Space for you

I see you.

You, the one reading these words.

The one who woke up today.

The one thats been given another day to live, breath, work, play, rejoice, mourn….

and write.

One of the unexpected gifts of creating this space for friends to gather and share stories are the handful

of new friends that have quietly asked if they could share as well.

One request came in an email.

Another with a friend in a conversation we enjoyed over lunch.

and one more in a late night ding to my facebook messenger app.

They all shared the same thing…..

“Beth I think I have a story to share around your fire.”

They did.

And they shared.

And many were blessed.

Friend – you, the one reading these words.

The one that has been given another day to live, breath, work, play, rejoice , mourn and

write.

I believe you have a story as well. If you’re alive – you have a story. And if your heart is beating a bit faster

right now at the though of putting it in writing and sharing with our fire….

It may be a sign that you should.

Friend – your story, your reflection on the crazy or simple ways God has or is working in your life

is important.

And there is space for you…..

Here.

This is your invitation ( if you havn’t picked up on my subtle hints yet:) to send me an email, ask me to join you for lunch or send me a late night FB Message .

There is an open seat at the fire……

for you.

Is it time to share YOUR story?

The way I see it

“I can think of 10,000 other things I can spend $30 on that would be more fun than this.”

It was hot. We didn’t have water and I didn’t know what I was doing- or actually I wasn’t good at what I was doing. The most logical response – whine and complain and quit. And so we did. We walked off the course on the 5th hole because I was done, with a capital D.

Golf or anything that costs money that results in frustration, discouragement and silent rides home in the car with your spouse feels like an exercise in futility. At least it did 27 years ago when my husband was trying to convince me that this sport would be something we could do together for the long haul. I was perfectly happy with our rhythm of playing tennis. We both enjoyed it. I felt like I got a good workout and occasionally I would get a shot past him. I understood the game, had a decent serve and could hold my own. Tom reminded me that as much as we enjoyed tennis the likelihood of us playing into our later years was probably not going to happen. Golf was easier on the body and there was always the option of taking a cart. So, Tom was all in to improving his golf game, investing in equipment and lessons and I was all out.

Somewhere along the line of our 27 years of marriage – my perspective changed. It may have had something to do with the women’s golf league I joined. We affectionately called it “Golf and Giggle.” The swings of the club were secondary to the conversations we had as we met each Monday, rain or shine, for our girls night out. We didn’t keep score ( I still don’t – important golf hack for all you newbies) and we cheered each other on in only the way girls can do. This experience opened my eyes to the joys this sport can bring. Tom paid for golf lessons and I now feel like I understand the rules, the reasons for the club numbers and when to use them, and also when to pick up my ball and throw it ( without shame) when needed. We have enjoyed many rounds of golf in some beautiful locations and even enjoyed a 3 day golf trip in northern Michigan – something I would never have agreed too early in our marriage. This shared enjoyment of the sport had us imagining the fun of possibly living on a golf course. You know, the homes that back up to a green or fairway. The ones that have extra homeowners insurance covering the cost of broken windows due to a stray ball going off course.

Someday, we would say.

Well, 4 years ago – that dream became reality. Not only do we live on a golf course but we are proud members of the Tri- City Country Club located in Emma, MO. Heavy emphasis on Country. $60 a month gives us unlimited golf for our family. We have several friends that are members and we will often join them for a round. Last summer we worked to make every Friday night a golf date with another couple in town. We are living our dream. Our backyard sits on the edge of the fourth fairway. It’s really glorious.

our backyard

I posted a picture of our course side view on facebook last week and asked the question “What do you see?” What is interesting is that out of the 100 + responses to my question not one person said – golf course. Our friend Jim and golf buddy of Tom’s from our days in Michigan was closest when he said “Look’s like a nice day for golf…” My quest to prove a point that I hope to make by the end of this blog (I’m getting there) poked some deep emotion that I did not expect. Some of the responses made me laugh and others brought tears to my eye. Here is a sampling of just a few.

Horizon

Peace

Endless possibilities/opportunities

The coming storm.

The calm after the storm. Clarity, peace.

Freedom.

Clouds.

Stairs leading to a mystery in the sky.

Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’

Emptiness. A vast nothing awaiting something.

A shark.

God and love.

Hope.

My question was inspired by a quote from American poet and essayist, Henry David Thoreau ,

“The question is not what you look at…… but what you see.”

Not what you look at but what you SEE.

As I read each response I imagined each person taking a moment to not just look at the picture but to see it. I was so pleased that so many paused even for a few seconds to take in the view and offer me a different perspective. I also loved that not one person saw what I did – an important reminder for me today.

When I look at that picture I see a water tower. If you squint your eyes and look to the right side of the picture – under the clouds – it is there. That water tower proudly displaying the name of the small town of Emma, sits next to the fourth hole of the country club where Tom and I belong. Did I mention our names are engraved on a brass name plate and mounted on the member board in the club house? Yes – we are all that and a bag of chips;). The water tower, on the 4th hole is visible from the deck in our backyard. Thus the logical conclusion that we are indeed living our dream of living on a golf course. This picture and this reality makes me so happy. I also love that between us and our golf course are fields of either corn or beans. I know the farmers and their families that work these fields and their addition to our golf course living makes it even better.

In contrast – this is what I don’t see (but I could).

I don’t see the field mice that storm our house each fall after harvest. I don’t remember the pain of job loss that was necessary to move us across the country to need this home. I don’t see the 4 miles that separate us from the 4th hole of the golf course. I don’t see it because I choose not to.

When this blog posts I will be far from this backyard view of the 4th hole of our country club. I will need to decide what I see when I take in the circumstances around me. I will choose to write the story of the picture in front of me and this will make all the difference. I will wake up on Thursday in Texas – in the home of my parents. Odd for me since I was there just 10 days ago. My quick journey back was inspired by my moms recent cancer diagnosis and my desire to be with her during her chemo treatments. I will have many decisions to make during this visit on what I see.

Will I see moms hair loss or the opportunity to shop for fun hats and scarves?

Will I feel the effects of travel in the middle of a busy month in my business or will I celebrate the fact that CO-VID has forced me to work 100% virtual and I can work anywhere life takes me?

Will I see the challenge of my sister and I living thousands of miles from our parents or will I see the incredible local support my parents feel with caring neighbors, friends and church family?

Will I see the stop on my flight home in Orlando (the opposite direction of my home) as an inconvenience or the opportunity to do some fun Disney shopping in the Orlando airport?

It’s not what I look at…

It’s what I see.

The skeptics out there – I see you and honestly sometimes I need you. The ones that are thinking I’m to polyanna – ish. The ones wanting to shake me and tell me to join the “real” world – the ones saying …..

“Beth – you don’t live on a dang golf course. “

To you are I say – “You’re right.”

To you I say,

“But so am I.”

