The days I’m an expensive date.

Why would I not trust Him? If my God is the One who splits seas and lays out bread – if that’s the God who has me in His hands – why would I worry?

taco

(Follow @gracefortheroadblog on Instagram)

*****

“You don’t have to buy … “

That’s all I got out before she cut me off.

“What you ordered is $3. You’re a cheap date,” my friend said with a grin.

On pretty much anybody’s scale, that’s a beautiful price, the American dream served up in two soft taco shells. I felt like somehow I — or she — had found a glitch in the matrix, like we’d won at the free market. I loved this lunch already.

Not to mention that my friend is a great storyteller … also wise.

As we sat down, I bowed my head over that bargain wonder and thanked God for the way He gives us what we need every day … wisdom from others, and tasty chicken tacos with easy-to-scrape-off iceberg lettuce.

“You know you could’ve asked them to leave that off, right?” she asked with another grin.

Yeah, I did.

In the moment though I just didn’t want to be high maintenance. I was grateful for her hospitality. Sorry about that mound of reject lettuce on the tray …

We talked about work, friends, family. We talked about dogs. And a little while later, after she told me about how her daughter’s basset hound chewed up all the door stoppers in her house, she asked me how she could pray for me.

And I thought for a minute. What do I need prayer for the most?

I need to know what to do next.

Over the past seven years, life has been quite the nail biter of a roller coaster at times. It’s been great. It’s had high highs. But it’s had a lot of unexpected twists. Move overseas, love it, lose the visa and come home. Move overseas again planning to stay for years or even decades, can’t get a visa, come home nine months later to write a book instead.

I was very much okay with the twists, though there were a lot of emotions with pretty much every one. But all of a sudden, I’d hit another one of those clearings where the path disappeared and I pulled up from running to catch my breath and look around. The book is on the shelves … and so is my passport.

Where from here?

I don’t know.

“I’m okay with not knowing what to do past tomorrow,” I told my friend. “I don’t mind taking it one day at a time. I just need to know if I need to just keep doing what I’m doing, or if I need to be making some different long-term plans. Do I need to start looking for something else?”

Passion-related questions … like where does God want me to invest my life? And in whom?

Adult-related questions … like several part-time jobs, or one full-time job? Can I support myself writing? And what do I do to keep medical insurance?

She leaned forward in her chair and smiled.

“Are you really okay with not knowing?”

I took a deep breath and let it out. And I smiled too.

Sometimes … sometimes no. Sometimes my eyes burn and my eyelids scratch as I lay in bed wondering if I’m doing a good job of living in the tension of “I trust Your provision today, because You’ve been faithful to provide, and tomorrow I’ll get up and do it all over again” and making good long-term decisions for the future.

Not over-planning. But also not under-planning.

It’s a beautiful tension. But not always easy.

I had one of those moments of struggle earlier this week. I kept waking up, and finally I rolled over and looked at my phone. 5 a.m. I got up, turned on a lamp and went to the couch to read.

The story that morning was of the Israelites waking up to manna on the ground for the very first time. God had told Moses that He was about to rain bread down on them, and they were supposed to go outside and gather just enough of it for that day. They weren’t supposed to save any for tomorrow. They were supposed to trust what He said, that the next day there would be enough all over again.

“But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank.”

Not the best.

They also went out on the Sabbath day and tried to gather it when God had told them not to – He was going to provide for them in other ways instead on that day.

And God was irritated.

I mean, I can’t blame Him.

Just two seconds ago, He epically rescued them from slavery, parted the Red Sea so they could escape their enemies, and then He promised He’d take care of them, love them, lead them and never leave. They’d just been singing about it with tambourines for more verses than an early ’90s Bon Jovi ballad. They’d seen who He was. They knew who He promised to be.

And then they complained about the way He’d chosen to provide for them and tried to take it into their own hands. They didn’t so much like the day-by-day thing.

“Do you ever get that fluttery feeling, that nervousness of having to trust when you can’t see what’s coming?” my friend asked.

Yes. Yes I do.

She had said that day that I was a cheap date … but she was wrong. On mornings like the one where I read about the manna with bloodshot eyes, I’m a pretty expensive date. I want it to happen my way, on my terms, to come gift-wrapped in a way that I like. I’m laying awake in the dark, begging God for answers or direction like a kid begs for a pony.

I want to know how this is going to play out.

