, meaning that they were sung on the journey up to the mountain city of Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. I really love the opening verses so much as they encourage me to look to the Lord for my help and remind me that my Helper is the very One who created the universe! But on Sunday the verse that actually struck me the most was the final verse:

The Lord will keep

your going out and your coming in

from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 121:8

When I read these verses this week it was as if the Lord were speaking to me directly, saying, “I know you are worried about this whole moving process. But don’t fear or fret, my child. I have this all planned out and will guard your going out of this place and you coming into the next in my perfect time. You are held in my hands. Be at peace.” It was just what I needed to hear at that moment. No matter how many times we have read a passage of Scripture, it can impress us with new insights because God’s Word is living and active.

Because of this truth, it is so valuable for us to spend time meditating on Scripture and letting it sink deep into our hearts and minds. In light of this, I wanted to create a tool to help us meditate on Psalm 121 together, so I came up with this little coloring page with the entire chapter centered on it. This printable is available FREE for my blog subscribers as a little thank you for joining me on this journey! Subscribe below if you have not already, and you will be sent a password for my new Resource Library. Then you can download the PDF and print as you wish. I encourage you to read and meditate on the psalm as you color the floral motifs, then display it somewhere where you will see it on a daily basis and be reminded Who is your Help and Keeper!




Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.

Open Hands: Releasing Control of What Is Not My Own

We had a house showing today. I am not sure how many we have had now, but every time it stresses me out so much. Today was no different. I cleaned most everything yesterday because I knew we would be out of the house this morning for prior commitments and would only have time and energy for vacuuming and final tidying in the afternoon. Still, the whole day I was on edge. I snapped at the kids for stupid little things. I felt discouraged and frustrated. I complained to God about how long this process is taking and grumbled about all the hard things that have happened to us during our time here. When it was finally time to clean up before leaving the house for the showing, I was super tense, worrying that everything might not be just perfect enough and that the people coming would not be impressed and not want to buy the house. And it would be my fault for not cleaning enough, for not taking good enough care of the house or the yard.

That is when it hit me. I was taking sole responsibility for selling this house upon myself. Forget the fact that God gave my husband his new job without any help from me. Forget the fact that He has provided everything we have needed up to this point, again without my help. Sure, I keep praying for Him to help us sell and move and all. But then when it is time for me trust Him to work, I take it all on myself. And that makes me a very nasty person to be around. And I am pretty sure it doesn’t do a single lick of good for the house, actually! That stung, to realize that I have been so faithless and allowing that worry to control me to the point of even taking it out on my kids.

But even in the midst of conviction, I felt a sense of relief. I do not have to sell this house. I do not have to clean every speck of dust off the floor in order for God to bring us a buyer. I do not have to stress about the house having the perfect lighting and temperature set for a showing. Those things might help, but God does not need me to do them in order to sell this house. It is not ours anyway, not really. He has given us at a resource for a time, and now we are releasing it fully back to Him to use for a different purpose. What if I let go completely and let Him work as only He can? Yes, I do still have to do my job. But I don’t have to hold tightly to control every detail. I do not have to sacrifice my relationship with my children over this. I can hold loosely to all things because my Father is caring for me.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

1 Peter 5:6-7

So from this point forward, I am making an effort to release control of the sale of this house and all the details that go with that. I am going to prioritize spending quality time with my family, making heart connections and memories with my children. I am committing to open my hands to release that which is not mine to control and to accept that which God has already given me. And I am thankful that tomorrow is a fresh new day. . . And nobody is coming to look at the house, so I will not be cleaning. Well, maybe I will at least do the dishes. 😉

This post is part of the Grace & Truth link-up at Arabahjoy.com.

Holding Pattern: Lessons learned in the waiting

My husband has been fascinated with aviation since he was a small boy. He has always wanted to fly some kind of aircraft, and he has plans to eventually get his Sport Pilot license and build his own light sport airplane. Due to this interest, we have watched a lot of videos about flying, including a series of docu-dramas about plane crashes and what caused them. One of the most memorable of these shows, for me, at least, was one about an airplane that got stuck in a holding pattern outside a busy airport and ran out of fuel before it was able to safely land. Talk about scary! Thankfully, that kind of accident is extremely rare, and flying is actually safer than getting in your car and driving down the highway.