My hope as I look at my surroundings – wether its my backyard or the hospital with my mom – comes from a God who promises to give me eyes to see the good. He promises that he will never leave or forsake me. He promises that he uses all things for our good and for His glory. He promises that even in the hard he will reveal his perfect gifts. It is His power that changes my perspective. It is His promises that gives me peace. It is His love that prompts me to pull up a deck chair, prop my feet up with a cool drink on a hot day and imagine I see the great shot by a fellow golfer on the 4th hole.

Living the dream.

Living His dream

And that’s the way I see it.

The gallery on the 6th fairway – We love the Country Club life:)

On Watching

Welcome special guest to the fire Amber Beuschel. Amber is a free lance writer from souther Indiana, mother of 5 and a member of a writing community I recently joined. If you want to read more from Amber you can find her at Higher Thoughts and Other Things abeuschel.wordpress.com.

“Mom,” my oldest daughter cried out. “I just saw a huge branch fall!” Her finger was pointed at something I couldn’t see through the front room window. A large branch from a tree over our house had dropped from the weight of ice.

I opened the front door and five sets of feet pattered out onto the porch, despite the freezing rain driving against their faces. Fascinated with the ice storm, they stood, unfazed by the wet, the cold, and the slippery.

After coaxing them back inside, they decided to set up a watch. This after a full day of eLearning activities. I was impressed. Their goal was to watch and see. What else might happen? Would other branches fall? Would they see a car slide? Would the wintry mix change over to snow? The possibilities seemed endless to my brood.

Watching their faces I was struck by their joy in the waiting. Why can’t I be more like that? I think it’s because I don’t start off attentive in the first place.

My daughter doesn’t normally position herself in front of a window to watch for twigs and sticks to fall from the sky. But today there were new things happening, and she wasn’t going to miss the chance to see just what else the sky might bring.

I want to be more like that, to listen, to anticipate, to watch.

We have a finite number of moments and minutes anyway. Many of them are dedicated to doing. But some of them should be given over the watching.

Maybe it’s a twig I’m watching for. Maybe something more, less, worse, or better.

What can I gain from watching?

Attentiveness. I notice more when I watch. Like the 9-year old, when I take time to observe, I make space for both the familiar and the new. Aware of these things, I am prepared to adjust, accept, respond to the changes around me. I am focused.

Alertness. With better focus, I see what is happening around me. Not only that, I am primed to act. Ready, I can move. I can do. How often do I find myself thinking about how I could act better after a matter? When I am focused to begin with, I begin to act better beforehand. That’s a skill I wouldn’t mind to have sharpened!

Appreciation. My attention and response in sync, I receive a third gift. I get to enjoy a moment. I was prompted by my daughter’s attention to the single branch to notice the entire backyard, to take in the sight of dozens of shrubs and trees coated in ice. We sat watching cardinals dart from tree to tree, wondering if birds ever slip. We judged the speed of cars entering and leaving the neighborhood. Wasn’t that too fast? Or wow, look how slow! The appreciation for how ice impacts nature, human behavior, and our entire day was at the front of our minds.

We might have checked off the 24 required eLearning activities today, but the one that stood out above all the rest wasn’t an assignment at all. It was simply the observation of a child, and it gave me plenty to think about. Plenty to watch for. 

I’m definitely setting aside more moments and minutes to watch tomorrow. 

Walk them home.

We live two-ish blocks from our residential high school. The majority of the student body lives in dorms, including my two youngest, the first year we lived here. After we found our permanent home our kids moved back and our house was often filled with students needing a break from dorm life. I loved it – all of it. Going to bed to the sounds of teenagers laughing over a movie or a game. Waking up to empty cookie containers and cups on the counter. So good. One of the other things I loved was that because there is a strict curfew in the dorm – I knew the moment that all would go silent. As much as I enjoyed the house full – I also liked knowing when peace would resume. It was a fun season.

As the clock ticked closer to the daily locking of the dorm doors kids would scramble to get shoes on, find the right coats to make the quick trek back to campus. There were shouts of ‘Thanks for having us Pastor and Mrs Lange – we had a great time’ and off they would walk into the night. Now there is absolutely no reason for us to be fearful for these kids walking back to campus at 11 p.m. It is 2 blocks past houses of everyone we know and then they hit the back entrance to campus. It’s well lit and safe. But most nights, as the kids were readying to leave, my son would be as well.


“I’m just going to walk them home.” he would say.

It was sweet and chivalrous and most likely an attempt to stretch the night just a few minutes longer. Some nights he would stay and chat – sometimes its just so hard to say good- bye. After they were safely inside the dorm he would walk home with the satisfaction of squeezing every moment out of the time he had with friends.

Makes sense to me.

Even more so in a season of my life where I am literally watching friends attempt their own sort of Home walk with people they love. Their loved ones are in their last stages of life, some that feel like they are just steps away from the final home resting spot. Just yesterday I cried with a friend over her father in laws recent passage to home. To call it rough is an under statement as he succumbed to his battle with covid. We were thankful that his sons and wife we able to be with him in his last moments. We all know friends for which this has not been the case. I have another friend that is working hard with hospice workers to help her husbands walk home more comfortable. As Tom and I grow older our parents do as well and the conversations about our own home walks with them grow more frequent. My lense for life has been brought into sharp focus as I realize the importance of how we choose to walk our people home. What has also become clear to me is that it is not just my cancer ridden friends and family that are on their home walk but every single person we encounter, every single day. Each of us is on a journey to our final eternal resting spot in our home that is being prepared for us – even as we take our next breath.

Two years ago, on a snowy day in February, I began to build this virtual fire. I had been inspired by a conversation with my sister in law and memories of the summer our family built a backyard fire for 28 days in a row. Each night our backyard was open to ANYONE. We enjoyed fellowship with friends from all factions of our life. My favorite nights were when we were able to introduce new friends and watch the connections grow. Each night stories were shared in the safe warm glow of the fire, under starry Michigan skies. This collaborative blog that celebrates its Two year birthday this month is an attempt to bring a space of pausing and sharing and listening to our weekly rhythms – like the feel you may have when snuggled around the warm glow of flames toasting marshmallows on long sticks. I’m so grateful for my friends that said yes to the invitation to join me here. I have learned so much from their perspectives on life and the way God meets them in simple everyday moments. He has used each writer to share the words I needed at just the right time. He is so good like that.

As I look back to that day when I spent hours snuggled up in our over stuffed living room chair building the framework for this blog I realize there was so much I didn’t know. There were a gazillion reasons to not start. First, I didn’t know if anyone would say yes. Maybe my friends would think I was crazy, maybe they would not want to take the time. Second and the harder for me, the logistics part. I’m not wired for detail ( which is sometimes apparent in my typos that linger because I’m just so eager to share my words). I’m a painter – I want to create a beautiful landscape with words – not take the time to learn the ins and outs of how to actually create a domain name, drop and drag pictures, format and so many things involved in this type of project. Finally – I would be committed. The idea that would be fun to do “someday” would now be a space to which I would dedicate hours from my weekly calendar. I’m really good at starting new things and getting a team on board – its the maintenance thats hard – the continued walk home – if you will- that gives me trouble.

