Trusting God When You Can’t See Ahead

When things are going the way I planned, it’s much easier to trust in God. Of course he is leading and guiding our family. Everything is falling into place. But, what about when things go in all different directions and there seems to be no clear path? What then?

I’m writing in the middle of the confusion, so while it would be nice to say how it all worked out in the end, there is no end of the story yet.

Have you experienced conflicting signs in your life? Lord, what are you trying to tell me? Is this from you or another spirit? Am I supposed to work and homeschool? Am I really supposed to do that for the next ten years? How will you sustain me? Are we supposed to move or not move? Are we supposed to do online school, enrichment classes, or everything at home? What if I can’t handle it Lord, and yet I believe you want me to be the primary educator of my children?

I’d like to say that the first place I go in these unsettled times is to a place of trust and gratitude, remembering how God has led in the past and resting assured that he still knows the end from the beginning. But instead, this time I become angry, then confused, then irritated, then frustrated. I feel like Peter, sinking in the waves of the sea after having walked on water.

What to do? Finally, with much resistance, I go to the only place I know it is safe to go when things are churning around me. “Help me Lord! Help me to trust you, even when I can’t see the path ahead.”

And, amazingly and faithfully, the Lord answers as he always does.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths,” Proverbs 3:5-6.

It doesn’t say he might direct your paths. It doesn’t say sometimes he will, sometimes he won’t. God’s word promises he SHALL direct my path if I trust in Him. Trusting is the hard part, but with God all things are possible. I make a decision everyday to put my trust in the Lord and not in my own feeble understanding. It’s not always an easy choice to make, but it is always the wisest choice.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own,” Matthew 6:34.

There are no certain answers at this point, but I can sleep at night. There are many uncertainties and stressors, but we take one day at a time. I don’t know what the next year will bring, but the Lord does. That is enough for today.

Weeds

“But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold,” Matthew13:8.

We live in the southwest desert, so gardening can be a challenge with not-so-good, hard-to-water soil. Our dirt is like concrete and can be hard to get a shovel in. So, we have put in raised beds in wood frames. This not only helps with the dirt and water issues, but it also helps with weeds.

Keeping them weeded isn’t hard, but sometimes the water leaks out and the ground around them gets watered as well. The weeds then grow outside of the boxes. Usually we don’t pay a lot of attention to these weeds because they’re not “in the garden.” But, sometimes they get big, and we can have a hard time getting to the garden; plus, plants that grow big or vine need space outside of the garden to grow. Then we have to weed out the garden. Sometimes these weeds have better roots because we don’t get them when they’re small.

Weeding has often been compared to getting rid of bad habits or sins in our lives, and this is true. But, as I was pulling those hard, out-of-the-garden weeds, I got to thinking. Usually we focus on what’s in the garden and not what’s around it. What about in our hearts? Do we have a garden just for Jesus? What about the area around that garden? Do we weed it as well?

Taking a Census

Chapter 21 of I Chronicles is not one of the best known stories in the Bible. While some might have peripheral knowledge of it, not many have stopped to really think about what it means today in our modern lives.

I’ve shared with this blog previously about the fact that my husband is hoping for funding to come through for a startup that he’s involved in. Because my husband is a visionary who sees the big picture, and builds virtual cities for data to live in, he doesn’t do so well with feet-on-the-ground details. And so, in the negotiating of salary and such, there were a few gaps.

When the funding was delayed, my husband went back and renegotiated these issues, and the good news is that when/if funding becomes available, we’ll be paid retroactively for two distinct periods — one from when he began working informally several months ago, and one for full-time employment as of what should have been his hard start date of March 1.

What a load off my mind!

Now mind you, there’s no guarantee that this funding will come through. However, the business plan is solid. The guy doing the startup and meeting with the venture capitalists (VCs) is very accomplished and in a position of power and influence within his field. The numbers are fantastic for profit, and the revenue streams are not ad based — or selling advertising — but transaction based; the company would profit a small amount for each transaction. Good stuff.

