Trudging Up the Steep Hills

Psalm 121:1 “I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.”

It’s painful when you’re trudging up a steep hill. Every fiber of your leg muscles tighten. You feel as if you won’t make it to the top. Your calf muscles silently scream, “Please stop! We can’t go another step!” Instead of looking up ahead at how much farther I have to go, I look down at the ground and literally watch my feet, one step at a time.

There’s something invigorating about finally reaching the top of a steep hill. I finally look up from the ground and realize I’ve made it! Trudging up that hill caused my heart to almost pound out of my chest. My rapid breathing finally slows down. I let out a sigh of relief. Yes! The ground ahead of me begins to level out now. It’s smooth and I can see more of what’s up ahead.

But I take a moment and turn around.  Did I really just come all this way? I stand in awe of the beauty around me. Depending on the season, I might be looking at lush-green trees lining the path behind me, blue sky overhead. At other times I might be looking at autumn leaves splattered with bright orange-red colors. My absolute favorite view at the top of the hill is in winter. The snow-covered trees, glistening in the sparkling light of the sun. I breathe in the air and turn my head back in front of me.

I’ve had my share of steep hills in this life. Some of them I’d rather forget about. But I can undoubtedly say that there’s something invigorating about finally making it to the top. Those trials I thought for sure would kill my soul and squash my spirit. Yes, there are times my heart has nearly broken, fiercely pounding out of my chest. My flesh shouting, “I can’t go another step!” But when I came to the end of that challenge, my breathing slowed down. My tears and anguish turned into joyous breaths of praise. Praise to my Lord Jesus who walked beside me each step of the way.

Did I really just come all this way? I stood in awe of the beauty around me. Not physical surroundings, but the beauty of what God had done in me. The beauty of the strength He equipped me with. The beauty of his promise to never leave me or forsake me. My faith was strengthened. My hope was renewed. My love for Him was magnified. And this view was something I wouldn’t trade for anything.

READY? Where are you, dear friend? Are you gasping for breath, trudging up a steep hill? Do you feel you won’t make it to the top? Does your heart ache and you just want to stop? I encourage you to tightly grip the loving arms of Jesus. He is right beside you as you go up the hill. He is with you every step of the way. He can’t wait to show you the view at the top!

GET SET. Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

GO! Lord Jesus, the hills of this life are hard. Sometimes I just want to give up. When I feel this way, please help me remember your truth. Help me cling to the fact that you are with me even though I can’t always see what’s up at the top. Thank you for your promise of being with me each step of the way. Amen

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Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett 

 

When Your Plans Are Interrupted

Ever make plans to do something only to have those plans come to a screeching halt? You think you’re going to accomplish a desired task and then something happens, totally taking you in a different direction. Last week was crazy for us as it started out with my husband losing his job unexpectedly. (Read my post here for a fresh perspective of that day: (https://reststopforthesoul.com/2014/06/24/shocked-but-not-shaken)

The week continued in such a way, that every time I planned to do something, my plans were totally interrupted:

We’d planned to spend the day at the pool with our son and his girlfriend, but then their car broke down. Interruption!

Hurrying out the door, I’d planned to go for a long run in my neighborhood, but then the phone rang and it turned into a 30 minute conversation. Interruption!

I had a long overdue hair appointment, but the friend who does my hair had a family emergency come up and she had to cancel. Interruption!

We’d just put our boat in the lake Friday evening to join friends on their jet ski, but then it rained. Interruption!

It’s one thing if my plans are interrupted once in a while, but it’s another when it happens multiple times over the course of several days! There might be something God is trying to teach me. He has my attention. I’d better be listening.

God is certainly teaching me that I am not in control. It’s not wrong to plan things and organize the time He’s given us, but if I hold too tightly to MY plans, I’m setting myself up for disappointment. If I don’t look to Him when these interruptions occur, I’m bound to be upset. Frustrated.  Angry. Demanding.

I am NOT in control, but I serve a God who is. He sees the bigger picture. He has a higher plan. And He knows exactly what I need. And what I’ve seen over the course of these few days of constant interruptions is that other people are in the picture too. IT’S NOT ABOUT ME!

In each of the situations I mentioned above, I could label it an interruption. But when I genuinely pray to see things through God’s perspective and ask Him to show me how to respond, something amazing happens. What I label as interruptions, God sometimes calls interventions. Yes, I can see these events as opportunities when God intervenes and redirects my paths. He then intervenes in my heart and sometimes in the hearts of those around me.