I want it to be enough for leftovers for the next couple of days.

I want to be able to gather a Tupperware container with enough manna to last the year, if I’m being honest.

I don’t want to not know what’s coming and how it’s going to show up.

I think I’m entitled to more than I really need. I know how the Israelites felt.

Could God have given them food that lasted several days, several years? Sure He could’ve. But He didn’t.

He gave them what they really needed instead … and that was Himself, and the life lesson of how to look to Him to be what they need.

My friend Heather says that when we don’t know where the next thing is coming from, it can almost be a game to see how God will creatively come through, how He strengthens our faith when we trust when we don’t know what’s going to happen.

She says it makes our heart race … not freak out … when we cling to Him with trust and know He’s got us.

Over tacos that day, my friend said the same thing.

“I think whenever we choose trust over that fluttery feeling, it’s a gift to Him. I think He sees that as a gift.”

I think she’s right.

Because I’ve seen who He’s been to His people for centuries and centuries. Perfectly faithful. I’ve seen who He’s going to be when we finally get to live with Him one day. Perfectly worth it.

I’ve seen Him show up in my inbox, my mailbox, my mornings, my nights.

And as I look back, never once has He failed.

Why would I not trust Him? If my God is the One who splits seas and lays out bread – if that’s the God who has me in His hands – why would I worry?

Do adult decisions need to be made sometimes? Yes. But if I keep that fluttery feeling and everything else in my life – from family to friends to comfort to clothes – on the altar as a gift back to Him every single day, He’s not going to let me go astray. I don’t need to be up in the middle of the night worrying – He’s got that covered. I just need to keep my whole life on the table, look to Him to meet my needs, work, live, ask Him again to lead and provide in the way He wants to, and then go to sleep.

Today, I’m choosing trust. I’m going to look to Him. And we’ll see what happens.

It’s probably not going to happen like I think it will, or think it should. It could be very different. And it could come in very different timing.

But whatever it is … it will be even better for me than I could’ve ever planned for myself.

Like Heather said … it’s exciting to see what will happen when we’re fully placed in His loving hands.

*****

i dont wait anymore

 

“I Don’t Wait Anymore” the book, now at Barnes & Noble and other retailers. Check it out here.

It’s the story of shaking off broken dreams and expectations to follow God to something better.

You want in? I’d love it if you’d come along.

 

Spots.

He gave them what they needed. He made His glory known through their pain. And ultimately He delivered them in the way and timing He knew was best.

But never once did He miss a thing. 

 

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They found a spot on my dad’s lung a couple of weeks ago.

It was just a tiny spot, about the size of the piece of grit that fell out of my shoe Tuesday when Heather and I went for a walk. When I finally stopped and shook it out, it hit the pavement like lint, soundless and light. In the moments before it fell out into the sunshine, it had ground into my heel like an ice pick.

Heather laughed. I did, too.

Things like that can feel so big sometimes.

Dad’s spot had popped up on a routine scan, a little piece of grit, unknown and dark. We didn’t know how long it had been there. We didn’t know what it was.

And that was scary.

As I lay in bed one night, things rolling around in my mind, I rolled over on my side, pulled the covers over my head and curled my knees up to my chest.

And from my tiny dark spot, I whispered.

God, you see it, right?

That spot … you see it?

And you see me too?

Lately I feel like there have been a few things that have popped up, little dark spots that I don’t quite know how to handle. Things that make me uncomfortable. Things that I feel unequipped to deal with. Things I don’t love.

And I’ve curled up under the covers more than a few times, right into those spots, and whether I realized it or not, I thought it.

This spot’s outside God’s line of sight. It’s gotta be.

I know that’s not true. But subconsciously I’ve been treating some of them like that, and because of that they’ve been rubbing me raw, boring into my soul like ice picks in my running shoes.

It’s as if I think that spot is the one place where maybe He isn’t going to be who He says He is.

Or that maybe it’s the one place in my life where maybe He just won’t come through, that He just won’t be enough.

Or that maybe the spot where God brought me to save me is now the spot where He’s going to leave me to figure it out on my own.

Or that maybe I’m the only person to ever find myself here.

But it’s not a new problem.

When God’s people found themselves in Egypt, the place where God brought them by design to save them from dying in a famine, they trusted Him at first. But then later, they found themselves stuck, uncomfortable, hurt.

And they thought that spot where the salvation had been, the spot that now wasn’t super comfortable, might just be out of God’s sight.

