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The Challenge and Blessing of Change

Bluebonnets

Change.

Life seems to require it.

But the pain of going through it brings blessing.

When we cooperate.

This has been on my heart these past few weeks. Twenty Sixteen is already proving to be a huge year of change!

At the moment, I’m sitting in a functional house full of boxes that need to be emptied. Yes, we’ve moved—again. This time by choice. How weird is that? We just couldn’t find peace in the house we were renting; we felt unsafe. So we moved. And we’re so glad we did!

DSC01646Yesterday, to take a break from the boxes, I tried something crafty, and it worked! I covered our front door’s windows for privacy and made them pretty in the process. (Click here to learn how.)

I also went on the season’s first flower hunt yesterday. I’m back in Texas where this passion began, but I’ve found new places to explore. I’ve made a list. I visited the first site yesterday where I found curious buds about to bloom, but not quite. Soon I must go back to see what’s hiding in those green packages.

Our God made all growing things to change.

A few years ago, my brother gave me a spice rack, hoping to encourage me to cook with something more interesting than salt. I took him up on the challenge, found at least one recipe for each spice, and blogged about my experiences in learning to cook. I went from cooking quick and easy for a family of five that included three young boys to cooking more creatively for just two. Then, by necessity, I learned to cook with less dairy, no soy, then no gluten—and sometimes, when extended family visits—without nitrates or eggs. Now, as we prepare to adopt a child or two or four, I’ll need to learn to cook for a family again. This time I’ll be looking for quick and easy without the ingredients we can no longer handle. And now I have a whole spice drawer to go with the spice rack I often refill! I think I’ll start blogging about my experiences in learning to cook all over again—again.

MysteryPlantLearning one set of successful recipes wasn’t enough. Even my cooking must change. I’m excited about the challenge.

I think I used to think that childhood was the time for change, that once a person reached adulthood, things stayed pretty much the same until death. Spouse, career, family, home. Unlike the Hobbit, I welcomed the adventure God called our family into—military ministry. But I think maybe I wanted (or expected to get) that adventure on my terms. I wanted to pick and choose my challenges. I had expectations of what I’d find in each place and how I’d deal with it and how life would respond to me.

Tolkien got it right when he wrote The Hobbit. Life is best when it’s full of adventure and challenge and change—even if that adventure, challenge, and change mean dealing with something difficult right where you are. These are the gifts God uses to help us learn to rely on Him and to mature. Sometimes He lets us choose our challenges, but even then they come with surprises. All we really have control over is how we choose to respond. We can ask God for more of His strength, courage, power, and wisdom as we handle life with thanksgiving, dignity, and grace—or we can whine, complain, get angry, and demand our cozy Hobbit hole.

That won’t do us any good, though. The neighbors have already auctioned off our stuff and leased the space to someone else. When one adventure’s over, a new one must begin. Even if we settle down, life will continue to change.

We don’t always have a choice about the changes in our lives. Illness, death, downsizing, disaster. These come upon us, and our only choice is in how we respond, what work we’ll let God do in our lives through the trouble that has come our way. But when we do have a choice, if we always make the safe choice, let security determine our path, we’ll never change and grow—and we’ll miss out on many blessings God has planted along our way.

Yellow from a DistanceWhen I went flower hunting yesterday, there was a paved path along a creek. Some flowers were close to the path, but the bluebonnets I was most excited about were scattered in a field several yards away. I’ve walked on the path before and seen all kinds of critters scamper across it—including big spiders and snakes. (Okay, the snakes don’t really scamper.) I knew these were lurking in the field between me and the flowers I wanted to photograph.

I really don’t like spiders or snakes.

In some places, the grass around the flowers was tall, giving critters great hiding places. I stayed on the path and took pictures from a distance here. In other places, though, the grass had been cut right up to where the flowers were. Walking to the flowers was still a little risky, but not so much. It was a calculated risk worth the effort with care.