Despite all the obstacles -we did it! We began and now two years have flown by. The weekly campfire posts are days that many of you have shared you now anticipate. I know I can speak for the rest of the writers when we express our deep appreciation and gratitude for the time you have taken to read our words and share your encouragement.

A few years ago when another friend was walking her husband “Home” she shared some deep bitterness she hoped he could reconcile before his earthly journey ended. He held shame from a life filled with regret. Things he wish he had not done and things he wished he had done. It’s the ‘wished he had’ part that I want to end with today. What is on your “someday” list? What skill would you like to learn? What book would you like to read, or write:)? Or even who do you want to invite to lunch and you keep saying, “yes someday when things settle down – we will make that happen.”

Might I suggest you do it….

now?

I am so grateful my posse of campfire writers said Yes. I am so grateful we didn’t wait for a ‘less busy’ season. Two of our team have had babies since we started – their life certainly is not any less. I realize that the last two years could have passed without the gifts of these people being shared. No one would have known and the dream may have slowly faded into the passing of our busy days. And that makes me sad. I believe what has been created around our little fire has made many of your home walks, or daily life, better. I also believe that you, the one reading these very words, may have something to contribute to the world on your walk towards home. For some it may be starting something new. For others it may be giving some things up so your life is free to invest in loved ones or strangers you have not yet met that need what you have to offer. I’ll leave you to your own evaluation of how you spend your time but know that if you need a cheerleader as you attempt a crazy idea – I’m your girl.

Friends – thanks for showing up. Thanks for pulling up a chair, pausing and listening as we’ve told our stories. Thanks for making us a part of your own walk home. It has been an honor and a privlege.

And to my campfire writer friends. Thank you for being an early adapter. Thanks for bringing your best and most heartfelt words. Thanks for getting up early and staying up late to hit your deadline. Thank you for your vulnerability as you’ve shared pieces of your lives and the way God makes a difference. My continued walk home has been better – because of you.

Welcome to the fire and year 3….. We’re so glad you’re here!!!

a weary world…. rejoices.

Post first shared on http://www.justbeth.blog

“Would you like a double – shot today, Beth?”

Why yes – yes I would. Yes I would like 2 doses of strong espresso in my simple almond milk latte.

2 shots….. yes, a double.

Indeed.

I love our towns little coffee shop. It’s open 3 days a week and serves breakfast, lunch, coffees and dessert. The limited availability keeps my appreciation up for what has come to be a weekly treat. A Simple Almond Milk Latte often with a muffin or danish on the side. Sometimes I pop in for a quick to – go order and other days I meet up with friends to linger with our coffees and good conversation. I love that the owner knows my name. I love that if I’m not visiting with her at the coffee shop I may see her at the Veterinarians offices on the other side of town where she works on the days when the coffee shop is closed. It’s one of the many treasures of small town life. The knowing of the people.

The day Debbie asked me for a double , I hadn’t even considered that option. I had actually never had a double shot in a latte before. It always felt like it would be too much.

Too much caffeine.

Too much money. ( you pay for that shot- unless you’re a character in a Hallmark movie where it feels like the coffee is always “On the house.”)

Too much of a splurge. A latte was one thing but a double shot latte… just felt excessive.

But on that day, the day she offered… it sounded just right.

Perfect actually.

It was my way to take my weary soul and rejoice.

You see, the night before I had received more disheartening news. It came when it was too late for conversation and the only action I could take was attempt to sleep. The night was long and restless. The day ahead felt daunting as my body felt the effects of the rest – less night before. The weariness felt extra that day. I added the news to a long list of energy drainers from this year.

Weary…… from rule changes.

Weary…. from job loss or pay cuts.

Weary ….. from cancellations, re- schedules only to be cancelled again.

Weary…. from what feels like lots of talking but far to little listening.

Weary…. from all that 2020 has dished out.

But… on this day… the day of the double shot… I made a decision.

SO yes – double it up Debbie.

It was in the sipping of my delicious treat that the words to an old Christmas Hymn dropped into my soul. The tune is not one of my favorites so it was odd that was pulled from my memory. The words though… the words.. that describe the event that many of us will celebrate this week… the birth of Jesus – Our Savior… the words…

” A thrill of HOPE… a WEARY world…… REJOICES”

A

Weary

World

Rejoices.

God saw my sleepless night. He knew my Spirit, soul, body and mind were overwhelmed and he reminded me…

Beth…. You are Weary

AND

You can rejoice.

The weariness does not have to cancel your rejoicing.

The shifted holiday plans do not have to defer your hope

The questions that remain unanswered do not have to steal your energy, your focus, and the gifts of the present moment.

Yes – You are Weary.

and yes, You can Rejoice.

December 25 marks the beginning of the 12 days of Christmas or Christmas Tide. It is a segment of time in the Church calendar when we pause to celebrate the birth of Christ. We Rejoice that our Savior had been born, the Savior who has come offering…

HOPE for ALL people.

PEACE for ALL people.

JOY for ALL people.

LOVE for ALL people.

He came in to a Weary world and he invites us to REJOICE.

That day last week, the day of the double shot. It was important. It shifted me. It reminded me that my weariness is legit but my rejoicing can push through. I can say yes to simple pleasures that come my way. I can open my eyes to the gifts of this season. I can live, love, serve and celebrate.

Let’s do it. Let’s expectantly walk through these 12 days of Christmastide with eyes ready to see light in the darkness and let’s agree to be the light for those that just cannot see.

Oh my weary friends… Let’s rejoice. Shall we?

1 Peter 1:3-6

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us NEW BIRTH into a LIVING HOPE through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being GUARDED by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. You REJOICE in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials…”

Join me over at http://www.justbeth.blog where I’ll walk through Christmastide – committed to finding a reason to rejoice each day.

This sits in the corner of my kitchen counter… Rejoice!

I saw her.

Oct. 22, 2020. It finally happened. My first real tears inspired by COVID-19. I was one day into a new decade of life, one I had looked forward to in the way a 15 year old looks forward to the freedoms that come with their sweet 16. Many dread this milestone – but I was all in. One of my husbands students recently referred to someone this age as elderly. Whatever – I was Excited with a capital E.

I turned 50 – 18262 trips around the sun. I have lived some life, tackled many mountains both personally and professionally. My faith in a loving, providing God is solid. I’m now looking forward to the stage that provides opportunities to mentor young women who are on the journey I have previously traversed. I even feel fairly confident I can continue to walk the road of the challenges of 2020 with hope and expectation as well as bring a bunch of people along with me.

