The Ultimate Plan

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9 (HCSB)

I am a planner by nature. I like to have a set time of meeting. I like to know where we will be going. I want it all laid out in a nice, neat package. Ordered and fixed. Planning for any and every issue that may arise.

I like a map. A trajectory. A path. An easily traced route. I like things neatly under my okay and control. Something I think many of us would agree with.

The verse above I have taped to my laptop, right at the very base of the screen. It serves as a reminder that no matter what I am planning, ultimately it is God who is ordering my steps. My plans may come to fruition, or they may look wildly divergent from what I mapped out. Each is it’s own blessing, even when I cannot see it or understand it.

My plan for my life at this age? Wildly different on paper than lived out.

The tension of planning is what we find ourselves in. That desire–and often something we deem a “need”–to control. The tension is hard because we want understanding. We want the why of a situation. We strive for knowing how He works in every single instance. We want the definition of living through a season, or going without for far more seasons than we had planned.

For the planners, for the people who have that¬† need for control, the need-to-knowers, He gives no explanation for where the steps lead, how the steps are to be taken, or why the steps are where they are. He doesn’t need to explain Himself. Living in the unknown is what those of us who plan our ways have the trouble in allowing Him to determine our steps.

We ultimately have to relinquish control. Control that we have never had, and never will. You see He’s a sovereign God. He’s all-knowing and all-powerful. I believe the plans of the heart have to be given over to Him. Not for approval but for release of control. To say I am no longer the contractor of this plan, but the implementer of a grander design, one that I am given only an 1/8 of a millimeter piece to view that spans trillions upon trillions of miles. I don’t control the sun coming up tomorrow, yet I know it will. He deems it good to do so.

So why sit in the tension of not understanding every move He makes and instead live in the abundant knowledge that the God who raises that sun up is the same God who determines my very steps? After all, He has much bigger plans than I could even begin to fathom.

A Love Letter to My Friends

When I was little I could rattle off the names of my friends for a good four minutes. In high school I had friends that spanned across social circles and between the varying high schools in my city. Even into grad school in my mid-twenties I found that I had a multitude of friendships that criss-crossed the nation and life experiences. Now here I am in my mid 30s (yeah I had a birthday a few days back) and I am finding that those I call friends are narrow. Don’t get me wrong, I have a ton of people across the globe whom I would define as friends but allow them to fit into this lens of acquaintance friendship rather than the close-knit friendships I have with several these days. I think when we are younger we are figuring out who we are and where we fit socially. I know for myself I discovered that having people in different social groups or even at different high schools to be friends with provided some different perspectives and experiences for me. I gleaned alot and allowed myself to figure where I fit and if I wanted to fit into a specific mold. In my teens, and even twenties, I wanted to learn so much I found I wasn’t really developing who I was or getting a definition of what life was for me. Lately though as I have taken some time to reflect on friendships, I have discovered it’s not about the quantity of friends I have that matters to me now but the quality friendships. I am more intentional about those I cultivate and those I allow into this sphere of life. I do believe community is key to living life, especially a life of faith. A common misconception by people is that a single woman has the time to have numerous friendships and keep them all in balance. I have to fess up to you all that’s not the case for the majority of us. For me I value a quality friendship that means time and intentionality. More recently I found that in the midst of a situation I had an inner circle of people that I knew would be there in support, encouragement, prayer and counsel. I knew they were genuine when they asked about me or how I was doing. It wasn’t for gossip (because there are those friendships that are purely one-way and feeding the drama monster, so beware) but for support. Sunday as I stood with a friend who is going through her own situation and prayed over her I couldn’t help but be thankful for that friendship. And the one who stood to my right, who I didn’t even know this time a year ago, that has been such a force of spiritual guidance and leadership over the last eight months. As I prayed for my friend, knowing she had stood in the gap for me over the last couple of months praying, I could not help but praise God for friendships such as these. Where we aren’t in competition with one another, we don’t cut one another down or seek to impress but merely stand shoulder to shoulder to do battle for them and pray down heaven’s healing for them. It’s those friendships that go beyond the margins of note of thanks…to the phone calls after a rough day at work to the celebration of a new season of life for one another. Over and over in the last few weeks I am reminded that friendships are forged in the fire of adversity, in grief and heartache. It’s those friends that turn into sisters and brothers, that go beyond the boundary line to fight a battle with you in the trenches because they value you and who you are, not what they can get from you or what you do for them. Never more have I seen Proverbs 17:17 lived out than in the last few months of my life, and I have to be so very thankful God placed each of these people from different life moments into my story for such a time as this.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. -Proverbs 17:17

I pray you have those people in your own life, those few that are quality friendships. The ones who will stand with you in battle and also keep you accountable in situations and relationships. While it may not look like much in number, they make up for in might, spirit and love.

A Hearing Problem

I have a pretty steady routine during the work week. So much so that I find it bleeds into my weekends. My internal body clock is just set for some reason and I often don’t have to set an alarm on the weekends. I find I am waking between 4:30am and 5am on Saturdays and Sundays. Yes, I get up about that time each day during the week. As I have moved my running to the mornings this has been incredibly helpful to start my day off as often as I can with a run and get a glimpse of the sunrise.


Even in this new routine of sorts, I find how comfortable it is to become lulled into a routine that when thrown off can cause the mind to go haywire. One routine I find I do far too often is have noise on, at all times. Even as I type in my office at home I have the tv on HGTV in the living room and the dishwasher running in the kitchen while the dryer runs upstairs. I love writing with noise, which is another reason I often work on it at Starbucks.

For many of us the noise becomes routine in our lives, which comes int eh form of busyness as well. We stay so busy and our lives get so loud we often don’t hear what is being said to us. The hurt in a voice, the text that is an SOS from a friend, the pain in a friend’s eyes. Even the voice of the Spirit gets drown out in the midst of our lives as we attempt to fit it all in, most often under the guise of “living life.”

I can get to a point very quickly where I let the noise speak to me more than I let Him. I don’t push pause on life, on the noise of the world, as I go about my day. Instead I notch up the radio, I pick another playlist, and I go on with my day simply because that’s my routine. My routine has allowed everything else in but in return pushed His voice, His words, out. It’s lent itself now to a bigger problem of my hearing, where I find myself seeking Him each day when I haven’t taken a moment to truly listen for Him in moments. I give Him a designated platform at a pre-determined time. If He doesn’t speak then I turn up the noise of my routine instead. Seeking answers elsewhere.

So I have a hearing problem…and it doesn’t come with old age but with choosing the distractions of this world and all the noises of life. Much like the noise-cancelling headphones my dad has for his hearing issues, I need to cancel out the noise of life more and more in order to listen for Him in every moment. I complain about His quiet and yet I don’t turn down life in order to truly listen for Him.

It means choosing quiet instead of a playlist. It means filling my time engaged in means which He can speak to me instead of turning on the television. It means getting comfortable with the solitude of no sound in order to be present and aware of Him speaking, breathing into every moment of my life. It means turning off life in order to live it for Him.

Hear instruction and be wise; do not neglect it.

Proverbs 8:33

Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.

Proverbs 19:27

The Counselor

This season in particular I have been dwelling on Isaiah 9:6. I am not sure why this year that verse is resonating so clearly with my heart and my head but I am finding such joy and delight in coming back to it daily.

Earlier this week I shared a couple of thoughts on the Gift that was given as well as one of His Names. On this Friday I find that the word Counselor continues to draw me in. It pulls me close and settles me in the comfort of Him.

For many believers and especially the Baptists that I have been raised with, counseling is something on truly mental and/or highly narcissistic people take part in. Counseling was faux pas and not mentioned. I realized that counseling isn’t something to be whispered about or made to feel even less of for seeking out, but about being a healthier human and believer.

Isaiah points to God sending our first Counselor in the coming of Christ. He heralds that we will need a Counselor. One who will hear our cries of woe, understand our sorrow, yet bring healing to our hearts as He walks with us in it. I don’t know about you, but I think all of us need that. We desire someone that can know us at our deepest, to understand our hurt and pain, who is willing to walk with us in it and yet we put that burden onto a friend or spouse to carry.

While friends are often great sounding boards, amazing places to seek prayer and intercession, I have found they too have hurts they carry and don’t understand at the deepest level my heart. Only Christ does.

Not only were we given the gift of a Wonderful Counselor in Christ on earth with us, He then sends another one to be in us in the Holy Spirit. We had a Counselor who walked the trials, advised others, taught and led, who suffered and knows our deepest longings. He saw fit that we would need one within us to be a part of our lives at every moment. He knew we would need it before we did.

We I often do not like to admit I need help. It’s the flesh in me, and quite a bit of stubbornness too. I am a recovering Type A who is finding that reaching out for help isn’t about a weakness in me (that’s prideful) but about doing the most for Him and bringing glory to Him. When I allow the Spirit in, when I take my worries and fears, my stressors and my joys before Christ, it allows space to share, to know and to be known. He has said time and again that He will never leave me nor forsake me. That means He will also send others into my path, that He has provided ways and means for His glory to come about in my life and in the lives of others.

Seeking counsel in Him, with Him, and with a counselor allows for His wonderful plan to be cleared for my life. Knowing that we have the most wonderful Counselor of all, that He listens and He knows our struggles is something of true comfort, peace and joy. It brings us safely within Him.

