When I Stop Getting My Own Way

This morning I realize again how much I love to get my own way. I’m not just imagining this; I’ve been told for many years by people who want to help me grow into maturity in this area that I struggle with needing to have things my way.

Others like me who voice their opinions and argue the benefits of their viewpoint–whether it’s small things like where to go to dinner or larger issues like what kind of goals one should have–often bulldoze over people.

We’re quick to decide, quick to discuss, quick to persuade. We smother others with our words that seem winsome while selfish.

This isn’t as loving as listening to others, giving them time to think, providing them more time to articulate their opinion, and not forcing quick decisions. Why not let others decide a plan? Why not do what others like to do, too? My demanding and manipulative self needs to back off and love others through this kind of patience and deference.

Living with flair means letting others have their way most of the time. Perhaps this is a way to humble myself, like Jesus did, and serve others as He did.

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Led Not Driven. . . Again

Today I remember to live a life that’s led, not driven.

Led Not Driven!

Over the years, this phrase has reoriented me back to sanity and fellowship with God. Why all the rush and frenzy and scattered living? When I feel driven, something’s not right. I sit down and think about being led by God and not driven by the culture–or anyone or anything.

I’m led, not driven.

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Reading Outside

My youngest hands me one of her favorite books, When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead. She says, “Let’s read outside together, and you can ask me questions if you get confused.” She’s carrying her own book, Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry.

How can I resist? We’ll go outside in lawn chairs and read together. And I can ask questions if I get confused.

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Every Time, the Little Box

Every time I order this one particular dessert (white chocolate croissant bread pudding from Chocolate Cafe, Ft. Collins, Colorado) when I’m out with my friends, I ask my husband if he would like me to save some for him.

Every time, he says, “No need. I’m good.”

For years, he’s said this.

But every time, for years, I ask the waitress for the little takeout box, and I place half the white chocolate croissant bread pudding into it. I pour all the extra white chocolate sauce over it, and I head for home. I find him and place the box before him.

Every time, he’s overwhelmed with gratitude for this treat that he loves as much as I do. Every time, he’s so happy. It’s a little joke in our marriage–the white chocolate croissant bread pudding that he doesn’t request but receives anyway, that he doesn’t need but can enjoy, that he insists is too much but eagerly devours.

I want to cultivate more white chocolate croissant bread pudding moments for every time I forget how to love and delight someone else. Of course they don’t need this extravagant thing. But they do.

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Feeling Left Out

Sometimes my daughters will talk to me about feeling left out. Sometimes these feelings reflect truth (someone actually excludes them), or sometimes these feelings are lies. Either way, my husband and I have been helping them through these common experiences in adolescence that, unfortunately, don’t go away in adulthood. All day, I’ve been reviewing some of the lessons I learned in my 40 years:

1. We are part of a community–knit together in Christ–so feeling left out sometimes isn’t the truth of our experience, just an emotion that doesn’t reflect reality.

2. Feeling left out means we’re focusing much on ourselves and not looking outward to bless others. Instead of asking, “Who is excluding me?” we can turn it around to say, “Whom can I include?” or “Whom can I bless?” In this way, feelings of exclusion and loneliness often fade away.

3. Friendship doesn’t satisfy the deepest need of the soul; it’s belonging to, being known by, and relating to God. With this primary relationship in place, we can relate to others in pure love and not from a need to belong or be noticed.

4. The feelings of rejection, loneliness, or feeling left out draw us deeper into a relationship with God who alone satisfies.

5. God, in His providence, sovereignty, faithfulness, and love, can provide rich and meaningful friendships. We can ask Him to do so. 

6. The aim of friendship isn’t to provide security; perhaps it’s to enjoy life and work towards a common goal together. If I’m looking to friendship to provide security, it quickly becomes an idol.

7. We can choose to believe we are loved and worthwhile even when we are not surrounded by people and receiving attention.

8. The fear of rejection and loneliness is real and common. Everyone experiences this, and you are not alone. Over time, you will create a whole network of people who love and care for you and whom you love and care for in return. It takes time.