I love birthdays!

But then it happened. I had made it 7 months before allowing this nasty pandemic to push me to face the emotions I’d actually been feeling all along. Time and time again I had wanted to pause, to feel, to honor the sadness that just kept coming. I never did. Each day required a new thought, a new skill, a better attitude, a brighter outlook to just keep going. But that afternoon, sitting in my office after having made yet another decision that would keep us and others around us safe, I cried.

Really cried.

Crocodile tears, loud nose blows, cried. Me, alone in my pink desk chair, feeling the unexpected weight that comes with loss. I was overwhelmed with the reality that COVID had not only hit our town, our high school but now our family. I was feeling decision fatigue as my husband and I evaluated how to handle our situation. I longed for the day that being sick didn’t involve the health department, contact tracing and the intense opinions of others.

And then I saw her.

It was on this day, this day that the disappointments that fueled so much anger and sadness broke through, that I happened upon this loved one. The kind of person that knows you well. The kind of person that has seen you in some things and can speak the words your heart needs to hear.

It was just a glimpse, but a I saw her.

The lines surrounding her eyes spoke of years filled with both laughter and tears that had taken a toll on the sensitive skin that is the first to show signs of age. ( I sell skin care – I know these things.)

I saw her.

The nose shared by her mom and her sisters. The mouth quick to smile unspoken words of encouragement.

I saw her.

The sigh that accompanies deeper thoughts that most likely would not be shared with anyone but herself and her journal. The desire to see the bright side.

I saw her.

Her face was one I’d seen a million times. It was familiar, it brought comfort, it held wisdom that only comes from living many days on earth.

I saw her.

What I love about looking into the eyes of someone you know well is that entire conversations can be had without ever speaking a word and I could tell – she wanted to tell me something. It’s a sweet gift God gives to those that share a heart connection. That is what happened to me in this one, chance sighting.

In those brief moments as we looked at each other I heard her say…

Good Job.

You are Loved.

You are ready.

God’s still got you.

Nothing is too hard for your God.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made.

God has great plans for you.

As I turned from her face I was filled with a hope that comes from a deep knowing. A peace that is rooted in truth. I shook my head as I moved my eyes from her gaze because it was one that should have been impossible to share. This face, the one that told me so much, belonged to…

my mom.

She lives hundreds of miles away.

The surprise was that she was no where close when I caught her gaze,

but all of a sudden…….

I was looking her

square…

in the eyes.

This wonderful, telling meeting between my mothers eyes and mine – it happened ..

in my bathroom.

As I stood looking in the mirror.

I saw her. Her wisdom, her love, her compassion, her grace…. things that show up with those fine lines around your eyes, I saw them…..

in me.

Heres to 50 and all the gifts it brings.

my momma and me – she’s taught me so much.

I have a friend….

I have a friend that leaves me text messages that make me laugh out loud.

I have a friend that says things so profoundly that I want to record every word she speaks.

I have a friend that always remembers my birthday and is able to mail a card at the exact moment so it will arrive on my actual day of birth.

I have a friend that makes the most incredible cupcakes. They melt in your mouth and are the envy of all the bakers in our town.

I have a friend that reads more books than seems humanly possible. She is quick to recommend the perfect book for the situation I am in.

I have a friend who’s husband was unfaithful but she found another love and is now enjoying a new marriage and a new lease on life.

I have a friend who is battling cancer – one of the really tough ones – in a pandemic.

I have a friend who’s son is taking a gap year between high school and college.

I have a friend who’s daughter is staying home to do online school.

I have a friend who just moved her son into a dorm.

I have a friend who is planning her daughters wedding for the 3rd date since they were first engaged.

I have a friend who’s decided to home school her children this year.

I have a friend that is angry she is being forced to wear a mask in public.

I have a friend that has sick parents and she is angry at all those who choose to not wear masks in public.

I have a friend that just lost her battle with a malignant brain tumor.

I have a friend wondering how she will keep her class of kindergartners socially distant.

I have a friend who is experiencing back issues due to 12 hours of sitting at her home office chair for the last 5 months.

I have friends hoping for refunds for their Big 10 football season tickets.

I have a friend that believes there should be stricter regulation on sanitizing in her childs schoool before she allows her children to return.

I have a friend that is concerned that too much bleach on her daughters skin due to increased sanitizing efforts will reduce the germs necessary in our systems to create stronger immunity.

I have a friend the believes our family wasn’t being safe when we attended our daughters high school graduation with a couple hundred other parents.

I have friends that believe we were extreme because we chose to wear masks at the above mentioned graduation ceremony.

I have friends that will vote democrat and belive they have picked the best candidate

I have friends that will vote republican and believe they have picked the best candidate.

I have a friend that has posted hateful comments about their friends on social media.

I have friends that are believing this season will result in positive change for the future.

I have friends that are paralyzed by fear.

I have friends that are looking at each challenge as one in which they can see God provide in miraculous ways.

I have friends that are doubting God’s ability to bring any hope for our future.

I have a friend whose son just married another man.

I have a friend that wouldn’t have attended the wedding of my other friend.

I have a friend who just had her best year ever in her business.

I have a friend who is questioning her ability to lead and is contemplating ending her 20 year career.

I have a friend whose plane ticket home – to Hong Kong – just got cancelled.

I have a friend looking forward to her 14 day quarantine on her military base in Japan after 4 months in the US.

Oh my list of friends. They wouldn’t all want to be invited to the same party. Some that used to be close have now drifted due to too much time away from each other. Some are closer as they rally behind their belief system and what they currently deem “Right.” Some share many of my same beliefs and some just a few.

As I think through my list one thing becomes clear. The battle to maintain my relationships with these people is real. Every day I could make a list of ways I could be offended or ways I have possibly offended others. I question every post and every picture I share on social media with the simple motivation of giving a glimpse into what I am currently grateful for. It seems as if it is impossible to work, relate or play with anyone who isn’t 100% on the same page as us. This makes me sad, discouraged and dare I say it – apathetic. This digression to “not caring” about people – even our friends- is one of the most dangerous currents we can allow to take us away.

As I look at the fire pit sitting quietly in my back yard, waiting for cooler weather before a fire is lit, I remember the friends that have gathered around it since the summer of 2016. Many of these people are mentioned in my list above. They gathered and met others for the first time. They were open to connection despite their differences that showed up on their election ballots or their religious affiliations. The goal of our backyard campfires was connection and community and creation of both. These evenings under the stars brought laughter and healing. Stories were shared and bridges were built. Some nights the conversation was lively and others were quieter as we just sat side by side united by the orange and yellow glow of the flames in the center of our circle.

