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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Storing Up or Driving Through?

A package of 40 water bottles.  45 rolls of toilet paper. Goldfish crackers, chicken nuggets and loaves of bread to last for a month. Yes! I love going to Sams Club! My cart gets overstuffed every single time and sometimes it’s difficult to push it by the time I get to the check-out area.

Everything there is in BULK. You can’t just run in there and get a small item. You can’t  get one of anything. Nope. This kind of store is designed for people to stockpile their favorite items. When I pull out of the parking lot I realize I won’t be back here again for at least a month…maybe longer. I breathe a sigh of relief knowing I won’t have to worry about purchasing these things for some time.

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Ever wish you could stockpile other things? For instance, how about grace? Now I could definitely use a month’s worth of that! Wouldn’t it be cool? Bam! Here you go…all the grace you’ll need for at least a month.

What about patience? Yep. Every parent would fork over a chunk of change to buy even a week’s worth of patience to dole out on their stubborn-strong-willed children. Just open up the pantry where all the other bulk stuff is stored and grab a jar of patience for the day.

Oh, and wouldn’t it be ideal if we could buy a big bulk package of wisdom? If that were possible, I’d fill as many carts as I could push and load those packages up in a truck. I wouldn’t have to worry about asking for wisdom for a very long time.

But it doesn’t work that way. Not at all. God did not design us to stock pile these attributes in bulk. He doesn’t just dump a load of grace, patience and wisdom on us and say,  “This should last you a while; see you next month.” Why??? Why can’t it work that way?

He wants us to come to Him DAILY. He longs for a relationship with us. He wants us to depend on Him moment by moment. Not month by month.

When Jesus was teaching his disciples to pray in Matthew 6:11, he said, “Give us today our daily bread.” Notice the word daily. Nothing in there about a Sam’s Club portion of bread. In Exodus 16:4-5 God instructed the Israelites to gather up only a day’s worth of manna. He even warned them that if they tried to gather more than that, it would spoil. He did this to test them and see if they would rely on His provision for each day alone.

Back in those days they didn’t have the extra freezer in the basement to store a month’s supply of beef on sale. They didn’t even have a refrigerator to keep things cold. They truly had to focus on the food for each meal at a time. Which is just how God wants us to relate to Him. He wants us to rely solely on Him. One moment at a time.

As ideal as it sounds, we just weren’t designed to store up grace for a month. God promises His grace is sufficient. And it is.

For today.

But when I worry about something next week or something way down the road, there’s no grace given to me yet for those things. I can’t just go to my pantry and pull out an ounce of grace for next week’s problems.

Do we sometimes go to church on Sunday and think we’re good to go for the week? I’m quite guilty of this at times! Yep, I’ve stocked up on enough wisdom to get me through til next week. I’ve got enough living water to soak up until next time. And then we attempt to plod through our week thinking we have enough stored up. But before Tuesday comes, we’re bewildered as to why we’re feeling dried up. We’re thirsty. And we desperately need a drink.

When running errands with my daughter on a hot summer day, a familiar scenario plays out. After getting in and out of the car multiple times and then sitting in traffic, we realize we are thirsty! Those 40 bottles of water from Sams sitting in the pantry at home don’t do us any good in that moment. Not at all. So we pull over to the closest fast food place we can find and order a large ice-cold water or lemonade through the drive-through. It hits the spot perfectly. It satisfies our thirst. At this point it wouldn’t matter if there were 400 bottles of water at home in the pantry. We get thirsty daily. And sometimes it happens when we least expect it. No amount of planning ahead would solve the problem. All we know is that we need something to drink in that moment.

Dear friend, if we want to have a real, deep relationship with our Heavenly Father, then we have to get rid of our Sam’s Club mentality. And then replace it with a “gotta-have-a-drink-right-now” approach instead.

Just enough for one day.  One moment. One desperate drink at a time.

Are you trying to cram as much as you can into one shopping spree? Is the cart of your heart so heavy you can barely push it down the aisle?  Get enough for one day.  Just as Sam’s Club seems to have a never-ending supply of bottled water, toilet paper and chicken nuggets, our Heavenly Father has more than enough love to lavish on us.

Enough wisdom.
Enough patience.
Enough grace.

It’s never going to run dry. It will be there every dayEach and every moment

Matthew 6:11 “Give us today our daily bread.”

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Look at the Birds!

