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Sensing Summer

You’ve been a long time coming.


Lately, it seems like most times I poked my nose into the great outdoors, the wind whipped me back in. So much wind, it feels like it could take a baby’s breath away. It snowed on our Easter trip. Then spring downpoured on graduation Saturday. Every time I ventured to wear shorts, it was a mistake, and we wondered if our tiny plants would freeze that night. 


But last evening, while I drove home from a backyard baby shower, I remembered why you’re worth the wait. 


The window down, I smelled summer arriving. The cool desert breeze ushered out the day that had baked our cars. 


I rejoiced at the sacred scent of mint fields. Passing a neighborhood, I could pinpoint a BBQ party, which reminded me of smokey campfires. On the edge of town, I spied a full-fledged high school baseball game with whole families in the grand stands and the smell of popcorn wafted through my window. The air nearer home smelled awash with sprinkler water from the canals. 


I saw the summer coming, too, in the indigo mountains sketched against a broody blueish sky. I foresee summer for the shape it is, holding anticipated outdoor weddings and getaways to the crested lakes. Memories yet to be made in a cross-country road trip! And I bet you our skies will drip with fireworks on the 4th.

Creamy iced coffee captures the taste of summer. Or mint leaves floating in lemonade with a pin-striped straw. Soon we’ll be tempted to buy a watermelon each time we enter the grocery store. We’ll set to work on corn on the cob and tomatoes rinsed of garden dirt. I guarantee Luke and I will hear the hum of Braum’s air-conditioning as we order ice cream as a reprieve from the midwest heat. Dip my yogurt cone in chocolate, please!

 
I feel you, summer. Grass like cool carpet. Stiff, rosy skin from too many hours floating the stone-clear river. A textured picnic basket full of sparkling water and egg salad croissants. A smudged pair of flip flops. A book and a fishing pole, plus the hammock and Star River. Heartfelt fellowship underneath sparkly strings of Edison bulbs.  

Summer, we hear you, too. Cicadas and crickets. A snowy birch log breaking in the smoldering ashes. The thrill of hearing an outdoor musical underneath the stars and a quilt. The rush of melted mountain snow pushing through the ravines. Praises sung in a backyard for all the neighbors to hear. 


Little Judah, in the backseat, can you smell it? It’s summer, and you’ll be meeting it for the first time, just around the corner. 

What if God asks me to do something I don’t want to do?

“What if God asks me to do something I don’t want to do?”

I sat at my grey kitchen table, pink-rimmed tulips wilting in their vase. The sunlight seared the pages of the book of James spread out before me. A friend on the other end of the phone shared she was afraid to submit to God and say, “I’ll do whatever you want me to do” because it would most likely result in her working some place she hated, or moving to a dangerous foreign country, or abandoning a relationship she valued.

Many church members consider full obedience to be certain punishment.

It can feel like that, but – blessedly — this isn’t true.

Know His Heart

Are you afraid to surrender to Him completely?

First of all, we have to clear our head from the me-approach to Scripture. Realize “the Bible is a book about God” as Jen Wilkens reminds us. Too often we’re searching our Bibles to find out how we can feel better. “Where am I in this?” we ask of Isaiah’s poetic chapters.

Good news! As we stare intently at His Word to simply know Him, we’ll be granted more knowledge of Who we left all to follow. Just from the first chapter of James we learn He is wise, righteous, generous, a promiser of the crown of life, can’t be tempted, giver of good and perfect gifts, Father of lights, never changes, speaks words of truth, wrote a law of liberty, and blesses doers of the Word.

Sounds like a God who is trustworthy of our utmost submission. Do you believe the intentions of His will toward you are always kind? Ask Him for the faith to believe His capability to grant wisdom and to weave together His goodness into your story.

As we notice who is He is, we see His heart for us and for His world. And the more time we spend with Him, the more He starts to peel away our fleshly desires and replace them with His set apart ones.