Even so, anyone who has ever been near the end of a long flight and heard the pilot announce that your flight was being placed in a holding pattern, knows how frustrating that situation is. You have already been waiting a long time to get to your destination, cramped into a tight space in an uncomfortable position, and you just want to get landed and be there already. And if you have a connecting flight to catch shortly after landing, your mind starts racing trying to figure out how in the world you will ever make it in time!

For our family this time of transition has felt a lot like being in a holding pattern. We know our destination, and we are so ready to land and stretch our legs, but we can’t just yet. Some days it feels really frustrating. Some days we are worried that our fuel level is getting too low. And some days storms threaten to confuse us and steer us off course. But like a pilot who has been well-trained to rely on his instruments and trust the air-traffic controller to guide him in to a safe landing, we are having to trust the Lord’s timing and keep our focus on His Word.

Did you know that in stormy or cloudy weather, a pilot can completely lose his sense of direction, even confusing which way is up or down? Without his instrument panel to tell him his altitude and attitude, a pilot could steer the aircraft right into a tailspin or lift the nose too high and cause the plane to stall. If he cannot see the land and the sky, he has to rely on those instrument readings fully, even if his body or brain tell him something different. The same is true for us when we get our eyes off of Christ and His Word. Looking at our situation or at the world can blur our spirtuak vision so much that we do not know which way is up. We lose our spirtual sense of direction. So when times are dark and stormy, we must, more than ever, keep our eyes on Jesus and stay in the Scriptures daily. Our very lives depend on it.

And just as the air traffic controller has a view of all the craft in his airspace, when the pilot can only see what is directly ahead a short distance, God has a wide view of our situation. He knows if something is in the way that needs to move before we can reach the nest step on our journey, so He holds us back just a little longer for our safety. We might be tempted to step out on our own because we can’t see far enough ahead, but we must not. If we will wait on His timing, our good, good Father will safely guide us to our destination at just the right time, in just the right way. And it will be so much better than if we had tried to do things our own way.

If you are in the middle of a storm, a time of testing, or a long holding pattern, I encourage you to get in God’s Word, to trust His timing and His ways and not become discouraged. He will bring you safely home!

A Long Goodbye

“Do you have everything packed yet?”

“When do you all move, exactly?”

These two questions are ones I have heard over and over recently, and I never know quite how to answer them. You see, we are in the midst of a move that has been a long time coming, and we still do not know just when we will all actually be in a new place.

One day my husband and I had a conversation in which he told me that he sensed the Lord telling him it was time to prepare for change. He saw signs of things in his full-time job that did not bode well, and he started scanning job listings in his field and updating his resume. We began decluttering the house, fixing little things here and there, and even packing a few boxes of books and decor that were not needed for a while. And we waited. We knew the Lord had told us to get ready to move, but we had no idea where or when.

That was over 18 months ago.

We had already been in a period of transition already for 1 1/2 years before that due to leaving our previous church where my husband had been the music pastor for 6 years. We visited various churches in the area for a while, then stayed in a couple others for short amounts of time to do interim music ministry and rest. Finally, he started a part-time music position in a struggling church south of where we live, and we tried to settle in there, all the while knowing what God was telling us. You won’t be here long, child. 

But how long is not long on God’s time table, anyway? Usually, it is a bit longer than we would like, isn’t it?

So we kept cleaning things and fixing things and packing things and tossing things we didn’t need. Paul kept applying for jobs and sending out resumes and working overtime. Nothing changed, but we trusted that when the time was right, God would move us right from one job to the other. But that was not quite the way everything worked out. Instead, 6 months ago, just a few days before Christmas, my husband came home without a full time job. Things had come to head at his workplace, and he decided it was time to resign. Without another job on the horizon, the weeks and months after that were a little stressful and sometimes discouraging. Money was tight, but, thankfully, we had savings and his income from the church. He was also blessed to get a part time job at the local Walmart. The hardest part was knowing that God had told us to prepare for something else,  and not knowing what or when that something else would ever happen.

But, as often happens, God provided in a way that we did not expect, and now we know, at least, the area to which we will move and what my husband will be doing! But there are still unknowns, like how long it will take to sell our house here, and whether or not we will get the rental we want when we do! But we are trusting God to take us through these uncertainties just as He has over the last 3 years!

So, are we packed? Well, yes, as much as we can be until we have a moving date!

And when will we move? Only the Lord knows that! But hopefully it will be soon, and we will be able to finish saying goodbye to Southern Illinois and start saying Hello to Middle Tennessee!