We have a bird feeder in front of our dining room window. It’s amazing to stop and watch these creatures as they sit perched up high, eating to their heart’s desire. Once one bird discovers the feeder, it’s not too much longer before a whole crew shows up for the dinner party. Just when I fill up the feeder, it seems I’m filling it up again and again.

One day my daughter asked me, “Mom, what would the birds eat if we didn’t feed them?”

I assured her the birds would eat food in the wild without our help. God even tells us this in His word!

Matthew 6:26, “Look at the birds of the air. They do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

God most certainly created birds to display His awesome power and for our enjoyment. But I think He also created them to remind us of how much He will take care of us.

If birds could speak our human language, I wonder if we’d hear them say things like this:

“I wish I had a different flavor worm today!”

“Why does that blue jay have more than I do?”

“Hey everybody, let’s build a Sams Club to store up food for a whole year!”

“I’m so worried there won’t be any worms tomorrow, I might as well head back to my nest and just die.”

I don’t think we’d hear the birds utter anything like this at all. Their behavior seems to indicate the opposite.

Just listen to them chirp.

Listen to them sing.

Watch them bounce happily across the lawn.

They appear to be very content.

Why can’t I be more like these birds? Sometimes I make my life so complicated. Sometimes I bring undue stress on myself. Sometimes I worry about something tomorrow, zapping my joy for today.

What qualities do these birds possess that I want? Contentment… with life as it is. Trust… that their needs are always met.

God promises to take care of their needs. Their God-given menu consists of worms, insects, plants, berries and even weed seeds! But the fancy bird feeders are extra to them. The fancy bird feeders are like icing on the cake. The fancy bird feeders are equivalent to our wants…beyond our basic needs.

Oh how the truth of this convicts my heart. Why do I ever doubt God’s provision? Why do I worry about something that is not in my control? If God promises to take care of these simple birds, then how much more will He take care of me? We are eternal souls who get to live in the lavish love of our Heavenly Father! Of course He will take care of us. And He goes way beyond just meeting our basic needs. He often gives us an overflow so full we can hardly fathom it. He lets us perch on the never-ending flow of the fancy bird feeder. He gives us more than a basic “worm and insect” diet.

So where are you dear friend? Are you perched happily on the edge of your bird feeder? Or are you scrambling around on the ground worried about getting worms?

From here on out, anytime you see a bird, let it be a reminder to you that God will take care of your needs. And He will go way beyond that!

Matthew 6:26 ” “Look at the birds of the air. They do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

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Never Say Never!

Deuteronomy 31:6  “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

The first time I ran a half marathon, I found myself laughing at a certain point in the race. When runners get to mile marker #9, something drastic happens. Up until this point, everyone is running on the same course, half-marathoners and full-marathoners together. Everyone is mixed in and you don’t know who is running which race. You’d never know just by looking at them. But then at mile marker #9 the course literally is divided. It splits down the middle of an intersection. The half-marathoners turn left and the full-marathoners turn right. This is where I found myself laughing out loud and thinking very clear:

There is no way I’d ever run a full marathon! I could NEVER do that! Heck, I don’t know if I will even make it through the next 4 miles to complete this race! Ha! Those people are crazy! I don’t understand why or how they do it.

Fast forward four years and six half marathons later.  I’d registered for a full marathon after a stirring in my heart. It was time for a new challenge. Before I knew it, there I was! Standing at the start line of my first marathon.

I was approaching mile marker #9, the crucial turning point where the race split. The bright orange warning signs flashed in front of me. A man blasted through a megaphone, “Attention runners! Half-marathoners go left! Marathoners go right! Runners chaotically dashed from one side to the other. Two runners brushed up against me. merging to the left. And then the truth hit me hard: I was now running on the right side of the road…with fewer people. I glanced over my left shoulder, watching the half-marathoners fade out of my sight. Only 4 more miles and they’d cross their finish line. But for me, I had 17 more to go! At first a rush of excitement ignited my mind as I ventured into this new challenge. But when it quickly wore off, that’s when it hit me:

I was attempting something I said I’d NEVER do!

How many times in our lives have we dug our feet in the sand exclaiming,

I will NEVER do that!

I could NEVER walk a path like hers!

I’d NEVER survive a trial like that.

But then later you find yourself walking that forbidden path. The one you said you’d never take a step onto. Maybe God has called you out of your comfort zone and you’re headed into a season of life you never dreamed you’d find yourself. Or maybe there’s an area of your life you’re clinging too tightly to, refusing to let go. Perhaps you’re gripped with grief or fear because of an unexpected trial.