Stare intently at His Word to be unified to His heart.

Know His Will

But what if you can’t figure out the thing He wants you to do?

Thankfully, God doesn’t hide His will from us in a big divine guessing game.

“Let’s begin with a simple assumption. Since God has a will for us, He must want us to know it. If so, then we could expect Him to communicate it to us in the most obvious way. And how would that be? Through the Bible, His revelation.”
― John MacArthur, Found: God’s Will

Need to know God’s will? See the Bible. Need to know how to plan for the future? Acknowledge Him in your plans and He’ll direct Your paths (Proverbs 3:6).

Of course, knowing me and you, we just would resort to worrying about the few decisions not lined out in Scripture, like who we’re going to marry or where we’ll live.

You’ve heard the missionary stories like: “I told God I would go anywhere except Asia, and then He sent me to Asia!” I used to worry that God would make me marry someone I didn’t like.  

Ah, dear younger me, God doesn’t work like that. His ways are not a forceful, grit-your-teeth burden – they’re a joy. He’s a friend and father who guides us gently, who knows us intimately. He doesn’t plan devastation for His children. Joyless, fruitless futures are not ours.  

But what about the scary country He could call us to?

What’s important to know is that if God asks us to sacrifice, He equips us with the giftings, passions, help, support, and any other provision we need. We’re never left and high and dry without His strength. He leads us beside still waters for His own name’s sake. There is always plenty of grace for tomorrow’s problems. As Hudson Taylor put it, “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s provision.”

He gets the glory that way.

“Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Hebrews 13:20-21

Stare intently as His Word to know His written will, and don’t worry about where He’ll lead you or if you’ll miss out on His direction. He’ll provide.

Know His Hatred for Sin (What the Flesh Hates, The Spirit Loves)

God gently aligns us to His straight and narrow way when we acknowledge Him (Proverbs 3:6). Is it uncomfortable? Sometimes. But is it worth it?

I had braces as a teenager. As I parted the orthodontist’s office for the last time, they instructed me to wear my retainers at night. I did faithfully for a while. Then the habit loosened. Now whenever I get convicted about how my teeth could move back into their original jagged state, I pop the retainers back in. But it hurts! I have to take them off in the middle of the night just so I can sleep. But the next night it’s better. Then…well, if I would just keep wearing them periodically, I wouldn’t have to repeat the pain, and my teeth would stay aligned!

Alignment of the heart is something beautiful, though, it can also be difficult. The end result is far better than staying on crooked paths.   

When we first start following Christ, we don’t hate all of our sin as much as we should. But as we gaze at His holiness longer and longer, we start to view disobedience to Him as He does — undesirably. We begin to see the goodness of walking with Him, and the wickedness of our own ways.

We certainly get the better end of the bargain. Sure, God will lead us to do things our flesh despises. Alignment is uncomfortable, like barely-used retainers. But holding onto our sin patterns won’t bring anything remotely good. If you think your will and way is fun and worth it, be aware it’s a lie from the world and the devil.

Our flesh would NEVER choose suffering or denying itself. But submitting to Him is freedom and joy. Reward and fulfillment.

The spirit is WILLING. The flesh is what’s weak (Mark 14:38).

Know His Correction

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.”

2 Timothy 3:16

Correction might conjure up images of traditional teacher blackboards and humiliation. But James, Jesus’ half-brother, wrote this:

“But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”

Who looks at a mirror and doesn’t correct the messy hair and the mascara smudge or the crooked tie? Mirrors lead to something better than before.

Jesus also states the blessedness of correction:

But He said, “On the Contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” 

Luke 11:28

Being a doer of the word brings blessing! The world’s burdens will enslave us to our own passions reaping the punishment of death, but His law is a law of liberty.

What to Do

First, know the One who asks for your obedience, how He is trustworthy and kind. If you don’t want to obey Him, you’re missing the Person He is.