As we navigate our way through this life, we can prayerfully take such calculated risks with care, as God leads, in order to change, grow, and mature—and enjoy great blessings along the way! In fact, on the walk back to my car, I saw a mother with two little girls heading straight across the field to the flowers, no hesitation, only joy. As we grow to trust our heavenly Father with whatever comes our way, we’ll find such freedom to enjoy each new adventure in our lives.

Thanks for letting me ramble on and reflect a bit today. I hope to get back into my regular writing routine within a few days—unless things change.


Are you moving this season, too? Check out my devotional for encouragement as you do: Home Is Where God Sends You: Lessons in Contentment from Nearby and Faraway.

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Stumbling in the Dark

Finding Home“He inquired of the Lord, saying, ‘Shall I go and attack these Philistines?’
The Lord answered him, ‘Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah.’” -1 Samuel 23:2

I felt a bit frustrated when I read these words. David asked God a question and got a direct answer! A few verses later, he asked again, because his men didn’t quite trust God the way David did, and God answered directly again. He made it very clear that He wanted David to save the people of Keilah.

But how unfair! I’ve asked God for direct answers, for absolute clarity. Which book project should I focus on? Should I continue to self-publish or try the traditional route? Which house should we rent in our next location?

Mike and I agonized over that last one for weeks. I kept hoping that God would make the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood glow for us or something.

He didn’t.

We researched. We prayed. We made a decision. We’re moving forward by faith.

By faith. As opposed to hearing an audible voice or seeing a neon sign glow or even having a deep peace within.

Sometimes God is silent.

When the movers came to pack up our stuff for this move, a three-day process, we continued to live in the house. On the first day, one of the packers grabbed all of the night lights and packed them together in one box. I admire her organizational skills. I probably would have done the same thing.

Problem is, I tend to be a bit of an insomniac (my husband would tell you that’s a bit of an understatement), and I’ve learned that when I wake up in the night, getting up and taking a quick lap around the house helps me fall back to sleep more quickly than lying in bed staring into nothingness.

Have you ever tried to take a lap around your house . . . full of boxes . . . in the dark . . . without even any night lights? It’s kind of like living by faith. It was a bit of a problem that first night.

Stumbling in the DarkSo you can understand why reading these verses frustrated me. Sometimes I would really like it if God would answer me verbally. I’m not asking for great illumination . . . a night light would be enough. But He continues to let me stumble through the dark. I asked Him about this. How I am supposed to know the right path to take when God refuses to speak up?

The thought came to me, no audible voice, just a thought in my head that could have been my own or placed there by God’s Spirit – I believe the latter but have no proof, that maybe it isn’t always about finding the “right” path, that maybe it doesn’t matter to God which project I pursue first or which house I choose to live in. He knows what the outcome will be either way and how to lead me based on whatever decision I make. Maybe living by faith, prayerfully making decisions that matter, is more about prayerfully making the decision, seeking to do what I believe God wants me to do, and trusting Him come what may. It’s stumbling through the dark, trusting God to gently nudge the “more than I can handle” troubles out of my way – or to gently nudge me toward safety or even through whatever peril He allows. It’s talking to Him and listening for answers and doing my best for Him, knowing He’s doing what’s best for me and those around me as I do.

It’s a harder way to live, but maybe it strengthens me. I know it keeps me talking to God, and I know that’s a good thing.

Interestingly enough, as I continued to read through 1 Samuel 23, I discovered that after David and his men rescued the people of Keilah, they heard that Saul was coming to town. David asked God what to do. God told him that the people of Keilah were going to turn him over to Saul to protect themselves. (Nice, people. Real nice.)

So even after God gave David clear instructions, David ran into trouble. And God knew he would and steered David safely away. I guess even clear answers, should God choose to give them, are no guarantee that things will go the way we want them to. But either way, we can know God sees what’s coming and watches out for us. It was His Will that David rescue the people of Keilah. It was His Will that David live to be king. His purposes were accomplished then, as they will be today. That is something we can believe!

Father, I’m doing my best, and I believe You’re leading me – even when You refuse to do so audibly or even by granting me absolute certainty. Thank You for Your Presence. Thank You for Your love. Thank You for teaching me to live by faith. Amen.