Let me walk you through these interruptions again, but this time, view them through a different lens. God’s lens of interventions:

When the car broke down we couldn’t go to the pool, but over the course of the next several hours, my husband and son got to spend some quality time together under the hood of a car. One-on-one time that would not have happened at a swimming pool. We also got to witness God’s amazing power unfold through prayer. As we were making plans to have the car towed, it suddenly started up. Intervention!

When I was going out the door for a run and the phone rang, it was a family member I hadn’t talked to in a long time. She encouraged me during a much-needed time as I shared with her our situation with Jim’s sudden job loss. Intervention!

After I finally got to complete my run, a neighbor was pulling into her driveway at the exact time I was turning to go home. She was having a challenging morning and needed some encouragement and prayer. If the phone call hadn’t come when it did to delay my run, I would have missed the opportunity. Intervention!

When my hair appointment had to be cancelled, it freed up my day to spend more time with a friend who needed encouragement and allowed me some much-needed time to work on a project I’d been putting off. Intervention!

When we were on the lake and it started to rain, our friends who were riding their jet ski boarded our boat to take cover. I got to spend some quality time connecting with my friend. Time we wouldn’t have had if she’d been on the jet ski. Intervention!

How many times have I missed God’s blessing and overlooked His interventions because I was so absorbed in my own plans? How many times have I missed connecting with someone because I was too angry about my plans being interrupted? How many times have I focused on myself to the point I couldn’t see someone else in need? How many times have I demanded Why God? Instead of  whispering What now God?

And so I ask you the same questions, dear friend: Will you allow God to show you His way when your plans are interrupted? Will you allow God to show you His perspective when life doesn’t go as planned? It might be something as trivial as a cancelled hair appointment or it might be something more serious like a sudden job loss. Whatever it might be, I want to encourage you and challenge you to look for what God is trying to teach you in those moments. It might be something he wants to refine in you. Or He may be re-directing your path so you can connect with someone else.

It’s challenging to always respond the right way when our plans are interrupted! We won’t always get it right every time. But I’m so glad I serve a God who is gracious, patient and loving enough to keep giving me opportunities to see His interventions for what they are….and not as interruptions.

Proverbs 16:9 “A man’s mind plans his ways, but the Lord directs his steps.”

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Shocked, But Not Shaken

Sometimes life is going smoothly and suddenly, out of nowhere,your cage is rattled. You’re caught off guard and have the wind knocked out of you. A phone call leaves you utterly shocked. This is what happened to our family yesterday. My husband’s job was eliminated. No warning. No red flags. Nothing.

“We’re downsizing. Sorry this has to happen, but it’s the direction we must take the company.”

And so that is how our morning started off. After realizing this really happened and we weren’t dreaming, we had to pull ourselves together and do what we most often do when a crisis comes our way: We cried out to God, our Faithful Father. Although our hearts ached and confusion swirled mindlessly, we took it all to the throne of God. This most certainly caught us off guard, but it was no surprise to Him. We have no idea what lies ahead, but He does. We don’t understand the reasons or the timing, but He has a purpose and His timing is sovereign.

My human, finite mind fills with questions: Why now God? Why did we not get any warning about this? Didn’t you lead our family to this job? Don’t you know how uncertain our economy is right now?

But He whispers to my heart ever so gently, “I’m in control. Trust me. Lean not on your own understanding. I’ve carried you through trials before and I’ll carry you through this one too.”

The scripture God is shouting loud and clear to me is this: Psalm 62:1-2 “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my fortress, I will not be shaken.”

Our true security is in God alone. Period. Sure, He blesses us with people and things that help us rest, but our ultimate rest can only be found in Him. (Is my faith being challenged since the home page on my blog is entitled “Jesus…the Ultimate Rest Stop? Am I going to live out the words I type?)

True rest can’t be found in a job. True rest can’t be found in houses or cars. True rest can’t be found in the amount of our bank account. True rest can’t even be found in the humans who love us most. No, our only source of true rest can be found in God alone.

God alone is our rock. Anything else we attempt to call our rock will only crumble. It will shatter right before our eyes.

He alone is our fortress. A fortress is where you run when you need help. Where you run to when you are in a storm. Where you run to when things fall apart. I can honestly say that physically I can’t run fast, but I’m capable of sprinting like crazy to God my fortress. It’s the only place I can find refuge.

I will not be shaken. Yes, things in life will shake around us. The economy. The weather. Our marriages. Our children. Our own prideful choices. But without a doubt, our God almighty will never be shaken. And if He lives in us, then that means WE will not be shaken.

I can’t be certain of when and where my husband will get another job. But I can be certain that God is in control. He will carry us one step at a time. We will cling to the truth that although the ground we walk on is unstable and shaky, we will not be shaken as we hold tight to HIM.

So what is shaking around you, dear friend? What are you allowing to rattle your cage? Who or what is attempting to crack the foundation of your rock? Whatever it may be, join with me in prayer as we run together to God in the midst of our challenges, trials and times of uncertainty.

Psalm 62:1-2 “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my fortress, I will not be shaken.”

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One Day at a Time

At the beginning of the school year, my daughter was given a packet of grammar lessons for the entire year. On each of the home school days, she is assigned one grammar lesson at a time. About halfway through the year I asked her to pull out the lesson for that specific day, but out of curiosity she pulled out the very LAST lesson in the back of the large envelope.

“I want to see what the last lesson of the year looks like, Mom!”

She was giggly as she quickly pulled it out, but her beautiful smile turned to pure horror, staring at the paper in front of her. With a look of panic on her face, she exclaimed,

“What is this? This looks so hard,Mom! How will I ever be able to do this if I don’t even understand the directions? I’ll never be able to do this kind of work!!”

I gently took the paper from her,placing it in the back of the folder where it belonged. I encouraged her by saying, “Sweetheart, you aren’t ready for that lesson yet. Don’t worry, by the time the end of the school year comes you will be prepared. Just focus on the lesson you’re given for each day.”

I heard the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart in that moment loud and clear!

You so often want to know what’s up ahead, Lisa. But you don’t need to worry about the things down the road. If I showed you NOW what is up ahead, you wouldn’t understand and you wouldn’t be ready. Trust me one day at a time. I will prepare you for what is coming.

Wow! After being still enough for the Holy Spirit to speak to me in that moment, these two scriptures came to my mind:

Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet, a light to my path.”

Matthew 6:34 “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow has enough trouble of its own.”

We are told that His word is a lamp unto our FEET. It sounds like to me that if the light we are given is for our feet, then that is only a few steps in front of us, not several miles. He only gives us enough light for one step at a time. If we try to get ahead of the light, no wonder we stumble and fall……because we are out of the light.

And no wonder Jesus says not to worry about tomorrow! His grace is sufficient for one day at a time. We are only to focus on whatever is in front of us for that specific day, not get worried about what is down the road.

If God had showed me a year ago some of the trials I’d be facing in this current season, I would’ve had a huge meltdown! I probably would’ve screamed, “You’ve got the wrong person, I’m out of here!”

My daughter was anxious about the last grammar lesson a few months ago. But you know what? She just completed it yesterday. I reminded her of the incident earlier in the year and she smiled. When she focused on the lesson for each day, over time she was being prepared for the next level. Worrying wouldn’t have accomplished anything at all.

So what is it for you? What in your future are you worried about?

How will I know what school is best for my kids?
What if  the test results show cancer?
What if we can’t pay our bills?
What if my marriage doesn’t improve?
How will I handle my child going off to college?

Whatever your situation may be dear friend, rest assured that God sees our path up ahead. He knows what is coming and He will prepare us ONE DAY AT A TIME. As much as we want to know what’s around the next corner, He wants us to rest in Him and receive the grace He’s given us for that day alone.

Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet, a light to my path.”

Matthew 6:34 “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow has enough trouble of its own.”

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Blind Faith

Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with my eye upon you”

Just five more minutes and the race would start. Runners all around me were jogging in place to stay warm, setting stopwatches, taking start-line photos with smart phones and stretching one last time. My GPS watch was set. My eyes fixed ahead. Suddenly some runners to my left brushed up against me. I glanced over and noticed a young man with a rope tied to his waist. An older man in front of him tightly held the other end of the rope in his hand. The older man sported a bright-orange vest with the word Guide boldly printed on the back.  It was obvious the young man was blind. And he wasn’t a spectator… He was going to run the race. Wow! I couldn’t believe this man was going to run a half-marathon…..blind. He was completely at the mercy of his guide.

I avoid obstacles when I run. Patches of ice, cracked sidewalks, uneven pathways and scattered debris cause interference if you’re not watching closely. Sometimes other people get in the way as I’m trying to maneuver around them. But I have perfect vision! I can see where the road gets narrow or where an incline is waiting for me to push harder. Can you imagine running any distance blind? You’d have to possess a strong trust in the person guiding you to let them lead you like that.

Oh to have this kind of faith in our journey of life—with God as our guide!  The kind of faith that doesn’t doubt. The kind of faith that trusts completely. The kind of faith that says “Okay God, I can’t see what’s up ahead, but I trust you to lead me through this challenge. So often we’re guilty of untying the rope that connects us to God and decide to do things our own way. Thinking we know better and don’t need His help, we let go of the rope. Then we wonder later how we got off track and why we crashed and burned from something we didn’t see before. Why do we doubt? Why don’t we trust?