Second, He won’t lead you anywhere without His abundant provision. If you’re afraid to obey Him, Your missing the point of His will.

Third, God will absolutely ask You to do things that your flesh will hate (like denying yourself). Take courage, however, God’s spirit in you is willing. If you don’t want to obey Him, you’re missing a place in your life for His spirit.

“For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

Philippians 2:13

Further study:

Read Psalm 119 until you begin to agree with God about how good His commandments are.

Take Courage, Graduate

PC: Photo by Joshua Earle, Yellowstone

Shake Not a Mountain

You don’t want to be this person.

A clear depiction of the ungodly lies in Psalm 36. If you could see inside his heart, you’d find transgression speaking to it. He’s so wound up in deceit, when others discover the secret webs of his wrongdoing, it brings him flattery. He’s flattered even further by the fact that his actions are hated (vv 1-2). Appalling!

The wicked wellspring of the heart will bring forth both deceitful thoughts and words. This man has ceased to be wise and ceased to do good. When he lies down at night to rest, he uses this time to plot. He sets himself on a path that is “not good.” He doesn’t despise evil like God does. The fear of God is absent (vv. 3-4).

Such an ugly painting.

The psalmist whiplashes from this lose-your-appetite kind of wickedness to a dazzling description of the Lord.

He writes of God’s lovingkindess reaching to the heavens and His faithfulness reaching to the swaths of watercolored skies.

“Your righteousness is like the mountains of God.

Your judgments are like a great deep.”

(Psalm 36:6)

When the sinful man meets the mountains of God, an acute contrast appears. Close your eyes and picture the biggest mountain you can imagine. For me, I see the Teton mountain range, doubling in size when it mirrors in the clarity of Jenny Lake. How grand is God’s righteousness if earth’s mountains express it! They are immovable, enduring, strong, never to be shaken, planted, and rooted to be established across time.

Grand Teton National Park, PC Shane Cotee

“Firm and unmoved, lofty and sublime. As winds and hurricanes shake not an Alp, so the righteousness of God is never in any degree affected by circumstances; he is always just. Who can bribe the Judge of all the earth, or who can, by threatening, compel him to pervert judgment? Not even to save his elect would the Lord suffer his righteousness to be set aside. No awe inspired by mountain scenery can equal that which fills the soul when it beholds the Son of God slain as a victim to vindicate the justice of the Inflexible Lawgiver. Right across the path of every unholy man who dreams of heaven stand the towering Andes of divine righteousness, which no unregenerate sinner can ever climb.”

Charles Spurgeon

The wicked man has much to fear if His righteousness is like mountains, and His judgments are like the great deep. Who can search out the great deeps? Even to this day we do not know the depths of the ocean and are continually making big discoveries. So it is with the judgments of God. They are deep, unsearchable, uncharted; they are too great for us to comprehend.

He alone is the One who preserves man and beast — so obvious. His lovingkindness is precious, and His children take shadow in His wings. The wicked one takes a sick satisfaction in the discoveries of what is a shame to even speak about.

But the children of God drink their fill of abundance in His house. They drink the river of His delights. He owns the fountain of life, far superior to the path of death chosen by the one who doesn’t rightly fear God (vv 7-9).

The psalmist ends with a prayer:

“In Your light we see. O continue Your lovingkindess to those who know You, and Your righteousness to the upright in heart.”

We might look at the first verses of the chapter and thank God we have not done anything to make scandalous headlines. Gratefully, we’re not to the point of enjoying and bragging about evil.

But we must keep our eyes on the mountain of God and ask like the psalmist:

“Let not the foot of pride come upon me.”

Our eyes behold the grandeur of God, and note the foolishness of the foot of pride, so subtly deceptive. In verse three, we know the wicked man ceased to be wise and ceased to do good. He used to be good and wise. Any of us could take subtle steps of pride.

Let not the foot of pride come upon me!

Instead, remember the judgments of the great deep and the faithfulness reaching to the sky. Meditate on Christ’s work of rescuing us from the judgments our own wickedness deserves. “Pride wilts in the atmosphere of the gospel.” (Milton Vincent)

What are mere men and women compared to the mountains of God?! What is man that He is mindful of us? Like the immovable Alps, His holiness is sure. Christ’s death and resurrection is the only way we can be spared from pride and know the abundance of His house and drink the river of His delights.

Thoughts from Psalm 36

The Liebster Award

Liebster Award! ... So, what is the Liebster Award? | Abroad American

Back in December, Laurel nominated me for the “Liebster Award.” She writes at Laurel Jean. Thank you for the nomination, friend!

Here’s how the award business works, which I understand is a way for you to meet new bloggers and have some fun, too!

  1. First, thank the person who nominated you, include a link to their blog, and add the Liebster Award badge to your blog and/or post.
  2. Answer the eleven questions from the person who nominated you.
  3. Give eleven random facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 5-11 fellow bloggers.
  5. Notify your nominees that you nominated them for the Liebster Award.
  6. Last, but certainly not least, ask your nominees eleven questions.

11 random facts about me

  1. My favorite story genre is books set in America’s 1900-1960s.
  2. I always appreciate a well-timed quote woven into a conversation.
  3. I have 7 younger siblings that I’m quite proud of.
  4. I’m a bit of a foodie but only recently discovered my love of cooking. I finally realized the kitchen is a place for creativity — for example, I’m enjoying the freedom to not measure exactly or always obey the recipe. This turns a chore into something exciting, though it does come with risks! I’m glad my husband is an easy food reviewer.
  5. I love a good garage sale and feel disappointed when I drive past a sign and can’t stop. You never know when you could find a good deal or a great treasure. However, I tried to host one last summer, and though parts of it were fun, it was kind of a flop.
  6. I hope to find timber this summer (translation: I intend to go to the mountain forests and smell the pine trees).
  7. I am studying the book of James with the ladies in my church. I’m blown away by all I’m learning by emphasizing the book’s context.
  8. I always choose my giraffe mug whenever possible.
  9. Whenever my sisters and I use the Marco Polo app to talk, we often use the squeaky voice filter, and none of our husbands understand the hilarity of it.
  10. One of my favorite things is driving back roads with sunny, window-down weather, perhaps to a coffee shop or friend’s house.
  11. And for my 11th fact, here’s a pic of my cute baby.
He’s two months!

Here are the questions Laurel asked me:

  1. How did you choose the name for your blog? I wanted to weave together a theme for my blog. As I looked at my own writing, I noticed I tend to write about trusting God, with a side of my favorite literature. So I grabbed the theme of courage and plot twists.
  2. If you could work any job for one week, what job would it be, and why? I’m loving my SAHM job! I do like to vicariously explore other careers through book characters.
  3. What is the biggest thing you’ve learned from blogging? You must be filled up to share with others.
  4. What does your ideal weekend look like? It would involve a clean house, hospitality, coffee, a musical, chocolatey dessert, volleyball, a hike, and my favorite people.
  5. Do you set goals for the New Year? Yep! They’re usually a variance of the same things.
  6. What is the best book (aside from the Bible) that you’ve read, and why do you think so? One book I have enjoyed greatly is The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. It shows the beauty of faith in God and courage in the midst of the worst circumstances. I just love the hope in her story. God truly is a Hiding Place.
  7. What was the best thing that happened to you in 2020? In June we found out we were expecting our first!
  8. Which historical figure do you most admire, and why? In school I enjoyed learning about Clara Barton because of her bravery and strength.
  9. Where do you hope to see yourself in 10 years? Teaching my children and discipling others! And, hopefully we’ll have our dream home.
  10. If you knew that today was your last day on earth, how would you spend it? What I hope to be doing every day: sharing Christ and His truth.
  11. What is your favorite Bible verse, and why? I’ve always loved Psalm 16:11, “You will show me the path of life. In Your presence is fullness of joy. At Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”

My Nomiations for the Liebster Award

Shelli Rehmert — My mother-in-law blogs with both wisdom and wit (one of my favorite combos!)

Bethany J. Melton — Bethany has a gift for gracing simple life with lovely words.

Madelyn Canada — Madelyn is similar to me, in that she taps into writing encouragement from both theology and stories, too.

Kristin Couch — Kristin’s stories on “The Palest Ink” are a delight to read. 

And my questions for my nominees:

  1. Where do you source ideas for your blog?
  2. What is a favorite CHAPTER from one of your favorite books?
  3. What’s your ideal weekend?
  4. Favorite recipe right now?
  5. What’s one of your favorite blog posts you’ve written?
  6. What is your favorite book of the Bible that you’ve studied and why?
  7. What is a life hack you have enjoyed recently?
  8. What’s your dream vacation?
  9. How do you choose the books you want to read?
  10. What’s a book recommendation?
  11. Describe a favorite piece of art you own:

Dear readers, would you like to answer any of these questions? Please do so in the comments or message me! Are you also a blogger? I’d love to know! Thank you following me and letting me take up treasured space in your inbox.

Parking Lot Prelude

I’ve been uniquely positioned to see a new angle of behind-the-scenes church since I’ve become a mom. Whether it’s catching most of the sermon from the foyer speakers, inhaling the shared meal before the baby wakes up, or catching conversations over the diaper changing table in the nursery, church looks a bit different in this season. I’ve appreciated the new observations I’ve made. 

Sunday morning I sat in our car, fitting in a baby feeding before the service started. My husband was greeting at the door, but I had a chance to observe the happening parking lot.

There’s something special about seeing car after car turn into this holy slab of cement. The day washed in sunshine, smiles appeared bright.

I noticed a newlywed couple, dressed in Sunday best, but returning a post hole digger to someone else’s vehicle before heading into the building. 

There also was a darling collection of six young siblings tumbling out of the van, waving to their friends as they patiently waited for their parents. Their pink dresses, blue plaids, and grins melted my heart. “Behold, children are a gift from the Lord.” What a testimony their smiles were to the joy of the Lord! 

A few spaces down, my sister and her husband emerged from their car, with laughter and coffees. They whipped out baby and baby stroller in practiced teamwork style, also eager to worship.

As more people filed toward the front doors, I also noted a new haircut, a young believer in the faith, and a proud, new grandma. The high school seniors had arrived early to pass out their grad party invitations.

Each sister and brother in Christ — young and old — spoke some aspect of God’s truth to me. I need them all.

They are individuals carrying unique spiritual gifts into the church foyer. Members of Christ’s body, and if they are suffering, we all are; if they are rejoicing, we all are, and somehow we can visit both places at once in our Oneness with Christ. The Man of Sorrows and yet, the Dayspring from on High.

What a gift to be physically together. The sun and spring blossoms beckoned praise. I reached for my Bible to read a little, and my eyes fell on this passage:

“Oh come, let us worship and bow down;

    let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!

For He is our God,

    and we are the people of His pasture,

    and the sheep of His hand.

Today, if you hear His voice,

 do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,

    as on the day at Massah in the wilderness.”

Psalm 95:6-8

Since I was peering through my vehicle’s tinted windows, and not through rose-colored glasses, I knew this was as an imperfect sheep gathering as any. We desperately need God to soften our prone-to-be-hard hearts to worship Him and genuinely care for one another. We also need each other to call one another to worship and bow down.

My heart swelled as I prepared to set up my own little sheep’s stroller and enter the gates with thanksgiving. I determined to encourage anyone I could and also be encouraged.

The behind-the-scenes of the parking lot gave me a small prelude of thankfulness as I prepared to worship with this gift of grace we call the local church.