9. Becoming friends with yourself will serve you for a lifetime.

10. What would you add to this list?

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“God’s refusals are always merciful. . . ” Elisabeth Elliot

I remember the day in July 1994 when I met Elisabeth Elliot at Camp Greystone. What I remember most about this wonderful woman was her unwavering trust that God would always supply what was needed. She spoke to the campers and staff about God’s provision–including her famous story of the ant that retrieved a contact lens for a mountain climber. Back then, I was in awe of her faith in God’s miraculous provision. 
I know this is a very strange memory to share, but I was stunned that Elisabeth Elliot had been married three times. It seemed that God simply kept providing what she needed in a spouse when her former spouse left her to be with Jesus. I was 19 and so worried about my own future. Would I marry? Would God care for me? I wondered about this God who cared for Mrs. Elliot through the tragic loss of her first husband. I wondered about the peace she had in her heart and how she told us we could trust God to care for us–even through loss and pain and sorrow.  
Later, I read this quote of hers: “God never withholds from His child that which His love and wisdom call good. God’s refusals are always merciful — ‘severe mercies’ at times but mercies all the same. God never denies us our heart’s desire except to give us something better.” 
I am learning that if God doesn’t provide something I think I need, it can be seen as a severe mercy. I continue to learn to trust God even in His refusals. 

I’m so glad I met this wonderful woman when I did and so thankful for her life and ministry.




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Restoration in Progress

We’re on a family hike, and we come upon a field with a fence and a little wooden sign. It says, “Restoration in Progress.”

We know that means it’s been recently seeded and carefully tended to bring it back to how it is supposed to be. But it’s not itself quite yet. We’re therefore supposed to leave it undisturbed. We tread carefully, touch carefully, and leave it with as much peace and time as it needs to become itself again.

My husband and his friend take a picture right next to the sign to refer to themselves as still under restoration. We all are; we’re not quite ourselves as we wait for God to perfect us, to make us ever more like Jesus, and to work what is pleasing to Him in us. One day, we’ll be restored to our true beauty.

Everyone is a case of restoration in progress, so we interact with other hearts carefully, disturbing as little as possible, offering peace and time, and careful tending. We imagine the beauty that’s underneath and that’s surely coming in due time.

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Provision

In Isaiah 65:24, I read this in the New Living Translation: “I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!”

Just the day before, I learn about God’s provision and how the word provision means to “see ahead.” I thought about how God’s provision–his supplying of my needs–is also about providing right now something I’ll need in the future. It’s about God seeing what I don’t see on the road ahead. It’s about bringing something into my life that I will need for a reason not yet disclosed to me.

God sees ahead of me and provides just what I need for right now and also for the future I cannot see. He answers before I even know what I’ll need and before I even ask Him. What an amazing God!

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Good Lines

Psalm 16 wins my heart as my most favorite psalm, and today I learn from Charles Spurgeon’s commentary that, when translated well, this psalm’s title is this: “The Psalm of the Precious Secret” or the “Golden Psalm.”

I memorized this psalm as a struggling graduate student at the University of Michigan in 1998 because of the line, “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” I also couldn’t get over David’s insistence in verse 6 that “the boundary lines for me have fallen in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”

I thought about the boundary lines of my life that year and all the ways I felt shaken deep inside. I thought about being a single woman with little income in a strange city. I thought about my battle with depression and anxiety. As I meditated on this psalm, I learned to rejoice and find these boundaries pleasant because of what I was learning and how God alone could be my refuge. I learned to “not be shaken” no matter what trouble or distress came into my life. What terrible, beautiful years!

Nearly two decades later, I find I’m still choosing–by faith–to find God’s boundary lines pleasant. As I age, I think about the boundary lines God draws around my life in many ways–physically and emotionally. I’m challenged to rejoice in the pleasant places of not overeating, for example. I’m challenged to listen to God and understand the boundary lines He places for me relationally or even in my leisure time.

During those years in Michigan, I studied 19th century British poetry. I loved poetry because of what happens to language when put under the pressure of rhyme, meter, and the limitations of minimal, stripped down expression. We see things more clearly; the words become beautiful and mysterious. Boundary lines–all those limits that we resist at first–come to showcase something we really need to see and understand.

The boundary lines are good lines. They are pleasant places. What a precious secret, a golden truth.

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What We Most Want

Today I learn again that what we need most of all is completely satisfied in Jesus.

Whatever it is that we most want, we find in God. If I could reiterate this to myself every day, it would transform my wandering, my striving, and my restless, anxious heart into a satisfied heart who has found her treasure at last.

I preach the gospel to myself over and over again these days. I know that what I most want and actually need is God.

But sometimes I just don’t know what I want or need, or I forget!

I think of how David proclaimed in Psalm 27:4, “The one thing I ask of the Lord–the thing I seek most–is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfection and meditating in His temple.”

What we most want is the Lord.

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