But God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant … and God saw the people. And God knew.

He heard.

He remembered.

He saw.

He knew.

And He gave them what they needed. He made His glory known through their pain. And ultimately He delivered them in the way and timing He knew was best.

But never once did He miss a thing.

There’s no spot that escapes His reach, no zip code in which He’s not who He is. That goes for Dad’s spot, for my spot under the covers, for the places I feel like maybe my own inadequacies prevent God from being able to do what He intends to do.

He sees.

He knows.

He loves.

And He meets us even – especially – in those spots.

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(@gracefortheroadblog on Instagram)

*****

i dont wait anymore

 

It’s almost here, guys. What in the world. 

“Have you been waiting for life to turn out the way you expected?

… You’re not alone.”

“I Don’t Wait Anymore” the book, available here.

Defeated.

I can’t do this alone. That’s why Christmas happened.

It happened so that we can have hope, hope that fights for us. Hope that hinges on a victory that’s already been claimed. 

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That Santa, he was kind … and kind of plain spoken. And he wasn’t giving me much to work with.

“Tell me about a kid from sometime over the years who really made an impression on you.”

He thought about it for a minute.

“I remember one time a kid said if he didn’t get what he asked for, he was going to bring a knife with him next time he came to see Santa.”

I can’t print that, I thought. It’s kinda awesome, but I can’t print that.

I was interviewing Santa for a community newspaper here in town. In my non-coffee life, I’m a journalist. I spend a lot of time hearing people’s stories and retelling them.

People like Santa.

People like wrestlers.

A couple of weeks after Santa’s story I sat down on some bleacher seats across from three brothers, all key members of the high school wrestling team. They were kind. They were kind of plain spoken.

And I had a feeling that if they were provoked they could really do some damage.

“I know you fight hard when you compete. But do you ever fight each other?”

They all laughed … and nodded.

They don’t just fight. They break beds. They bust walls. They splinter furniture.

“It’s the worst when we fight each other. We know each other’s moves. We know each other’s weaknesses. So when we fight, we nearly kill each other every time.”

I’m no wrestler.

But I knew what they meant.

*****

I lay there in the bed, the weight in the room heavy and thick.

Like it could bust walls. Splinter furniture.

Kill me.

It feels like lately God has been doing a great work … an unspeakably great work, the kind that brings hope, the kind that pushes back the control of the darkness and sets us free to walk away.

It’s like I’ve heard chains popping around me. It hits me deep in the feels. It’s literally the best thing in the world.

It feels like Christmas.

But where light invaded, darkness came up swinging from a long winter’s nap. It’s like a fight got picked in the living room, the kind that goes from zero to gut-punch and hits you right where it hurts, like a brother who’s been watching your weak places since the day you were born and just waiting for the right opportunity to use them. It’s a well-studied enemy who knows what hurts. Darkness knows where you’re tired. It goes for those spots.

“God,” I whispered. “The darkness has no power here. No right to be here. You have so much more power. Please make it stop.”

As I lay there in the dark, heart pounding, it was one of those moments where the fight felt more real than it ever had, the transcendental more tangible than it ever had been. Like I could feel Jesus’ arms around me. But like I could see the glowing eyes of the enemy from inches away.

I had a lot of thoughts.

But one rose to the surface.

Thank God for Jesus. What if we didn’t know He won? What if we thought the outcome was still up in the air?

This week’s been a weak one. My Bible has stayed tucked in the same spot for days between the front seats of my car. I’ve let the radio take the time that Jesus and I usually talk while I drive. My back seat is an explosion of dirty clothes and gift wrap and coffee shop aprons, and it shows the state of my week.

Not quite together.

Can I life? Maybe. But I can’t brush up against an enemy who smells my exhaustion and knows when I haven’t looked into the eyes of Jesus this week and let the glow of victory fill me up. I can’t lean on the fact that He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world when I’m not firmly gripping His hand.

He’s given us the biggest gift we could ever want. Ever.

Himself.

The fact that He’s already fought for us and won.

I can’t win this. I’m defeated before the first punch gets thrown.

But as I lay there in the darkness, I found myself thanking Him that the enemy’s eyes were trained on my world that night. Seems like a weird thing to be thankful for. Of course I didn’t want it. I hated it. But it reminded me.

I can’t do this alone. That’s why Christmas happened.