For more lessons from moving, I invite you to read my book on this topic, Home Is Where God Sends You: Lessons in Contentment from Nearby and Faraway.

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When Going Back Is Moving Forward with God

The Four Phases of the Flower Hunt . . .

Flower Hunt1. New in Town

Look at all these new flowers! Can’t wait to grab the camera and hunt them all down.

2. There One Year

Must hurry to catch all the flowers that died last year before I could photograph them.

3. Second Anniversary

Why do these flowers only grow along the highway?! Surely they’re hiding somewhere else where I can actually take their picture. I. will. find. them.

4. After Year Three

Got it. Got that one. Yep, that one too! No new flowers . . . time to move.


Wait! What?

We’re going back?

There are no new flowers at back!

But we were only there for a year that first time. And I was just a flower hunting novice then. An opportunity for better pictures? Flower hunting season—here I come!


Going back doesn’t feel like going forward, but with God even the old becomes new.

A New ThingIf you find God leading you back perhaps He has:

  • A fear for you to face.
  • An anger you must confront.
  • A missed or brand new opportunity for you.

Even when God sends us back, we can rejoice in the knowledge that He’s doing a new thing—in us, around us, with us—for the glory of His name!

Father, thank You for life’s surprises and for the grace You give us to adapt. There is always much to look forward to—especially when we’re trusting Your lead. Amen.


Home Is Where God Sends YouAre you getting ready to move? Take this daily devotional with you! Home Is Where God Sends You: Lessons in Contentment from Nearby and Faraway. Available at Amazon.com.

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Book Review: “Soul Friends”

Soul Friends“You have been invited into deep-spirited, soul-altering friendship, into a communion with the sisterhood of traveling saints walking the Jesus journey all around you.” –Leslie Parrott

This beautiful sentence from the benediction of her new book, Soul Friends, is the purpose of the book: to invite its readers into this friendship, this communion with the sisterhood of saints. After reading it, I feel as if I’ve been to church again this week. I feel inspired to go forth and get to know some of my sisters much better (aptly timed since I’m moving again this year and need that little bit of extra inspiration to boldly join another new community). This book has encouraged me!

In its pages Leslie explores four phases of our life journey, phases we’ll grow through repeatedly. In fact, we may even be in more than one at a time. Yet her collections of essays in each of these four sections of the book help readers recognize and understand each phase. They also show how friends and family members influence each other, consciously or sub-consciously, through each phase. We’re connected, and God uses those connections, when we let Him, to draw us all closer to Him.

Leslie’s personal stories, Bible references, and quotes and stories from Christian women throughout history all worked together to convey her message. Her choice of The Message version of the Bible was perfect because of the poetic nature of the book. Her frequent references to Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends added an extra touch of fun.

I recommend this book to women of any age who want to grow closer to God while building stronger relationships. This is one I’ll read again soon!

I thank Zondervan for sending me a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.

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When Life Changes Your Plans

Life Happens When You Plan“Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” –John Lennon

I found this quote in a book I was reading last week. It made me laugh because it’s just so true. Just the other night, my husband and I were marveling over all we’ve encountered so far in our 27 years of marriage:

“How’d we get here, Janet?” Mike asked.

I smirked. “Well, we started in San Diego . . .”

He laughed. But we did start in San Diego, then we moved to Kansas City for school, then we were offered a pastorate in Maine . . . who could resist that adventure? . . . and life has offered one surprise after another since then. Starting out, we never could have imagined even half of it – and might have been tempted to bypass some of the adventures had God warned us in advance. It’s a good thing He didn’t do that.

“We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall.” –Proverbs 16:33, NLT

We keep trying to figure out what will be next, well, after this coming assignment . . . that we know . . . maybe . . . we’re in the military, after all. More significantly, we’re following God. I don’t think with either you really know where you’re going until you get there. And then you might be needed somewhere else. We make our plans using the information we have, but circumstances tend to change. We’ve learned, or maybe we’re still learning, to roll with that.

Proverbs 16-9As Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”

Or, in King Solomon’s words, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” –Proverbs 16:9

God is the One in control when it comes to life.