Oh…. it seems high time for some fire building. Some gathering of friends that have let the embers of their relationship grow cold. We need to tighten our circle – to look to the master fire builder – as our source of hope and answers. In John chapter 21 we see Jesus – freshly risen from his death tomb – standing on a beach next to a fire he has prepared. He calls his people, he encourages them to sit and eat. They are weary, they are worn, they are hungry. They have been up all night working, fishing. They are diverse. They are human. They are you. They are me. They are flawed and sinful and a mess. This man, this savior … he invites them in. He is inviting you and all your friends…

All.

of.

Them…… as well.

I have a friend…… His name is Jesus.

gathered around the fire pit – too hot for an actual fire #augustinmmissouri

Hayley’s Swim

Welcome New Friend to the fire Haley Steinbauer. I met Haley via my son. They became friends their first day of their freshman year of college. I am deeply grateful for the wisdom shared by this young woman. May you be encouraged as you ride the waves of her personal journey to a closer walk with the Lord.

TO FORGET WOULD BE UNGRATEFUL

You know, I’ve been struggling to write about what happened on March 10th, 2020 for multiple reasons. For one, I don’t want to sound like I am boasting in my suffering.

Even calling it “suffering,” seems like an overreaction. I didn’t even die. No one died. It is painful to remember. It brings back feelings of fear, uncertainty, anxiousness, and hopelessness. Part of me wants to move on, not make a huge deal about it, and forget. But I’ve realized that I can’tforget, and I shouldn’t forget.

Alan Redpath in ‘Victorious Christian Living’ writes,

“Sometimes in the course of human experience it is good to sit down and reflect on what has been conquered by the grace of God. Not boastfully, but with a humble and grateful heart, to survey the years that have gone and to go over the pages of memory carefully to recall where the grace of God has triumphed, so that we will be able to look into His face and say,

“But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”

God did something marvelous, extraordinary, and miraculous, and to forget would be ungrateful. I NEED and WANT to recognize his grace. For once in my life I have a memory where God screamed,

“I’ve got you my child. Trust me, Hayley. I am all-powerful and all-knowing.”

That is what I have always wanted – a sign, a mighty voice from above, anything that would show/prove to me that God is real. I have always struggled with trusting God in all areas of my life. I believe and I know that Jesus came, died, and rose for my sins (it’s been grilled into me my entire life), but I absolutely suck at trusting Him. I have come to realize that trust and faith are two sides of the same coin.

How can we have faith in something we don’t absolutely trust? How can I expect God to act in my life if I don’t trust Him?

I’m a thinker, so in my head I hand over my future, my relationships, and my worries into God’s care. But the moment doubt, feelings of insecurity, fear, or uncertainty creep in, I run away from the source of discomfort to a place where I can feel in control again. The problem with having faith in Jesus but no trust is you aren’t seeing His spirit at work and that means you aren’t growing. You are constantly wearing a mask to avoid fear. As Max Lucado says in his book Fearless,

“When fear fills our life, safety becomes our god. When safety becomes our god, we worship the risk-free life.” In the end, “The worship of safety emasculates greatness.” (p. 10).

It is when you believe that the King and Creator of the universe – the God who “shapes the future…and controls the sun, moon, and stars” – is for you, that fear loses (Isaiah 45:11-12).

To know Jesus, is to know the source of strength.

What happened over spring break opened my eyes to His power and showed me the importance of truly trusting in Him, even when fear strives to take me over. God is a Father who delivers, provides, and strengthens His children, especially in the deepest of waters. To forget is to let the devil win.

CAPSIZED

It was a day much like any other. I woke up, immediately

hit snooze, eventually dragged myself to breakfast and got

ready for the day. The plan was to take Jacob’s parents’

small, green jon-boat to the boat dock by St. Augustine; he

would go fishing while RJ and I read books. I was just

starting to read RJ’s book, Beneath a Scarlet Sky, and she

picked a juicy romance novel.

We drove to the marina, unloaded the boat, and

navigated the inlet until we found a bridge to anchor

ourselves under. For two hours I was in introvert heaven. It

was a cloudy day, but it was still warm with a slight breeze. I

was enjoying my book while eating Chex Mix and listening

to country music. It was everything I wanted for my spring

break – relaxation, time to read, and the ocean.

About two hours elapsed when Jacob saw two dolphins

poke above the water. We watched in wonder as they

rhythmically glided above the surface and then dived back

down into the dark blue water. RJ was in awe. Dolphins are

her favorite animal. We decided to try to get a closer look, so

we steered in their general direction. Having been satisfied

with our dolphin escapades, Jacob asked if we wanted to go

see the inlet. RJ and I replied,

“Sure. Sounds like fun.”

My hair was flowing in the wind, the air smelled like salt,

and the country music filled my ears. It was pure bliss. We

zoomed out into the wide expanse of the inlet, past the first

buoy, and towards the opening. The water started to get

rougher. Instead of a smooth glide over the water, our small

john-boat was smacking the waves. I remember thinking,

“Ok, it is a little rougher, but Jacob has got us. He has done this

before. Nothing could possibly go wrong.”

The waves grew higher and the wind blew stronger as

we drove farther and farther out of the inlet. My heart

started to quicken slightly, but I forced myself to trust Jacob.

Jacob turned the boat a little bit and a wave slapped against

the boat spilling some water onto RJ who was in the front..

She squealed and Jacob laughed.

He decided to turn the boat around toward the marina,

and we started to go towards the waves from our wake. A

wave from behind propelled us forward and a wave from

our wake started barreling toward us. I remember having to

hold onto my seat so I wouldn’t slide forward as the tip of

the boat went straight into the wave. The water

automatically filled our small boat, taking all our possessions

with it. RJ screamed and Jacob yelled that we needed to

jump. His face is printed in my memory. His frozen

expression resembled someone who was caught mid-sneeze

and was angry at the same time. I held back my desire to

laugh because I knew that it was an expression of fear.

Oddly, I wasn’t afraid. The cold water was a jolt, but I

managed to keep my book and phone above water. In my

mind, it wasn’t really happening. We capsized—no biggy.

I was a sailing counselor the summer before and we

capsized our boats for the fun of it. Sure, it was different this

time because none of us were wearing life jackets, RJ

couldn’t swim, and a lake is a little different from the ocean,

but everything would turn out just fine. I could figure it out;

I always have been able to figure out a conflict or problem

on my own.

Whenever I think about worst-case scenarios, I can trust

myself. Worst case scenario, if I flunk out of school, need a

break, or need time to explore my options; I have my lovely

family to support me. If my house burns down, we have

home insurance. No lives are lost, no biggy. But this time I

had no fallbacks, no long list of options to comfort me that

all would be fine. I had two options: swim or die. No other

options. No rescue boat or time to think and pick the next

best step. I had to fight the waves and the current or never

see my family again. Never graduate from college. Never kiss

a boy. Never tell people about Jesus.

So, I started to swim. I didn’t even think about trying to

flip the boat, staying with the boat, or trying to grab

lifejackets. It seems so foolish to me now. There probably

was a smarter option, but something inside of me said that I

needed to swim.