I am, on the other hand, a very firm pragmatist. Feet-on-the-ground is my spesh-ial-i-TEE, and so I am very aware that many good ideas, many great business schemes, go down in flames if they ever get off the ground in the first place.

However, when Whitney told me that we would receive lump-sum back pay amounts should it happen, my mind went ZIIIIING considering all the possibilities! I was driving; otherwise, I’d probably have pulled out my trusty spreadsheet to run the numbers!

Fortunately, I had only started to mutter to myself, “Okay well at [insert annual salary here], if you divide that by twe…”

And, the words “David,” “census,” and “sin” popped into my head. It wasn’t a coherent thought necessarily; it was just a half-formed memory of the story, and I immediately remembered the mild confusion I’d always felt whenever I had come across the narrative.

Why in the world was it a problem that David ordered a census of all the fighting men?

Because I’m a planner, because I’m the budgeter of the family Walters, counting, assessing, and preparing make complete sense to me! It’s only wise to figure out what you have, what you can expect, and plan accordingly, right?

But, the story continued to niggle, and so I consciously put aside my financial musings.

When I got home, I looked the story up and read the entire chapter of 1 Chronicles 21.

Wow! Have you really read that story?! It’s pretty intense!

It starts out with the context that Lucifer, the roaring lion himself, incited David to take the census! Joab protested because he knew it was wrong, but when bullied into it, fudged the numbers.

At this point David, as was his habit, realized way after the fact that he had committed a sin and begged forgiveness.

Get this. God says (through a “seer”) basically that David has to pick his punishment: three years of famine, three years of persecution for the nation from their enemies, or three days of “the sword of the Lord” — or plague.

Woah.

David chose plague and 70,000 died.

That’s a pretty strong statement of how God feels about this census business.

And so, I’ve been pondering this whole question of what exactly a census is.

David counted his fighting men so that he knew how many men he could count on in a battle.

It’s almost as if David were saying that he needed to prepare because God’s provisions might not cover it all.

God won a battle with 300 men against a whole host. The Bible described it this way: “The Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore.”

Three hundred against tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands? More than a million?

How many times do we limit God by counting our “fighting men,” our dollars, our bonuses, our expected gains?

For the first time, I completely and totally understand the application of the story to my life. I get it.

You see, we just might get the funding. Or, we may not. If we get the funding, we may just get a nice raise and a lump-sum amount. Or, the business may go crazy and we get a fortune. Or, it may bite the dust and Whitney will end up having to find another job.

I’m still a budgeter. I still need to manage my family’s finances. But, I don’t have to run ahead of God. What I know for sure and certain is this. God’s provision will blow me out of the water. It’ll either be Him taking two mites and stretching it to cover exactly what we need. Or, it may involve financial blessings galore.

I’m not plugging anything into my spreadsheet. I’m not thinking about this eventuality or that. I’m thankful just for today for everything He’s given our family. He’s going to handle the rest. I will simply sit back and watch.

Restoring My Boat

I have spent the last few minutes reading my past posts on this blog, and I realized that God has had me on a journey to explore the whole boat analogy as it relates to my life and my walk with Jesus.

My first post relating to boats was about how the disciples went out with Jesus in a boat, and when things got rough, they completely forgot about him. Jesus, sleeping quietly in a corner somewhere, was completely overlooked.

My lesson was not to let fear make me forget about the One who has the ability to calm the storm and sea.

Soon after, I continued the sleeping-in-the-boat analogy, except I longed, like Jesus, to sleep in the midst of all the chaos and fear that life throws at me. Seems like I’ve had more than my share of chaos and disruptions in the last decade! I wanted to learn to trust so completely that someone has to wake me up to see how God’s put it all in place!

I just watched the movie “The Shack,” and it seems like maybe there’s a new lesson for me to be learned from boats!

To set the scene up for you, the main character, Mack, has gone out on a lake in a rowboat. Jesus tells him that there’s something He wants to show Mack on the other side of the lake, but that He will join him after finishing something up in the shop.