I’ll never be able to lose weight; It’s just too hard.
I will never home school; I don’t have the patience for that. 
I could never leave my hometown; I’ve lived here my whole life.
I could never invite my neighbor to church; I couldn’t handle the rejection.
I could never consider adoption; I’m fine with the family I have.

I could NEVER ___________________?

Fill in the blank. What is it for you?

It’s possible that your “I could never” is a fear lurking in the deepest part of your heart. If that’s the case, surrender your fear to Jesus and refuse to let the enemy rob you of joy. Maybe your “I could never” is something God is nudging you towards, requiring a deeper trust. Whatever it may be, God promises to be with us through it all. In the face of your “I could never”, let me point you to a truth where God uses the word NEVER.  To those who are His followers, He promises to NEVER leave us or forsake us. Instead of focusing on your “never”, embrace the truth of His”never”!

READY? Have you ever done something after you said you’d never do it? What caused you to step out and change your mind? Identify an aspect of your life you’re saying never to right now. Ask God to clarify whether it’s fear speaking or his gentle nudge.

GET SET. Hebrews 13:5  “…be content with what you have because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you.”

GO! Heavenly Father, help me to trust you when my flesh says “Never”. When I’m tempted to let fear grip my heart, help me step out in faith and trust you. Help me not to worry about future trials, but to rest in the assurance that you’ll be with me when those times come. Thank you for the promise of never leaving me! Amen.

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Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett 

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

Are You Drifting Away?

Last week my family experienced the blessing of soaking up the sun on a Bahamas cruise. Four wonderful days of relaxation, refreshment and rejuvenation! No “to-do” list. No preparing meals or cleaning up after anyone. Those things alone are enough to excite anyone who is constantly on the go.

One of many highlights of the trip was a stop at Great Stirrup Cay. The beautiful beach was lined with lounge chairs waiting for us to claim our spot for the day. I could have stayed there all day long in that same lounge chair without a care in the world. But at one point we noticed people floating around on huge blue rafts… large enough for three or four people to enjoy.

My daughter squealed with delight after she talked her grandmother into renting one of these cool rafts.

“This is going to be so much fun!” she exclaimed loudly.

Everyone else out there looks so relaxed. How appealing to just lay out in the clear blue water under the bright sun. Small waves barely splashing against the raft. It will be refreshing to lay there and do nothing.

It took all three of us to push the huge raft out into the water. We experienced some difficulty getting positioned just right on the raft, but finally, we were all set. For a little while we were enthralled with the beauty of the water.

“Look how clear it is!”

The cool water felt so refreshing on my sand covered feet. Then we saw our cruise ship in the distance. We talked about what we’d have for dinner later that night and all the fun activities that awaited us. My daughter searched for fish along the side of the raft. She told us about the colorful fish she’d seen earlier when she’d gone snorkeling with her daddy. We were all caught up in our conversation. We were relishing the moment. Time seemed to stand still.

But then all of a sudden my daughter screamed frantically “Oh no! Look how close to those rocks we are! We’re going to crash right in to them!” 

Rocks? I didn’t notice any rocks earlier when we started this pleasant journey!!

I turned my head towards the direction she was pointing at and sure enough…there were huge rocks just yards away from us. How did we get out here so far? I thought we were just twenty yards or so from the shore. But now we were WAY far away from where we started.

After the shock of realizing how far out we’d drifted, we all had to start paddling like crazy to get the raft turned around. My mom jumped into rescue mode and was brave enough to get out and start pushing her side of the raft away from the rocks! My feet became the “motor” of the raft as I kicked furiously from the back. My daughter paddled like crazy with all her might on the other side of the raft.

Little by little we moved away from the rocks. It was harder to get back because we were going against the current of the water. With all the energy we exerted, it sure felt like we were getting nowhere at first. Finally…we made it back to the shore. Exhausted.

What started out as pleasure turned into panic.

What started out as rest turned into a race.

Our plans to doze in delight came to an end because… WE DRIFTED AWAY!

Do you sometimes find yourself floating around aimlessly without direction? Do you start off down an intentional path only to realize later you are nowhere near where you wanted to be? Do you wake up in a startling panic and see that you’ve drifted away?

We’ve all experienced this! The scary thing about it is that it happens ever so slowly. Gradually. One innocent ripple at a time. And then before you know it, you’re way off track headed for jagged rocks.

What causes us to drift? What causes us to go from the safety of the shore to the jagged rocks?