It happened so that we can have hope, hope that fights for us. Hope that hinges on a victory that’s already been claimed.

Hope that started before the enemy ever opened his eyes for the first time. Hope that started long before an infant opened his eyes in a manger, too.

And hope that’s there every morning I open mine, every time I shut them at night and the darkness tries to close in.

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(@gracefortheroadblog on Instagram.)

Weak.

It feels heavy today.

I thought that as the fog piled up around me in the wee morning hours, clogging the headlight beams, tossing itself over my car like one of those dense blankets you throw over a fire to smother the flames.

And inside I felt a little bit smothered.

Life unleashed a lot this week.

And I wasn’t ready.

Do you ever have those days or weeks when you feel like in a breath you become the worst version of yourself, like one big walking weakness? At first, you’re okay. Got a lot going on, but holding it together.

And then out of the fog, Satan sucker-punches you.

And it’s like the stars that fly around people’s heads in the cartoons, like he’s out of the blue walked into your house under the cover of night and kicked open that box that holds all the stuff that you’d like to never see the light of day again — your deepest hurts, your deepest grief, the things you struggle with.

And he’s like that bully kid who doesn’t care how sacred that particular stuff is. He’s just dumping it all out like cheap toys to be played with, throwing them all over the floor, breaking them, messing with them, and you watch in horror, powerless as everything broken is horrifically on display.

That was my week this week.

And I spent all seven days on hands and knees crawling around, trying to pick it up as he just reached into the box and threw out more.

For the love, just make it stop.

But that’s just not how our enemy rolls … not once he has his crosshairs trained on you. He just goes harder. (I mean, just look at Job 1.)

This week was hardly like Job. But in one particular moment, after trying for days to catch up to Satan’s pace and overtake him, I cried mercy. I was in a conference, and the worship leaders started playing a song that yanks my heart back to a moment I’d love to never revisit again. What are the chances they’d play that. Right now. This week. Two friends saw it happen, and they reached over from both sides and grabbed my hands. I squeezed them like I was holding on for dear life.

I found myself wishing I’d worked a lot harder to keep a tighter squeeze on the lid of that box. To not leave my vulnerable spots wide open.

But as I squeezed their hands, I remembered that I’d released my grip on that box a while back, on purpose.

Why?

Because I can’t control it even if I try.

And because the pain itself isn’t the problem. Weakness itself isn’t the problem. Neither are the struggles.

It’s going to come out sometimes. It’s going to hurt sometimes. I’m going to wrestle sometimes. I’m going to ugly cry on friends kind enough to let me in the middle of a worship service, and I’m going to do it sometimes by myself in a bathroom stall, or my car, or in my bed at night.

It happens.

That song, for instance. It’s not the first time it’s been played. It’s played a thousand times (or ten thousand, one might say) in the past two and a half years since the day I sang it as the guys carried my friend Clare’s wicker casket down the aisle. Sometimes I’ve switched it off the radio. Sometimes I’ve been able to sing it. Others I’ve been able to just let myself cry and tell God how much it hurts.

The box gets opened.

But the difference is this — I don’t have to hit the mat when the punches come.

Because when I’m buried in God’s Word on a daily basis … when His truth is filling up the corners of my heart … and the box opens, I filter it through His truth. When I’m not going from strength to strength in the power of His presence and Word, I’m just Grace. Grace who means well and wants to hold it all together but who has a well of emotions that runs from Alabama clear through to China.

But because of Jesus … even that Grace can see her pain through the lens of His love and truth and greater purpose and in light of the highway to Zion that’s getting me to the place I want to be more than anywhere else.

When I’m weak, He’s strong.

But only when I saturate myself in His strength.

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One night, as tears ran down my face, I texted one of those hand-squeezing friends and told her how I much I hate it when weaknesses smother you.

And she said this: Sometimes I wonder if God lets our emotions overtake us to remind us that we can’t control everything. I don’t love it.

I don’t love it either.

But the fact is … it’s better for that box to get opened and remind me why it’s important I not try to life on my own. It’s better for it to drive me into Jesus. It’s better for it to end up in His hands than stay locked up in that box. It’s better for me to remember that it’s Him I want, and that He cares for me, and that all this is temporary.

And that grounds me. It hurts, yes. But hurt feels different when it’s grounded in His heart for me.

And that … that part I love.

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(@gracefortheroadblog on Instagram.)