Rowing across the lake

Mack gets halfway across the lake and then stops, almost as if he’s enjoying the peace, the slap of the water against the sides of the boat. Dipping his hand into the water and pulling it back out, he realizes that the water is oily, black, and nasty.

At this point, the boat begins breaking apart. First a crack and then a hole spurting water, it’s clear that the boat won’t last much longer.

In the middle of the chaos, Mack hears Jesus’ voice telling him not to look at the battered boat, to focus on Him, Jesus. He stares horrified and transfixed as the water continues to pour in; he glances at Jesus, but his eyes are drawn back to the disaster that’s happening to him. The boat is soon half submerged. It’s only as it is almost under the murky water, Mack sitting in water up to his waist, that he locks eyes with Jesus.

In that very moment, the boat is once again under him, intact, bobbing on the waves. He breathes a huge sigh of relief. His boat is as he knows and wants it, once again secure.

Mack is relieved when the boat appears beneath him once again.

Then Jesus holds out a hand, inviting him out of the boat onto the waves.

Let me interrupt myself to tell you what’s been going on with us in the first quarter of this year!

Late last year, 2016, my husband was contacted by a businessman that he knew and trusted about being involved in a start-up offering services to the military. It seemed like an awesome opportunity, and he’s been working part time, unpaid, to create budgets, meet with potential employees, etc. His start date — as in full-time and starting to get a paycheck — was March 1, just a month or so ago.

At the end of January, we were contacted by the man who owns the house we live in. For the second time in three years, we found out that the rental property we were living in would be sold. This time, however, we had ample time to plan; our landlord indicated that they would be selling in August.

Then also in late January, we found out that our still-new-to-us minivan had sustained subtle and undetected damage last summer during a hailstorm, and after a month of negotiating, the insurance company determined that it was totaled. Unfortunately, what they valued the van at wouldn’t cover the balance of our loan.

So, right around March 1 of this year, we found out that funding for the new job hadn’t come through, despite the fact that my husband had already given his two-week notice at his former job, leaving us with no paycheck anywhere on the horizon.

Our vehicle was totaled, leaving us with a $2,000 balance to pay on the auto loan.

And, we’ll have to find a new house in the next four or five months.

Yeah. My boat’s breaking apart and the water’s pouring in!

I’ve been watching in horror as each new thing hits, trying to focus on Jesus, knowing that He’s got it all handled and that He’s taken care of our family in the past faithfully.

It’s not like I want outrageous things! My hopes are relatively modest, I believe. I simply want a paycheck to cover bills. I want a new, used, decent vehicle. Tired of feeling like we have no control over our own housing, we want to buy a house rather than rent again.

In fact, with this new start-up opportunity, there was enough of a raise that I’d even begun to hope for upgrades to my boat! A nicer, newer used vehicle! Perhaps we might actually be able to look for a home with horse property — a dream of mine since childhood!

I didn’t want a yacht. I wasn’t hoping for new and shiny. I would have been happy with cushions on the bow seat and perhaps an outboard motor. Nothing fancy.

Suddenly, instead of upgrades, I watched my boat begin to slide under the waters.

Then, in the movie, Jesus restores Mack’s boat! All is well! This has been my hope and prayer since everything started caving in! It’s what I’ve believed God for in our lives!

And, then it hits me.

God doesn’t want us in the boat at all. He wants us out of the boat!

Jesus invites us to get out of the boat!

How much time and energy we devote to taking care of the boat! Tending the boat, upgrading the boat, and praying thanks for the boat — when all along, it might be the very thing that’s standing between us and what would be best for us in our walk with Jesus!

I’ve decided that I’m going to be thankful when my boat is restored…even if it’s a life raft…or a half-submerged log floating by. What I’m going to start praying for is that I will see opportunity to step out of the boat!

I’m going to pray that God changes my heart from dreading uncertainty, and that He shows me the delight and the miracles along the way, just like Jesus then shows Mack the beauty of His creation as they walk along the top of the waves.

Inspiration: Finding Your “Treasure” and Your Purpose

This past week I was filling in the “About me” section on a crafting site I run, and one of the questions that was proposed was, “What inspires you to come up with original designs?” This got me to thinking more about inspiration and motive. What is it? Why/how do I use it? And ultimately, what does it reveal about God’s heart?

I invite you on this journey today, and believe this is something that will not only benefit us as parents, but can also be a good tool for teens who are just starting to grapple with the bigger questions of life, such as purpose, and how inspiration/motivation can lead to finding our purpose, especially when we keep God at the center. I would highly recommend taking the time to write the questions in this article down in a journal, and prayerfully answer them for yourself.

Inspiration

It should be noted that inspiration (or motivation), in the sense that I’m writing about today, means taking an idea or emotion, and expanding on it, either mentally or physically. And, not only expanding on it, but applying the results to my life in a broader perspective — that is to somehow be a clearer reflection of God’s character, and heart, as mother/wife/daughter/business woman/teacher. Inspiration put toward a higher purpose, if you will. This is different than perfectionism, and should not be used to compare yourself to others.

What inspires you? When you find that out, you will find where your heart is.

Personally, I’m inspired by beauty in many forms, both the physical — such as flowers, sunrises, family, lace, ruffles, cozy pajamas, and clean sheets (I can almost hear angels sing when climbing into a clean bed); and intangible — like kindness, love, confidence, and selflessness.

I can either look at these things in a passive/dismissive way, or dig deeper and find some truths that may not be so initially obvious about God, and how He designed me. But, not just me; rather, the whole of humanity. You can also think of inspiration as being where your treasure is.

Now it’s your turn: What inspires you? What breathes life into your heart? What makes “birds sing and flowers bloom” in your soul? What is the “treasure” that draws you to a place so lovely, and sweet that you wish everyone knew about it, and could experience it for themselves?

But why?

Once you’ve discovered what it is that inspires you, look deeper. Why does this inspire or motivate me? What place does this touch in my heart? Take some time and write these down in a journal and answer them for yourself. The way I answer (based on the previous paragraph) is because beauty is comforting, it is healing. It reminds me that there are good things in this world. That there are things worth believing in. That all I have dreamed for and of is not in vain, and that one day, all that is ugly and miserable and sad will be removed. That one day I will behold Him face to face — the One who first dreamed of us, and then created the world and everything in it — purposely. Notice how inspiration came before creation, even for God.

What do the things that inspire me say about God’s heart? How does this reveal a greater plan or purpose? And finally… How can I pass that inspiration on to others?

For one, I need to stay connected to the ultimate source of inspiration, blessings, and love. When I seek to know and understand God’s will through prayer and Bible study, the desire for competition ends. I don’t harbor hate, bitterness, and anger, because perfect love drives out fear (fear being the root cause of anger, hate, negativity). I am free to let the peace that passes all understanding take up residence in my heart. I am free to be the person God made me to be, and He becomes my ultimate inspiration.

It is He who inspires me with grace to become a more effective and focused teacher, He inspires me with patience when my children are having a difficult day, and He inspires me with mercy when a friend says something unintentionally hurtful. He shows me that my purpose is to glorify Him in all things. That by seeking His will, and the presence of the Holy Spirit, I will bear the Fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). I can’t think of anything more beautiful or inspirational than that.

“…Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things,” Philippians 4:8 (NIV).

Below, I’m including the questions asked in this article in one easy-to-see area to make this study more simple.

Questions to Ask Yourself

What inspires or motivates me?

  • What breathes life into my heart?What makes “birds sing and flowers bloom” in my soul? What is the “treasure” that draws me to a place so lovely, and sweet that I wish everyone knew about it, and could experience it for themselves?

Why does this inspire or motivate me?

  • What place does this touch in my heart? Why do I believe in it?

What do the things that inspire me say about God’s heart?

  • How does this reveal a greater plan or purpose? How can I pass that inspiration on to others?