We were so focused on having fun that we didn’t even notice how far away we’d gotten. We were so wrapped up in our conversation we didn’t see the approaching rocks. We were caught up in the awaiting pleasures of the cruise boat we failed to be aware of where we were.

Pleasures of this life can cause us to drift if we aren’t careful. Even blessings directly from God can cause us to drift if we forget where those blessings come from.

Laziness and passivity are often culprits causing us to drift. I am often guilty of sacrificing quietness with God for something I think is more important. Choosing comfort instead of commitment is frequently a challenge for me.

So what can we do in our journey of faith to keep from drifting? What should our focus be on?

We must be intentional in seeking God daily.

Time in His word.

Time on our knees in prayer.

Time to be still in His presence.

Time to pull away from the distractions of the world and refresh ourselves in His spirit.

And we can’t do it alone. No, we must surround ourselves with other believers who help hold us accountable. We must encourage one another. Be vulnerable enough to share our struggles so we can be encouraged by others.

These are the things that keep us focused on Him. And when we do, we won’t drift away. He becomes our anchor to hold us where we need to be.

So where are you dear friend? Are you starting to drift in a specific area of your life? Are you getting too far away from the safety of the shore? Are you close enough to see where you went off course? Or are you getting ready to crash into some rocks?

Wherever you may be, the loving hand of the Father is ready to gently turn you around. Ready to wrap you up in His grace and mercy. Ready to take you from drifting away to delighting in Him.

Hebrews 2:1 “We must pay careful attention to what we have heard so that we do not drift away.”

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He’s Still There

I have a new appreciation for the sun in light of the frigid and snowy winter we’ve endured thus far. Even a little glimmer of sunlight is enough to get us thinking it’s alright to pull out the flip-flops and dust off our spring clothes. Single digit temperatures have a way of giving a new perspective on the meaning of the word warm. We used to think it had to be at least 65 degrees to be considered warm outside, but now my guess is that if it’s above 50 degrees, it’s a heat wave!

I must confess that as I’m typing this first post, I am sitting in Orlando, Florida outside by a pool. The sun is brightly shining and the heat created by its warmth is overwhelmingly pleasant! (In less than 48 hours however, I’ll be leaving the sunshine and heading back home to cold weather no doubt.)

But you know what? Just because we don’t see the sun as often as we’d like; it’s still there.

And just because we don’t feel it’s warmth on a cold, wintry afternoon; it’s still there.

Even when the clouds temporarily block our view of the sun; it’s still there.

There’s a parallel we can all grasp from this when we think of God’s presence. He is always with his people, no matter what. Sometimes we go through seasons that are long……dark……and extremely cold. During these times it may be hard to see God working. We feel He is nowhere in sight. We feel lonely, lost, hopeless. But He is still there. 

Or maybe you see Him clearly working around you in other people, but you feel His presence has somehow forgotten about you and your situation. He’s answered her prayers, what about mine? My neighbors seem to be so blessed. What about me? But He is still there. 

Just like the clouds block our view of the sun, there are “clouds” of this life that seem to block our view of God. What is it for you? A challenging job situation? Difficult marriage? A savings account disappearing? Kids trying your patience? Don’t let these clouds convince you that God is not there, that He somehow doesn’t know your circumstances. HE IS STILL THERE!

The earth is actually closer to the sun in January. Now don’t ask me to explain the details of the earth’s axis and orbit, but I know this is a fact. Doesn’t make sense, does it? If we are closer to the sun in the dead of winter, then why is it so cold? Again…..don’t ask me to explain the science behind this. Perhaps there is a nugget of truth we can pull from this to parallel our own lives.

Could it be that God in His infinite power, grace and mercy promises to be even closer to us during our dead-of-winter seasons? Maybe it’s during those times that we seek Him out even more because there is no where else to go? Maybe it’s times like these that take us to our knees, crying out to Him in our most desperate moments. And He promises to carry us through those times. He promises to hold us closely to Himself. And just when you think you’ve gotten used to your “dead-of-winter” season……you see a glimmer of the sun. Just a little at first. But then you see it come and wash all over your entire being…….every fiber of your soul soaks it up. But He’s never left your side this whole time. Because HE WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU! 

So go ahead dear friend, lean in close to Him during your season of winter, no matter how bleak it may look. Just as we know for a fact that spring follows winter, our Father in Heaven is always there for us no matter what we see or feel.

Matthew 28:20 “And behold, I am with you ALWAYS, to the end of the age.”

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Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett