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?

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*****

“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.

 

Sober.

I’m up early this morning. Extra early. The kind of early that hurts.

My eyes are full of sandpaper, but my mind is running all-out sprints, like it’s on an episode of Supermarket Sweep and trying to get to the diapers and “grind your own coffee” aisle faster than anyone else.

It’s like those moments in college when you wake up and on the way to the bathroom bump into a friend who never went to bed the night before. It feels like my mind’s been up drinking Mountain Dew and eating Whatchamacallits and writing Analysis of Lit papers all night, just waiting for morning to crack open the sky so the rest of the world would wake up and join it.

Not cool.

But it can’t be reasoned with. So I go ahead, get on up and make a cup of tea.

When I’m not exhausted, I love the early hours. Jesus is there. His Word is loud in the mornings when the house is quiet and my soul is quiet.

But it’s still hard to hear if my brain is causing a ruckus all its own.

I switch on the lamp and sink into the chair. I need this. I do every day, but especially today. I’m in a season of crazy. Work’s been so busy this month that carving out time to sit with Jesus has taken incredible effort and discipline. Some days, even with effort, it doesn’t happen. Some days it costs sleep when sleep is small and precious. Some weeks it means I’m sleeping next to an unfolded pile of clean laundry for nights on end.

But that laundry not getting folded doesn’t cause my soul to fray at the edges.

Not getting enough Jesus does.

So in that regard, I’m grateful I’m up early.

But even wide awake in the 4 a.m. silence, getting my soul to quiet down today is like wrestling a toddler to sit still in church. It doesn’t need to be running up and down the pews, drawing on things, making noise. It doesn’t need to be running over grocery lists and scheduled meetings and stories that need writing and espresso beverages that need making in the next 18 hours.

What it needs is to be still.

But in that moment, it won’t listen when I tell it that that’s for later — right now it’s time to be quiet. Because you won’t make it through the day without it.

I rub my gritty eyes and sit in the silence, staring at the words I want to soak past the cloud of thoughts and into my heart. I read the words of 1 Peter aloud, over and over to my wildly running mind.

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Action is definitely a concept my brain gets. It’s had its running shoes on all night. All month. Like a boss, if it can say so. Commute to work, commute to second job, buy groceries, get gas, make lunch, lay out clothes, pack bags, sleep, repeat insanity.

But I’m not sure that’s what Peter’s talking about. The Word is loud on that point.

Prepared for action. Sober-minded, not just cranking out thoughts. My mind is to be disciplined just like my schedule — a weapon locked and loaded to make every moment count, but not running wildly in the moments where preparation is more important than action.

Like I make my schedule sit still, I have to make my mind sit still, too.

I have to trade the chaos of a toddler for the discipline of a soldier, a mind hopped up on Mountain Dew for a mind locked on the hope of Christ.

That’s not easy.

But Jesus never said it would be easy.

He just told us He would give us all of Himself if we give Him all of ourselves — our mind, our soul, our strength.

Our heart.

So practically that means I have to call upon His strength to sit my heart still. I have to do what it takes to settle my spirit on God. I read verses over and over aloud, soaking them in, emphasizing their words to my heart. I journal out what those words are asking me to do when I get up in a few minutes, put on my shoes and let my mind start running.

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And as I sit in the car in the parking lot of my job preparing myself for the next thing, I pray for God to instill those words in my heart, in my day. That, as Peter said, I would honor others more than myself. That I would show love to everyone. That I would be prepared to give an answer for the hope that I have. That with my conduct, I could win those I live among even without a word.

And that more than anything, I would live with a mind set on the One who gave everything so that I could live as those who are free.

I think sometimes we have a tendency to live like having a mind set on God makes everything weighty and serious. And in a way, that’s true. It’s eternal hope we’re dealing with.

But in reality, fixing our minds soberly on God in every detail of our day releases our anxieties into His hands and gives us freedom.

Freedom from being ruled by the tasks of the day.

Freedom from living like I’m in survival mode.

Freedom from the world.

Freedom, because what can man do to me when I have everything in God?

Nothing.

So this morning, I breathe.

Be sober, Grace.

Know where your hope is fully found.

Think like it. Live like it.

And carry that still certainty in your heart all day long.

*****

Sober-minded

 

 

 

(@gracefortheroadblog on Instagram.)

What we need in our moment of need.

Worry doesn’t work. Because just like we can’t anticipate what we really need, we also can’t anticipate the lavish grace that will meet us there.

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Where’s it going to come from?

The question hung in the humid air of the screened-in porch as I sat there, knees pulled tightly to my chest. Steam poured from my cup of tea, all sluggish and slow. Letting it out of that mug into the heavy air felt like pouring a Dixie cup of water into the ocean.

It didn’t really seem to go anywhere.

And neither did my questions.

Will I have the strength for that?

What will I say to them if that thing they’re dreading happens?

Where will the things I need come from if I decide to go that direction?

A bird sang.

I sat. Quiet.

The questions lingered like the steam.

And then suddenly, without warning, it was pouring. Deluge-style pouring. Split seconds ago, the air was heavy with moisture unseen, but now the clouds were ripped open at the seams and spilling their contents onto the back porch with ferocity. Rain made oceans on the concrete and gushed at full strength through the gutters.

And in rushed His Word.

“Look at the birds of the air: They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26)

I watched the rain splash against the screen, slapping against it and rolling in sheets over the porch out into the yard.

“God, I know you give us all things in the moment we need them.”

This past Sunday, our pastor Matt preached from Matthew 15, the story of Jesus feeding the 4,000. From just a few loaves of bread, everyone ate and had more than they could finish … and that was after three days of hanging out in the wilderness, wondering when they might eat again. Jesus tore that bread until there were seven extra baskets full of uneaten bread.

Why seven extra baskets? God knew exactly how much was needed. And there was no one else around to eat the leftovers.

“Those seven extra baskets are a picture of God’s lavish grace.”

Because God is so much more. So, so much more than anything we can ask or think.

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I remember a few years back when my friend Abbey’s dad passed away after a long battle with cancer. That thing had finally happened, the thing she wondered if she would know how to deal with if and when it happened.

What she said in that moment stuck with me. “I couldn’t have imagined the way it would hurt. But I also couldn’t have imagined the way God would give me grace in a way I had never experienced it before. It’s sweeter than anything I could’ve imagined.”

The sky ripped open.

Grace rushed down with ferocity.

And that’s why worry doesn’t work.

Because just like we can’t anticipate what we really need, we also can’t anticipate the lavish grace that will meet us there.

A lot of times we think of grace as “decaffeinated grace” that pats us on the hand and tells us everything’s going to be okay, Matt said, quoting Dane Ortlund’s “Defiant Grace.”

But that’s never what grace was meant to be.

What God rains down on us in our moment of need is the high-octane grace that takes our conscience by the scruff of the neck and breathes new life into us with a pardon so scandalous that we cannot help but be changed.”

We get seven baskets extra.

We get God and all the peace, provision, joy and hope He has to offer.

And we get that by walking with Him willingly into the wilderness, following His voice, not knowing when the bread will come, but valuing His presence above what fills our stomachs.

He’s never failed us yet. We see that in His Word. We see it in our lives.

And we trust it for tomorrow.

*****

morevaluethanthey