I recently stumbled upon a translation of Philippians 4:11-14 that helped me understand this idea of rolling with life in a new way:

“I have learned how to manage on whatever I have. I know how to be poor and I know how to be rich too. I have been through my initiation and now I am ready for anything anywhere: full stomach or empty stomach, poverty or plenty. There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength.” –Philippians 4:11-14, The Jerusalem Bible

The translation I’m most familiar with says, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (NIV). Another translation says, “I have learned to be content with whatever I have” (NLT). These put the focus on learning to be content in any situation which prompts the question, “How do I do that?”

The Jerusalem Bible tells us. In this translation, Paul says, “I have learned how to manage on whatever I have.” This tells me that being content is managing to do what you need to do with whatever you have, whatever God has provided, for whatever situation. And it’s not a matter of deciding to be content. Instead, it’s a matter of trust.

Which is why we have to learn it. Trust comes with experience.

When I look back on each circumstance of my life: each home, each state, each country, each financial state, each stage of marriage, of parenting, each new ministry or career— I can see God’s hand at work. There were times when we didn’t know how we would manage.

But we always did. God always provided enough. He always helped us to manage on what we had.

Therefore . . .

As I face new unknowns, as life happens to me while I make other plans, I can trust my God. He’s proven Himself faithful. All will eventually be well. I can be content knowing that.

Father, thank You for Your faithfulness and wisdom. Thank You for this life and all of its adventures, for meaningful work, for family, for surprises around every bend. Thank You for providing all we need to manage in whatever circumstance and for making us ready for it. Thank You most of all for Your presence. You are with us. That is all we really need. We love You, Lord. Amen.

If you struggle to find contentment in changing circumstances, my first book, Home Is Where God Sends You: Lessons in Contentment from Nearby and Faraway, may encourage you. Available at Amazon.com.

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Do You Trust Him?

“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.’” –Genesis 12:1

“So Abram went.” –Genesis 12:4

Because we move so often, I’ve come to love these verses. I wrote some of my thoughts about them in my book, Home Is Where God Sends You. Abram knew that, that home was wherever God sent him. God said, “Go.” Abram went. And he took his family, though he had no idea where God was leading them.

WindsorOver Christmas vacation, when much of our family was together, we played a silly game with our dog. He has a limited understanding of the English language, you know. But certain words just fill him with joy and make him wag his whole body all over the place. One such phrase is, “Do you wanna . . .” This phrase prompted our game. You see, it doesn’t matter what words follow that phrase. Windsor wants to! We asked him:

  • Do you wanna sleep outside in the cold?
  • Do you wanna skip dinner?
  • Do you wanna new kitty to keep you company?

Oh, yes! Yes! Yes! Windsor wanted it all!!! He worked himself into such a frenzy, he was practically doing back flips!

Don’t feel too sorry for him, though. When he’d worn himself out with all that wagging and running around to show us just how much he wanted whatever we said, we gave him several dog treats, patted his head, and told him what a good dog he is—which was what he had expected all along. He didn’t mind our silly game at all.

I realized later that the reason Windsor got so excited, without even understanding the words that followed the phrase, “Do you wanna,” was because he trusts us. He knows that we only ever offer him (in seriousness) things that are good. That phrase is usually followed by words like treat, go for a walk, go for a ride in the car, eat, or go outside. Sometimes that car ride leads to the vet, but Windsor enjoys socializing with the people he meets there even if he has to get a shot or two. Perhaps he even understands, on some level, that those shots are for his own good. I may be overestimating him there, but he still trusts us. He doesn’t fear the words that follow “Do you wanna” because he knows we’ll always take care of him.

That’s the kind of trust that Abraham showed in God. It’s the way we can trust God, too. When He says, “Go,” we can move forward with confidence.

Galatians 5:25 says, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” He leads. We follow. We keep taking steps to keep up. We do the next thing, whatever it is, whether we know where it will lead or not. We take one step at a time in trust.

Father, yes. We wanna trust You. Point us in the right direction. Lead us step by step. Because we know You love us, we choose to follow where You lead. Amen.