I have counsel and sound wisdom; I have insight; I have strength. Proverbs 8:14

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.
Proverbs 11:14

But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.
Jeremiah 7:24

Let Your Words Be Life…

It’s Wednesday…it feels like it should be Saturday. I woke up and could not really take that it was only Wednesday. This week has already been very draining, and I know for certain I am not the only one feeling that drain. The weather is the redeeming factor thus far. It’s given me an extra pep in my step to get out the door and to get back in the door each night.

Currently, I know of people struggling through a serious injury that happened over the weekend, children being in NICU and in the pediatric units in hospitals, of friends standing alongside their loved ones as they grieve the loss of a wonderful woman, and those wondering if they will ever find a job. Right now life just seems to be forcing itself onto us with unhappy gains. I had a dear friend and mentor just this morning post about her mother in law having a severe heart attack…as they sit in Germany as foreign missionaries. There is so much hurt, grief, and fear in so many lives right now. I ache for those individuals

And then there are those who willingly inflict undue hurt onto others. As if this world needed more ugliness and strife. Those who use venomous words to lob insults at people and create a haze of grime to cloud people’s days. I keep coming back to Proverbs with the thought that our words have such power to either encourage joy or inflict pain. While we say actions speak louder than words, people’s words reflect their character. It’s a two-for-one deal. What you say and what you do go hand-in-hand. Your character matters, and so do your words.

You can impart life or death with your words. You have the responsibility with them. Choose wisely.

There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health. 

Proverbs 12:18 (HCSB)

Do you create or reduce hurt with your words? What are ways in which you can encourage instead of inflict? A writer friend, Annie Downs, has a new book out called Speak Love that talks directly to using words that matter.

Anger Management

Last week I lost my temper in the worst possible place.


Photo courtesy of Anger Management, the movie.
Photo courtesy of Anger Management, the movie.

Admitting that to you all is hard, because I had to admit it to the person I lost it with first, which was much harder. It wasn’t a pastor or visitor, it was someone who knows me pretty well at this point in life. They were attempting to call me out on the path I was headed down and I didn’t like it. In fact, I was seeing red and wanted to escape.

I tell you all this, to share this small piece of the story. In the moment as my anger began building I heard a small heart whisper. I don’t hear God audibly, but I often hear Him whispering into my heart and this small voice said “Don’t let your flesh, the devil, ruin this right now. Don’t give in to it.” Instead I shoved it aside and fell into anger and let my temper and emotions control the situation I couldn’t otherwise control.

That moment, that choice, had a domino effect for the last week. Not only on my life but another individual’s life. And several others if I am being really truthful. If I had stopped and listened to the sound of reason, of truth, straight from God, life would’ve been much more peaceful this week I believe. I chose a familiar road of anger and resentment, of piercing rage and emotions.

I had a choice, as we all do, in how I respond in situations. That choice has consequences that go far beyond that moment, or myself. Now I have to be the one to reconcile and seek forgiveness, knowing I had to first go before God seeking forgiveness for disobedience, anger, and so much more.

If you are facing anger or a temper, I pray this same verse over you that I am praying over myself. May we begin overlooking the slights and the wrongs, and start living with better sense. Of ourselves, of God, and who He knows we can be.

People with good sense restrain their anger; they earn esteem by overlooking wrongs.

Proverbs 19:11

Fortune Cookie

I enjoy fortune cookies. The words of wisdom held within crack me up. Sometimes they will be so spot on its eerie. Other times you read it and have that “What’s that supposed to mean?” reaction.

Proverbs is like a believer’s fortune cookie for daily use. You read it and either get it or wonder what in the world Solomon was going on about. I have to say I don’t always get where Solomon is headed when he’s writing. This morning I was digging in to Proverbs again. The two by four to the face came on chapter four, verses 23-27. They shoot straight, no bull and no chaser. The manual for a believer’s life is perfectly spelled out in those four verses.

Guard your heart…it’s something you hear often, especially when you’re single. But do you in interactions, in emotions, in those moments?

Don’t let your mouth speak dishonestly…well there you go. Does anything else need to be said?

Let your eyes look forward…this one got me. I so often push forward but then stall out looking back. How are we to focus on the God’s guidance when we have our backs turned toward things in our past?

Carefully consider the path of your feet…see how those two connect? Do we consider the placement of each step along the path? Or do we trudge, run, or walk without looking down at where we are heading?

Don’t turn to the right or to the left…oh distractions. Who doesn’t experience them? God continuously reminds us to keep the focus on Him and not allow those things around us to pull the attention away.