The blind runner wasn’t anxious. His beaming smile spoke volumes. Maybe he felt secure because he was firmly attached to his guide. The psalmist in today’s verse confidently states that God’s watchful eye is on us as He guides us.  Perhaps that’s the key to our security in God: to be firmly attached to Him. That means we fix our eyes on Him. We seek Him whole heartedly. We stay as close to Him as we can possibly get. If we truly do this, maybe we won’t be anxious. Then we can display a beaming smile for all around us to see. And when people are attracted to our joyous countenance, we can point them to our awesome guide.

Wherever you are, I encourage you to hold tightly to God. Whatever your struggle, He will show you the next step. Stay close to Him because He knows what’s up ahead. It might not be easy, but He promises to be with you every step of the way.

READY?  Is your rope tied tightly to your heavenly guide? Or is it starting to lose its grip? Do you trust God to help you navigate the unknown road up ahead? Can you identify times when you’ve let go of the rope? What were the consequences of letting go? Keep your rope tightly tied and stay close to your savior.

GET SET.  Psalm 25:4-6 “Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

GO!  Lord God, I come before you and ask you to secure my rope tightly to your side. Help me keep it firmly tied and not be tempted to loosen its grip. I confess the times I’ve chosen to go my own way. Forgive my unbelief! Help me trust you when I can’t see what’s up ahead. Help me to rest securely in the fact that you are in control and you know what’s best for me. Thank you for directing my steps. Thank you for the hope you’ve promised. Amen

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Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

http://www.reststopforthesoul.com

We Are All Allergic!

Papa John’s Pizza, pasta, bagels, and Krispy Kreme doughnuts. These are all forbidden items for someone like me! I used to absolutely savor every bite of my favorite foods. Unfortunately a few years ago I was diagnosed with Celiac disease. After the initial shock wore off, I had to accept the fact that I could no longer eat gluten: a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.

Ummm, and so what else does that leave me to eat? Isn’t there a pill I can take to treat this so I can keep eating what I want??

I had to immediately STOP consuming gluten….period! There was no cutting back slowly or working up to it over time. If you didn’t know, Celiac is an autoimmune disease. The body simply can’t break down gluten and if it is consumed, the lining of the small intestine is severely damaged. Once this occurs, your body can’t absorb any nutrients. Failure to stop eating gluten can lead to serious gastrointestinal complications, as well as colon problems and osteoporosis.

So, my dietary lifestyle changed dramatically. I have to read food labels like a detective. There are some items containing hidden gluten that are harder to figure out. Sometimes I’ve had to call a manufacturer to find out for sure if something is gluten free. I have to purchase many items, at a much higher cost, at specialty stores. And what about when I go out to eat? Ha! I always have sympathy for our server since my food allergy forces them to take more time, care and precautions in preparing my food! The one word of advice you’re strongly warned to abide by as a Celiac is this: IF IN DOUBT….DON’T CONSUME IT! For my own health, I MUST take these precautions or face the consequences of physical damage.

What if I took that same intensity of care in my spiritual walk in regards to SIN? What if I pondered my words and actions before I proceeded? What if I called on God in prayer in moments of doubt before giving in to temptation? Would my behavior change if I gave thought to the damage that would occur if I indulged in something sinful?

That critical thought seems so harmless yet if I continue to focus on it and don’t take it to the throne of God….it does damage to my soul.

Is it really that big of a deal to stay angry at someone who’s offended me? If I harbor anger and let it turn to bitterness…..it does damage to my soul.

And what about those secret sins? The ones that nobody knows about? Yes….they too damage my soul.

I am frequently guilty of putting more value on my physical body–something temporary–than on my soul–something eternal.

Sin is not just something temporary that goes away, disappearing after time goes by. If it isn’t confessed and acknowledged before our Heavenly Father then it continues to eat us up inside. We might not feel the effects of it right away, but it is still there ever so gradually tearing us up inside, gnawing at the core of our soul, going deeper and deeper until the effects become noticeable on the outside. Not just noticeable to us, but to those around us.

We are ALL allergic to SIN! There’s no way around it! We can’t just take a pill to treat the symptoms, we have to change our lifestyle by dying to self so the Holy Spirit can live through us victoriously. God offers this to us through FORGIVENESS through Jesus Christ!

So what is it for you dear friend? What sin are you most allergic to? What causes the most grief and pain for you? Are you trying to cover it up in hopes that it will go away? I challenge and encourage you to bring it before the throne of Almighty God! Don’t wait for it to fester and grow out of control. Bring it to Him today.

I Peter 2:11 “Dear Friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.”

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