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Anchored, Tethered, Rooted, Built Up

Finding Home“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”Colossians 2:6-7

One thing I long for as I move from home to home to home is stability, an anchor of sorts. I’m thinking of a science fiction show I once watched. Can’t quite remember which one, but I do remember that the main character was jumping around in time and needed some kind of tether to keep her attached to her own time. If the tether came undone, she’d never find her way back to her own time. I think I kind of feel like that sometimes. I need for something to remain the same, or I’ll never know when I am “home.”

But there’s a reason why someone once said, “You can’t go home again.” Home as you’ve pictured it changes. Friends you go home to visit move away. Favorite stores close. Nieces and nephews grow up. Grandma changes the way she cooks . . . or relocates . . . to Heaven . . . which inevitably brings changes to all the traditions you once knew. This is how life works, and it happens whether you move a lot or not. But when you’ve been away for a while and come “home” to find all changed, it can feel a little unsettling.

Colossians 2.6-7If we anchor ourselves to these kinds of things, each visit home will be more confusing than the last. We’ll enjoy some of these changes and be disappointed by others, but either way we may still grow to feel increasingly out of place. Attaching ourselves to that which is ever-changing, that is, anything in our physical world, will eventually leave us feeling lost.

Colossians 2:6-7 tells us what we can anchor or tether our moving selves to. Paul uses two different words, though: rooted and built up. Both enhance the idea. If we’re rooted, we’re attached to the ground. As plants gain strength, nutrition, and stability from the ground, we gain the same if the soil we’re rooted in is healthy. Likewise, if we’re built up on a proper foundation, we are standing on something concrete that will support us, keep us level, and enhance our strength when the world around us starts to shake. Of course, Paul was telling his readers to be rooted and built up in Christ. Jesus is our anchor, tether, soil, and foundation wherever we go.

Notice some of the other words Paul uses, though. First he says, “Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue . . .” Continue is another stable word. Some people think being saved is all that matters, but if we’re to enjoy the benefits of saving faith, we must continue to live our lives in Christ.

Paul tells us how with a few more stabilizing words: “strengthened in the faith as you were taught.” Again, we cling to what’s already established: our faith in Christ. Someone introduced us to Him. Then we learned some more about Him. The relationship grew. The relationship must keep growing wherever we go. We may move to another location, but we must continue to talk with God, read His Word, and let Him teach us about Himself and His Kingdom wherever we are. We continue, we’re rooted, we’re built up, and we’re strengthened just as we were taught.

When we live our lives in Christ, we’ll always be anchored, tethered, rooted, and built up. Jesus is the stability we need.

Father, as the world changes all around me, all the time, I am overflowing with thankfulness for the tether You provide. Help me cling to You . . . forever. Amen.

If you found this helpful in your moving journey, I’ve written a whole book of devotionals to encourage you: Home Is Where God Sends You: Lessons in Contentment from Nearby and Faraway. Available at Amazon.com.

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A Delightful Inheritance

Finding Home“LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” Psalm 16:5-6

As our next move approaches, these verses comfort me. Psalm 16 is a psalm of gratitude and praise from David to his Lord. He is thankful for God Himself (his portion and his cup). He is thankful for his inheritance as king of God’s people, the Israelites. He is also thankful for God’s protection and counsel, guidance, presence and security.

While I am facing all the unknowns of a move from the familiar to the not-so-much, I am thankful that boundary lines wherever God has led us in the past have always fallen in pleasant places. They haven’t always been perfect places or places we would have chosen for ourselves, but we’ve always found something to love, some purpose to fulfill, and joy in knowing we were where God wanted us to be.

Psalm 16 v 5-6For this reason, I am confident that our new home will be a delightful inheritance. God chose it for us—and us for it! And He is already there. It won’t be a perfect place—such doesn’t exist on this earth, but we will find something to love (probably many things to love!), purposes to fulfill, and joy in knowing we are where God wants us to be.

I can’t see the future, but I know my Lord. I trust He is preparing a delightful place for me. For that, I am thankful now.

