Monthly Archives: November 2022

Memories of Daddy: Life’s Inconveniences

Life can come with a lot of little inconveniences. Especially for a person such as myself who loves routine, order, and expected outcomes. Inconveniences are not welcome here. It’s painful to admit.


One of these inconveniences that seems to bother some folks (although shockingly, not me!) is the turn-around issue. Your home or business is located in just the right spot that a lot of people like to use your drive to turn around. And you don’t like it. For whatever reason. You know who you are. While it’s not something that particularly bothers me, I understand the feeling behind it: This is my drive, don’t use it for your purposes. (For me that reads: This is my schedule, don’t interfere with it for your purposes. So I get it.) I pass by a local business frequently on my mom taxi routes that has a bright yellow sign that reads: “NO turn arounds, PLEASE.” Well, at least they said please, right? But something about this sign, to me, reads, “you’ve made a mistake or had an emergency, but please don’t help yourself, in your time of need, to our driveway.”

This brought to mind a different approach to life that my dear daddy held. We lived in exactly one of these locations where I grew up. Ours was the first driveway on the first road for several miles on a stretch of local highway. We got a lot of turn arounds, among other weird stops (potty breaks, for real though! and people hiding from police, even! These folks did more than just pull in and turn around… They drove all the way down the drive to the outbuildings sometimes!) My dad never seemed too bothered by the turn-arounds (though I’m sure he wasn’t thrilled with the law violators trying to hide out). Oh, he wanted to have a sign made alright. But not a sign that said no turn arounds. No, he wanted a sign that read, “Jesus is Lord.” He figured if he had a chance to catch their attention even for a moment as they pulled in to turn around, he wanted to let them know something important and true.


What a great perspective! How often do I use life’s interruptions and inconveniences as an opportunity to help others find the truth of Jesus? More often I’m embodying the “no turn arounds” attitude, with my feathers all in a dither over the interruption. Your mistake, your emergency, your needs, they’re not welcome in my busy schedule. What if, instead, my response reflected Jesus’ lordship and love? What if interruptions and inconveniences were welcomed as opportunities to love others with the love of Jesus?


As I remember my dad this year, I want to remember that life’s inconveniences can be seen as opportunities to bless others and serve the Lord. I’m sure he didn’t always do this perfectly (I got my type A personality from him), but he was a lover of Jesus and people above all else.  One dear friend said of him at his funeral that, as he aged, he mellowed, and instead of becoming more entrenched in his Tom-isms, (as we all can do as we age, entrenching in our stuck ways) he grew to look more and more like Jesus instead. I pray this is true of me as well. As I meet interruptions and inconveniences, I pray that people see Jesus in my responses. If I have to choose between the two signs, I hope my life reflects a sign that says “Jesus is Lord” rather than the ”no turn-arounds” sign. Life is a gift. Which sign will you embody with yours?


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The Blinding Rain

Early this year I was caught driving in a rainstorm. I had a premonition, if such things exist, that it would be a doozy as the clouds rolled in. I’ve only seen clouds like that a few times in my nearly 40 years. (YIKES!)  Why, you ask, did I go out if I knew a bad storm was on the way? It was time to pick my children up from school. And I thought I could beat it. Foolishness. I’ve driven for over 20 years, in a lot of bad weather. I mean, I live in Ohio! I got my learner’s permit (as it was called back in the day) in the middle of January and drove in snow in my first few weeks behind the wheel. Whatever was coming in that storm, I knew I could handle it. HA!

Never before have I experienced a torrential rain so heavy that it was literally blinding. As it first started to pour, I thought I should decrease my vehicle speed so as to see better and increase my wiper speed to move the water faster. Well, I did that, and it didn’t help much. So I slowed down even more. Now, keep in mind, this is a road I drive multiple times a day every day on the Mom Taxi service route. I know it WELL. You know the kind that you can drive in your sleep because it’s so familiar. But this day, the blinding rain was just that, blinding. I had literally no idea where I was on the road. I was waiting for a funnel cloud to descend at any moment and suck my van to the sky. I was shaking and terrified.


While I couldn’t see the road in front of me, I knew that to stop in the road would be equally dangerous, because anyone coming down the road behind me would not be able to see my white van. So I crept forward what felt like an inch at a time, looking for a place to pull off. Ahead loomed a shadow. Was it a barn or a tornado? I wasn’t sure, but I took a chance and pulled off, feeling certain I was driving straight into the ditch. Thank the Lord it was a driveway. I pulled closer to the shadow, a barn (not tornado!), and found the cover of some trees.

And I waited.


As the storm subsided and my shaking began to settle, I called my husband to let him know I was alright and to get back on the road. (And he told me about the baseball sized hail that had been falling at our house!) What an experience!


When I drive the road to school now, months after this experience, I can still remember it so clearly, and I still notice the barn that led me to the safety of a driveway in the blinding rain. But what struck me about this whole experience was the lesson on waiting. Sometimes, try as we may, we cannot see the way forward in life. We have the premonition that a bad storm of life is rolling our way, and before long, we can’t see straight through all the turmoil of that storm. Perhaps our circumstances are confusing, our emotions are blinding us, the choices are immobilizing.


As we considered cancer treatment options with my mom this summer, many of those factors – circumstances, emotions, choices – left us struggling to see the way forward. I loved my mom’s posture of faith: “I will wait until God shows me what to do. He has always been faithful. I know he will show me. Until then, I will wait.” Her faith has been an example to me, and because of her example I feel more confident when I choose to wait on the Lord instead of rushing ahead because I like action and forward movement.


Sometimes waiting out the storm of life – circumstances and emotions – is truly our best option. We can trust that God is still leading us even when we feel like we are blinded to the way forward. If we can’t see the next move (or the next inch of the road!) then perhaps the best choice is to simply wait, wait until he illuminates our next steps. Find a place of refuge, and simply wait on him.


For those of us who like action and forward motion, this can be difficult. But Scripture has many references to waiting on the Lord.


Psalm 27:14 says: “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”


Lamentations 3:25 says: “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.”


Psalm 130: 5-6 says: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.”


Exodus 14:14 says: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”


Isaiah 64:4 says: “From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.”


If you find yourself blinded to the way forward right now, take some time to wait on the Lord and trust that he will show you the way forward. He always has before. And when you feel his direction, step out in confidence and faith, knowing that you’re not leading from your own will, but you’re following the One on whom you waited patiently. And all these things said about Him in these verses above will be true in your circumstances: The Lord will be good to you. The Lord will fight for you. The Lord will act on your behalf. His Word will bring you hope. Your heart will find courage. It’s ok to wait until you hear from him.

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But I Can’t

Two of my least favorite words in the English language are “I can’t.”


Of course it is disappointing to hear these words when you’re asking someone if they can get together with you or help you with something. But what I’m talking more about is when they are spoken in a self-limiting way. My kids say this all the time when they are facing something difficult. “I can’t understand this math homework.” Or “I can’t fix this toy” or “I can’t complete this chore.” As we grow older, the challenges become more difficult: “I can’t work out the solution to this parenting problem.” “I can’t improve my health.” “I can’t make this marriage work.” “I can’t find a job.” “I can’t lose this weight.” This list goes on and on. But I wish we would strike those words from our vocabulary.


As believers in Jesus, we serve a limitless God. With him, there literally is not “can’t.” So why do we limit ourselves or focus on our deficiencies or our lack when we are invited to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in us? Yes, some things are really difficult. But when we confess “I can’t” in a self-limiting way we are usually selling ourselves short.

Years ago I volunteered at a wonderful Christian camp called Cross Training Camp. Some of my favorite relationships were born there, and certainly my love of children’s ministry. On this campground, there was an obstacle course. It was somewhat infamous I think among the younger campers who were new to the program. The Obstacle Course. Dun-dun-dun! It had some challenges for sure, like a giant cargo net some 15 feet tall that had to be climbed, a zip line which crossed a creek from one steep bank to another, and of course, the WALL. The whole course concluded with a 10 foot wall that had to be climbed, but there were no handholds.

The cargo net

Often my role at camp was not as a squad leader but as a leader who supported the squad leaders and their squads. So when my squad leaders were first running the course with their groups, I’d head down with them to help support them through the obstacles. I’ll never forget one camper, 8 years old, Ashley. First year camper. She was totally overwhelmed by the obstacles. And so I took her for a walk. I really had no idea how to talk her through her fears. But I believe God spoke up when I asked her to not focus on “I can’t.” Rather, to spend the week seeing what might be possible for her, to focus instead on what “I can” do. It was like her brain flipped a switch mentally when she started to wonder what she was capable of instead of limiting herself. And of course by the end of the week, so was conquering those obstacles with the best of them. I’m quite sure I had tears in my eyes when Ashley popped over the wall. It was a beautiful moment.

I saw a lot of campers over the years do things that they never thought were possible when they started their week at CTC. Those years formed a valuable mindset for me to never limit myself as I met challenges, to persevere and to never give up. This mindset has been so important as I’ve faced the difficulties of special needs parenting, among the other challenges that adult life has brought my way. Let’s not focus on what we can’t do. Let’s just explore what we can do and see what happens.

Look how cute she is in her kayak! Little Ashley!

Our mindset is vitally important in the way we tackle life’s obstacles. Are we focused on what we lack? On our limitations? Or are we focused on what we may be able to do if we try? When I get tempted to fall into “I can’t” thinking, I remind myself of the words in Romans 8:11 “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you.” Yes, we are still limited by time, space, and our human bodies, but we don’t need to place limitations on ourselves when we’re up against an obstacle in life, because the Spirit of God, who raised Jesus to life, lives. in. us. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Paul asks later in the same chapter of Romans (v 31). When we are walking in the good works he prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:10), then we don’t need to think, I can’t make time for that, I can’t do that, I can’t start that, I can’t lead that, I can’t parent through that, I can’t overcome that. 2 Peter 1:3 tells us “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” Everything we need. It’s right there.

[Caveat: This is not a post against boundaries. I have firm boundaries in my life to protect my rest, my peace, and my sanity. This is not a “say yes to everything” post. Our human limitations are real, and we need to obey God’s mandate that we take time for rest in our lives. We say yes only to what He is asking us to do, the best yes. It’s ok to say no to things that are outside the scope of what he has called us to. It’s ok to say no when our lives and bodies need a break. I am all about boundaries and rest.]  

What I am encouraging you to do is to avoid limiting yourself when you face a challenge. Maybe on your own you can’t, but you never know what you might be able to accomplish if you try with God’s help and his limitless power behind you. The next time you find yourself up against a wall in life, remember that God’s limitless Spirit lives in you, and you are equipped to accomplish all that he has called you to in Christ Jesus.

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Last week we joined the droves of people heading out for our annual candy collection on Halloween. The kids counted down for days until Trick or Treat finally arrived. This year we had a pilgrim, a hunter, and a ballerina.

We actually had good weather this year, which really brought out the crowds. We started out on the city block where we used to live, and at first there weren’t that many people walking the sidewalks with us. But as we headed for our second block, the crowds really ticked up. Our youngest can be a bit clingy in a crowd, so I was pleasantly surprised that she was running up ahead of us with her brother and sister. After retrieving her candy from each porch, she would turn around and make eye contact with me, making sure she knew exactly where I was. After we entered one particularly crowded area, I could see her scanning the crowd, searching faces for mine. There was just enough time looking that I thought she might start to cry. But I had my eye on her the whole time. I waved and called her name. When she spotted me, relief visibly washed over her face, and she said, “There you are!”  

I responded, “You may have lost sight of me, but I never lost sight of you.”  

Something resonated in my spirit when I said that…. How many times have we lost sight of the Lord and where he’s working, or what he’s doing. And yet, he has never lost sight of us. Or maybe we have strayed away from him, we have wandered so far that he’s no longer even in our vision. But he’s never lost sight of us.  He is the God who sees you.  

This name for the Lord comes from an unlikely female character in the Bible. Hagar, the female servant to Sarai, wife of Abram, became pregnant by Abram at Sarai’s request, but then an embittered Sarai drove Hagar away, to the point where she is running literally out into the desert. Who knows where she thought she was going – perhaps it was an “anywhere but here” type of scenario for Hagar. She’s hiding out by a spring when the angel of the Lord finds her, and he makes her a promise that everything is going to be alright with her son who will be called Ishmael. Hagar responds, “You are the God who sees me.” (Gen 16) I love this! In the middle of her running, her hiding, in the middle of her desert place, Hagar knows she is seen by God. No matter where we’re running or hiding or how far we’ve gone, God still sees us.  The words of Psalm 139 remind us of this truth as well:  

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

There is no place you can be that is so far away that God loses sight of you. No matter if your life feels like a wasteland, or a chaotic crowd, God has his eye on you. Just like I had my loving, protective eye on my daughter at trick or treat, God has his loving eye on each of his children. He knows your name, and he’s calling out to you. When you turn around, he will be faithful to be there. Today if you feel like you’re lost in a crowd or hidden in a desert, I encourage you to pray a prayer that I have prayed many times: “God, I need to know that you see me today.” God has never failed to answer this prayer for me when I pray it. I believe he loves showing us not only that he sees us, but how he sees us. You are not lost or hidden from the eyes of your loving Father. I pray that you feel seen today by the God of Hagar, the God who sees.

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