The first couple of minutes I struggled to make

headway. I felt the current quickly sucking me away from the

shoreline. Every free-style stroke seemed useless. I felt like I

was running on a treadmill, using all my energy and still

staying in the exact same spot.

I knew from stories that the best way to escape a current

was to swim parallel to shore, so I fought the waves and

started to propel myself forward. I looked back and could no

longer see the boat. I could see RJ struggling to keep her

head above water. I yelled to Jacob,

“Stay with RJ. I’m going

to swim to shore.” I knew that there was no way RJ would

make it to shore. We were so far out that you could see

figures on the shoreline but couldn’t distinguish if they were

male or female. I remember screaming for help, but I knew

it was a waste of time.

It’s interesting that in a boat or on the beach, waves

seem peaceful and benign, but when you are in the water

and the only way to keep from drowning is your legs and

arms, the waves take a different form. You are at the mercy

of the strong, powerful, menacing water, unable to see the

horizon or what is lurking under you. You feel small,

powerless, helpless and alone.

Long after tossing my book I eventually let go of my

phone. It was too much effort to hold onto. When all you

have set before you is life or death, there is no need for a

phone. When faced with what seems like an insurmountable,

terrifying situation, all you have is God. So I stripped my

flannel and tried to take off my heavy shoes.

I started to grasp the seriousness of my situation. I

wasn’t getting closer to shore. I was quickly getting sucked

out of the inlet. My arms and legs were tired. I wanted to

take a break, but I knew that I had no other option. The

shoreline was my lifeline. If I didn’t keep swimming, I would

just keep getting swept out until eventually there would be

no shoreline to swim towards. I had to save my friends. I

didn’t want to die, so I pleaded with God. I said,

“Lord, give me strength. I need your strength, because I am tired,

and I don’t know if I can keep going. I don’t want to die. I have

so much I still need to do. If you deliver me and I survive, I will do

whatever you want. I will change my major, hop on a plane and

become a missionary, marry a nice farm boy, whatever you want.

I’m done fighting. Help me. Help me.”

As I kept swimming, I started to imagine the worst-case

scenario. I thought about what would happen if I failed to

reach shore. I pictured myself spending my last moments

alive alone in the wide expanse of the dark ocean, unable to

see land, floating on my back until I got so exhausted that I

drowned. I pictured the phone call to my parents. I

envisioned RJ struggling to stay above water and eventually

failing. What would happen to Jacob and RJ’s families? I’ve

never had a situation where trusting in God was the only

option.

This worse-case scenario was real and hopelessly

terrifying because it was completely in God’s hands. This is

what I struggle to put into words and explain to people. My

life was in His hands; it was completely out of my control. I had no

scapegoat, no second option where I could swoop in and

save myself. In complete and utter hopelessness, the only

thing I could do was turn to God and ask for help. It was

the first time I completely trusted in Him. All I could do was

pray and plead.

As time went by, God started to answer my prayer. I

escaped the current and swimming became four times easier.

The shoreline was within reach. The waves were still high

enough that I had to dive under each one to keep from

getting taken over, but I was just thankful that I was finally

moving. Just keep going. Just keep going. You can do it, I told myself.

Eventually, I swam until I realized that I could touch the

bottom. I was dazed, unable to be relieved until I knew my

friends were also safe. So, the instant I stood up, I tried to

run. I needed to find help. It felt like I had been swimming

for a long time and I knew RJ would not be able to last for

much longer. The water was about at my hips. I felt

lightheaded, and my legs felt like Jell-O. I fell over in the

water and had to catch myself. I ran onto the beach and

looked in both directions to find the nearest person. The

current carried me to the very end of the beachy peninsula

and there were very few people in site.

Then, I noticed people to my right. I started to run in

that direction as I saw a rescue boat come flying from the

mouth of the inlet. They glided across the water out towards

the last buoy in the inlet. For a moment the boat began to

search with little luck. I started to cry because I thought my

friends had drowned. I had failed. I was picturing what life

would be like without my hilariously joyful best friend and

roommate by my side and without my frustratingly, caring,

and stubborn friend Jacob. I cried out loud to God, Please,

Lord. Please, Lord. They can’t be dead. No, Lord.

The moment I stopped my prayer, the boat stopped. I

couldn’t see anyone getting on or off the boat, so I was

uncertain if they were found dead or alive.

I noticed a four-wheeler with four Coast Guard workers

only a couple of meters away. I took off my clunky shoes

and ran over to them. I was sobbing and asking if they had

found my friends. They told me my friends were safe and

asked if I was the third person. A wave of relief flowed over

me

They set me down in the four-wheeler with a blanket

and Gatorade, and I sobbed. I rarely cry in front of people,

but I couldn’t hold it in. I cried so hard I was shaking

(actually, the shaking could have been from the fact that the water was

60 degrees or that I swam for 25-30 minutes, but even so I was shaken

up).

I couldn’t stop smiling. All my anxiety, fear, and worry

were replaced with gratefulness, don’t-care-who-knows-it

joy. I was laughing and crying and praising God. I’ve never

been more joyful in my life. We were all alive. They put me in

an SUV with a nice man who drove me back to the marina.

As we made the 25-minute drive, the entire experience

started to feel surreal. Did it actually happen? I was just

fighting for my life in the ocean and now I am sitting in this

warm car learning about this nice Coast Guard’s family

history. I couldn’t help but feel like I was a completely

different person from the girl that was gawking at dolphins

an hour earlier. I wanted so desperately to cry and call my

parents to tell them I loved them. I wanted to process the

experience and figure out how I could uphold the promise I

made to God in the water: I will do whatever you want, if you help

me. But I chose to put on a brave face and be strong. I

decided to process later once I had the time, space, and

quiet.

THE CURRENT OF GOD’S GRACE

When we met at the marina, I hugged Jacob and RJ and

we drove back home. We processed the rest of the day and,

to be perfectly honest, I am still processing.

I want to remember that hopelessness and how God

delivered us along with the joy that followed. I want to

remember how my relationship with God matters above all

earthly possessions and how I need to trust him with the

little and big things.

The experience has taught me to be brave and has

inspired me to live more courageously. Fear no longer is a

major roadblock because I have experienced the power of

God. I know what real fear looks like and how MY God can

overcome it. If I can survive that fear, nothing should stop

me from doing His will. I think this is true for everyone.

We shouldn’t just trust him when we have no other

options. Even when everyday life is uncertain and small fears

swarm us, we have a God who is unstirred by the waves for,

“If He is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31). And, boy,

is God for us! He is given to us. He took on our flesh and

blood to die for us and so to save us. And as He died to save

us, so He lives to provide for us.