Father, thank You for being my portion and my cup—wherever I go! You’ve always provided for our family so graciously. I trust You with this new unknown. Prepare me for it and it for me as You always have. For the good of Your Kingdom and the glory of Your name. In Jesus I pray, amen.

If you are also getting ready to move, I’ve written a book of devotionals to encourage you through every step of the whole, crazy process: Home Is Where God Sends You: Lessons in Contentment from Nearby and Faraway. Available at Amazon.com.

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Of Christopher Columbus and Trying to See Beyond the Horizon

Finding Home“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”Hebrews 11:1

I know Columbus’ Day was ten days ago, but as I work up the courage to face yet another move, I’m wondering if maybe he and I are kindred spirits of a sort.

No. I’d have probably related better to his crew—looking over his shoulder on the boat and asking, “Just how sure are you that we’re not going to drop off the edge of the earth?”

Evidently, Christopher was pretty sure since he and his crew found land before they reached the horizon.

Funny how that works.

Preparing for a move is kind of like sailing toward such a horizon, don’t you think? Your calendar is full of things to do right up to moving day—and then it just goes blank as if you’re disappearing over the earth’s edge. Will there be things to do and friends to make in your new community? Will you find meaningful activities, a church to get involved in?

Of course, you will. You know you will. But you can’t see it, so it still feels like you’re headed for a fatal precipice.

Columbus sailed by faith that he would find land, not destruction.

Columbus put his faith in an idea, though. We move forward with our faith set in God. All just happened to work out well for Columbus. Trusting God, we can’t go wrong.

Father, please give us the courage to obey and go, even when we don’t know much about the place where we are going, even when it feels like we’re headed for the edge of the earth. We don’t have to see beyond the horizon to know that You’ve prepared good things for us to discover in our new land. Thank You, Lord! Amen

If you’ve found this message encouraging as you prepare to move, you might enjoy my book: Home Is Where God Sends You: Lessons in Contentment from Nearby and Faraway. Available at Amazon.com.

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Enjoying a Season of Rest Effectively

Finding Home“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.”Psalm 23:2-3

Not too long ago I visited with a seasoned military-wife friend who told me she’d been involved in everything possible at her husband’s last duty station but that she was using this assignment to rest. I understood completely and was thankful to learn that I’m not the only one who has ever found a need to do this.

Ordinarily when we move, we want to plant our pulled-up roots into new soil as quickly as possible by getting to know our new surroundings, making friends, and getting involved in activities as God leads.* If we move often enough, though, God may lead us to rest—especially if our relational roots were wounded or torn in our previous location or if we’re simply so exhausted that the new soil seems too hard to dig into. Transplanting our lives takes time and energy. Sometimes we need a season of rest and renewal.

There are two things we must remember should God lead us to rest, though:

1. This isn’t a time to withdraw into a “kingdom of isolation where it looks like [you’re] the queen.”** Yes. You are protecting your roots so they can heal or grow, but they’ll rest best in God’s Presence (through Bible study, prayer, and church attendance) and growing strong among the permanent people of your life: spouse, children, parents, faithful friends who keep in touch no matter where you live. God created you to interact with Him and with other people. Use your season of rest to build the most important relationships of your life.

2. This season of rest is only for a season. Enter it as God leads. Leave it the same way, whether after just a few months, a year, or a full assignment. If you try, because of false guilt or pressures from within or without, to jump back into too many things too soon, God will let you know that you still need to rest. If you get too comfortable in your resting place, however, God will do whatever it takes to “encourage” you to get involved again. Make this timetable a frequent topic of prayer. Cooperate as God leads.

Father, thank You for the seasons of life, both active and restful. Thank You for leading us into service and fulfilling activity in most of the places where You take us in life. Thank You also for leading us beside quiet waters where You can refresh our souls. Please give us the wisdom to know the difference. Help us to recognize Your guidance and to cooperate fully. We trust that You will give us all we need to serve You well wherever You send us and in whatever You lead us to do. Thank You, Lord. Please find us faithful. Amen.

*To learn more about this, read my book, Home Is Where God Sends You: Lessons in Contentment from Nearby and Faraway. Available at Amazon.com.

**Quote taken from the song, Let It Go.