I am just extremely grateful and in awe of how God

provided for us on March 10th. We didn’t get eaten by sharks

or sucked down into an even stronger rip current. I was in

great shape because of my half-marathon training, and RJ

was in good shape because she had started lifting three

months prior. Even so, if Jacob and I had switched roles, RJ

may not have survived because I wouldn’t have been able to

give her breaks with my body size.

If a couple on the shore hadn’t seen us swimming, the

rescue boats may have been dispatched too late to rescue

Jacob and RJ. If the waves had been higher or wilder, I don’t

know if I would have survived. All in all His goodness is

shown through his providence that day.

His grace abounds in the deepest of waters.

POSTSCRIPT

This experience has taught me to live more courageously. That’s why I support ATLAS; a ministry helping people meet their emotional and spiritual needs whilst finding joy in the journey of discovering their unique potential in Christ. ATLAS is a mentor based, prayer driven personal development service whose goal is to help individuals and families attain truth, love, and self-control through the power and love of Jesus Christ. ATLAS is a free, safe, and confidential place wherepeople can be heard, encouraged and prayed over.

http://www.atlasgroupltd.org

370 12 th Avenue NE, SIOUX CENTER IA 51250

atlasgroup@atlasgroupltd.org

Contact the Author:

hsteinbauer8@gmail.com

Free Ebook:

“Hayley’s Swim” by Hayley Steinbauer

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You may make unlimited copies and redistribute.

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Prove it.

$35.

A deal I just couldn’t pass up.

Really.

Could you?

If you know anything about shoes, or sandals, or Birkenstock sandals…. you know that they don’t cost $35. You know they cost much more the $35. More like $135.

If you don’t know, now you do.

Well…. as I was happily scrolling through my Instagram… which is currently full of my young friends pregnancy and baby posts… I saw the ad. (side note: I scroll instagram to see my young friends posts, I scroll facebook to see my middle aged friends post . It’s a thing for sure) This ad told me I could purchase Birkenstock sandals for $35 if I just swiped up. As simple as that. It caught my attention. I had been thinking about purchasing some slip on sandals. Not only had I considered Birkenstocks I had also considered a fun color of Birkenstocks and the Birkenstocks in this particular ad…. they were red. RED. (another side note: Red shoes are one of the keys to happiness in my life. )

aren’t they the cutest?

So guess what. In a matter of 60 seconds I had swiped up, clicked on the red shoes, clicked on my size, clicked on the payment info tab, clicked on the address update tab, clicked purchase, clicked send….and just like that – I was the proud owner of a pair of beautiful, red, slip on sandals. I took a screen shot of the sandals and sent it to my daughter, wanting to share in the victory of my deal of the day. We just love a good deal. I could just feel the soft leather and perfectly formed toe holds. I could see them sitting next to the front door after having taken my dog for a walk, wearing my new red sandals. Yes… they were mine.

Well…. not yet.

You see the sandals haven’t actually arrived…..

yet.

I can’t even remember the company that sponsored these, hopefully legitimate, red Birkenstocks. I didn’t print a receipt. I didn’t check the validity of the website. Nope. I did nothing to prove that I was making a wise decision. So, I sit on my porch and wait expectantly for the fed ex guy, the ups man or the mailman to bring my beautiful red shoes. In the day of Amazon Prime and the delivery of internet orders arriving in what feels like minutes of ordering… 3 weeks is feeling like an eternity.

There are several reasons why I know I made this decision. First, if you are familiar with the enneagram – I am a 7 wing 8. This simply means I am overly optimistic, hate to think about hard things and can be spontaneous when it comes to jumping into fun things. Details feel bothersome when I just want to GO. I don’t need much evidence to Prove that what I want to do is right. I just want to believe the best and live accordingly. Second, and the real purpose behind this post is that I feel deep down, in a world that feels out of control… I’m longing for easy, I’m longing for normal, I’m longing for fun, I’m longing for carefree, I’m longing for the days when the biggest worry I had was if my red sandals would actually make it to my door.

But, as you are well aware, it is not.

And that is actually a really good thing.

Over the last 4 months I have made every attempt to gain some type of footing on the ground of a world that feels like it is experiencing a perpetual earth quake. Every single thing has been shaken.

I have two of every baby shower, wedding and graduation announcement hanging in my kitchen. Who would have thought when planning a wedding that the line item on the budget page would say, INVITATIONS X 2??

Invitations X2

I threw away the spring schedule of my daughters high school sports season and I just threw away the schedule for her college. I threw away the concert tickets to two of my favorite groups. I cancelled plane tickets to several summer events. Nothing… not one thing that I had attached my hope , my joy, my personal happiness has stayed standing. Not one thing. Every prediction I made has been wrong.

Darn it.

In my world where I live for joy filled events – I have lost all proof that my happiness can continue. Every plan I make will be cancelled… why even try??

So I pop on Instagram and buy a pair of $35 shoes – with the hopes that I can reclaim some of the joy lost in the tumult of 2020.

Oh…. but wait. This shaking, the chronic disruptions of life…they have left some evidence behind. The proof is there for me. And it is there for you. And it is, He, is waiting for us to see it.

As I have navigated this season I have been reminded time and time again that my hope cannot, nor should it have ever, been put in the things of this world. I can certainly enjoy them, celebrate them, look forward to them, but when they become the focus of my hope, I have turned them into an idol. And oh how my idols have been revealed as they each have been taken away.

And one thing remains……

Jesus. Waiting to PROVE that he his enough. Waiting to FLOOD our lives with evidence that HIS PEACE is real and true and practical and available and not dictated my circumstances. He left his peace with us when he returned from heaven. ” Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled. Do not be afraid.” John 14:27. and “I have told you these things so that IN ME you may have peace. In this world you WILL have trouble. But take heart I have over come the world.” John 16:33 It’s a thing, a real thing that we can boldly demand because he said we could. “Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Heb. 4:16

I have put this promise to the test so many times in my life. One of my favorite, GOD IS LEGIT, stories comes form January of 2018. I had just finished a glorious week with my fellow business owners at a conference in Atlanta. Its always a week of fantastic education, inspiration and girlfriend time. As I was literally rolling my suitcase out of my hotel room my phone buzzed with these words:

“Your flight has been cancelled.” CANCELLED. Not delayed, not switched to another. CANCELLED. And I wasn’t the only one. The 1 inch of snow that Atlanta had experienced the night before shut down the city. A fact that us northerners just cannot comprehend. What unfolded over the next 6 hours was nothing short of crazy. I had NEVER seen an airport so crowded – with lines looping over the entire building. No one knew what was going on but everyone thought they had the right solution and were happy to share it, loudly. ( hmm…. feels a lot like 2020). I was tired and just wanted to get home.

And… it was in that moment that I demanded PROOF.

I clearly remember standing in the line that stretched to eternity, purse in one hand, suitcase touching the other as I rolled it slowing to who knows where. I prayed one simple pray.

my insta post from the Atlanta airport

“GOD, prove it.”

Prove your peace.

Prove your power.

Prove your provision.

Prove it.

I’m waiting.

and you know what?

He 100% did.

Not one thing changed about my circumstances but everything changed about my heart. And when your heart changes your vision changes too.

Instead of seeing lines of strangers I saw lines of humans. I noticed an acquaintance and her husband a few feet away. We started chatting. We spoke of our fantastic week and the hilarity of our current situation. We left our line to drag our luggage through the airport. We squeezed into a restaurant and ate food, and shared stories. We made our way to a terminal full of friends from our town all rescheduled on a red eye flight. I love the picture of the group of us choosing to see the fun and find the true peace in our situation.

GOD showed up and he proved himself to me. I have evidence. Evidence I need now on a daily basis. DO you?

Do you have proof from your daily life that God is real. I mean really REAL. Not just a thing you say you believe and then show it by faithfully showing up to church on Sunday and saying your prayers before dinner. Not just a habit and a community you’ve joined because thats what you’ve been told is right. No – do you have FOR REAL EVIDENCE in your life that God loves you and shows up in the craziest of ways?

Guess what. It’s the perfect time to ask. In our upside down world where every plan is tentative. In a painful world where we fear turning on the news because we dread another tragic death of those thought less then. In a time when hard things happen to good people. It’s time.

And God is waiting.

He is waiting to flood your crazy with his comfort.

He is waiting to shine is light on your life.

He is waiting to PROVE himself worthy of all of our hope. The answer to all of our questions.

And he promises his joy will far exceed any and all earthly objects we desire…

even more the a good deal on some cute Red sandals.

Won’t you trust him today?

Boat Hopping

 ACTS 27: 30-32

Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, the sailors dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight.  In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow.  Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it fall away. 

Desperate times call for desperate measures or so it seemed in this harrowing account of Paul’s journey to Rome.  Despite his warnings, the ship stayed the course in the midst of threats of stormy weather.  This decision put the entire crew at risk.  The sailors recognized an opportunity to escape through an out of sight lifeboat but Paul advised against it- stating that all would be lost if these few men were let go. Surprisingly, the Centurion and soldiers in charge of  Paul ( who was their prisoner!) listened to him.  They cut the ropes and the sailors’ escape plan went floating away.  

This account that comes towards the end of Paul’s life always fascinates me.  Despite being a prisoner he appears to be in charge.  We see no one else stepping up to navigate decisions in this storm.  Paul’s confidence certainly didn’t come because of a title or position. It didn’t come because he had vast experience in captaining ships and organizing crews. It didn’t come from watching a YouTube video he could quickly google when the storm clouds rolled in.  It came from his God that had remained faithful from the day they met on the way to Damascus.  He had 100% God-confidence and that had always served him well.

Similar to the apostle Paul, ALL of us are being asked to unexpectedly navigate our own ships in an unprecedented storm.  And as you may have heard many times as I have, we are all in the same storm but very different boats.

The same storm.

VERY DIFFERENT BOATS. Hmm…

Some of our boats are filled with small children we are being asked to educate at home while continuing full time jobs. Some of our boats hold job layoffs and loss of income. Some of our boats include increased income because unemployment pays more than our work. Some of our boats include separation from aging parents. We may relate to others in similar boats but there are days where their storm seems easier and they are navigating the storm better. Other times our storm seems lighter and we get judgmental about the challenge others appear to be having. Not a lot of black and white in this one. We find our selves in a dangerous place when we start to compare boats or even start hoping in and out of the ones surrounding ours. Let me explain.

I woke up Tuesday morning feeling fantastic. It was a gorgeous morning with promise of the glory continuing. I felt rested from a good night sleep in a room cooled by the outside air. Don’t you love sleeping with the windows open? There were several events planned for my day, including a virtual game night with my daughter and son in law in Indiana, that I was looking forward to. I headed for my coffee and some time with God in my morning bible study. It was wonderful.

Tuesday Morning Coffee – It was glorious

And then it all changed.

As I put down my journal I picked up my phone …. and started scrolling… and then I started hopping… boat hopping if you will. I saw post after post of people in the same storm as me but very different boats. Not everyone had woken up with the same delight for their day as I had. I read about people struggling. I read funny memes. I read a few blogs. And my joy was gone. Boat hopping is exhausting. When I read the mom posts of 2020 seniors having a hard day as they continued mourning the loss of things that wouldn’t be for their child… I thought…. ” Oh I should probably feel more sad today.” ( NOTE: I have felt incredibly saddened by the losses of my class of 2020 daughter – shed more than one tear. But I wasn’t there on Tuesday). I saw posts of friends that have the virus and thought “Wow – I should be so much more productive – I’m healthy!” With each post I hopped …. out of my boat and into one not intended for me. My heart and soul had boarded the emotions roller coaster and I was on a full out ride of steep hills and tight cork screw twists. When I realized my mistake and the ride came to a stop I had a decision to make. I had to stop the boat hopping. It was serving no one and it certainly wasn’t honoring God. I had taken my eyes off of all I had been grateful for and my head and heart felts scattered and unsure.

Like God’s advice through Paul in Acts 27 – I believe he wants us, you and me, to stay in the boat. In our respective boats.  He wants you in the boat he has placed you in, that he planned for you long before you were born.  He wants you with your people, all your people, through the entirety of this storm. The good news is your ability to navigate your placement has nothing to do with your years of experience, your strengths, your weaknesses, your enneagram number, or your Myers-Briggs, but everything to do with our God who put you …. In that boat.

  All through scripture we see God calling the seemingly ill-equipped to carry out his plans.  More than one person questioned his wisdom when he reached out with a job offer:  Moses, Gideon, Abram…. So it’s ok if you do too.

Never before in the history of mankind has it appeared that the playing field is so level.  No one has walked this path before or sailed this storm.  No matter how many years we’ve lived – there is not one person professionally trained or otherwise that has wisdom grown from this specific type of experience.  Always before in the history of mankind has there been a God that promises wisdom, peace and answers. Always before in the history of mankind has there been a God that can back up his promises with evidence of his power through a sacrifice so great – the sending of an only son to OVERCOME death and the grave.  This same God, the father of the Savior of the world is with you in  your boat.  He knew this storm was coming.  He knew you would need to be right where you are,  even if the current round of waves feels  too big and too strong. 

Each of our days in the sea of this storm will look different. They emotions we each feel are real. I’ve heard it said the greatest gift we can give each other right now is to believe each other. To be ok with days that others are sad and you are happy. And to be ok when you are struggling to function and others are setting the world on fire. Same storm, different boats….. all navigated by our all powerful, all knowing, unchanging, loving God.

If these words find you ready to climb out, jump over, cannon ball out of your boat…. I urge you to stay.  The middle of the storm, in the boat God has placed you…..it’s the safest place you’ll ever be.