When Life Stinks


how to change your attitude using the Bible

“There you go—all clean!” He picks his daughter up off the changing table and gives her a snuggle. She pats his face, giggling as his mustache tickles her fingers.

He flies her, Superbaby-style, into the kitchen. She squeals with delight; he finally dares to breathe through his nose. “Wow, that was an impressive diaper,” he tells her, wrinkling his nose and chuckling. “You even polluted the air in the kitchen! Who knew someone so sweet could make something so gross?”

He straps her into the high chair. “How about some banana?”

As he peels and slices the fruit, he grimaces. “You know what? It still smells funky in here. I’m going to get some air freshener.”

Handing his daughter the banana, he heads to the bathroom for a can of air freshener. As he sprays it in the kitchen, he whispers, “Don’t tell your mother. She’ll say I’m contaminating the food.”

The baby grins. “Gah.”

Twenty minutes later, they sit together on the couch, pointing to pictures in a board book. As his daughter’s chubby fingers pat the pictures, his nose sends out panicked alerts. “Again?” he asks the back of his daughter’s head. “No more black beans for you, my friend.”

Bible verses to help your attitude

With a sigh, he takes her back to the changing table. But when he opens her diaper, he blinks. “Pump fake! You’re totally clean!”

She giggles agreement. “Bah!”

He puts her down for a nap and sits at his desk, trying to catch up on emails. He takes a deep breath and gags. “Sheesh, that child has contaminated this entire house!” He grabs the air freshener and squares his shoulders. He marches room to room, spraying—a firefighter dousing a blaze.

When he is done, a fake-flower-scented mist hangs heavy in the air. Eyes watering, he sits back down at his desk and tries to concentrate.

An hour later, he hears his wife’s keys in the front door. He meets her at the door and holds out the baby—her fat little legs kick happily in the air between them. “This child,” he says, his voice sounding a little more manic than he wants it to, “has serious gastrointestinal issues. I am telling you, this is not normal. I had college roommates who smelled better than her! We have to take her to the doctor—she will never make a single friend if she smells like this.”

Laughing, his wife takes the baby and raises her toward her face.

“Don’t do it!” the husband warns. “Your nose will never recover!”

The wife rolls her eyes and presses her nose against the baby’s padded bottom. The husband waits for her gag reflex to kick in.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about—she smells amazing! Baby fresh!” Cuddling the baby to her cheek, the wife steps inside. “The house, on the other hand…did a can of air freshener explode in here?”

Her husband gapes at her. “What–what–how can you not smell her? I’ve been dying a slow death by methane poisoning all morning!”

Laughing, his wife takes a step toward him, placing a hand on his cheek. “Darling, I can promise you that no one has ever died from—” She narrows her eyes and leans in close. Sniffs. Recoils for a moment, then leans back in, squinting hard at his face.

“What?” he says, stepping back from her scrutiny. “You’re freaking me out!”

His wife raises a finger and points. A smile tugs at one side of her mouth. “Mystery solved. You’ve got baby poop in your mustache.”

A friend once told me this story—a true story that happened to one of his friends (the overall situation is real; the dialogue I invented). I gag—and laugh—every time I remember it. Call me weird (I prefer the term “quirky”), but I’ve found some profound life lessons in this story. (I know what you’re thinking: Why do all of Elizabeth’s life lessons seem to revolve around disgusting things like poop and lice? I’ve got five words for you: four kids and a dog.)

So hold your nose and bear with me while we hash this out: Have you ever had a day—or a season of days—where everything just….stinks? Everywhere you go, life seems dark, people seem mean. Misfortune and misunderstanding haunt you, malicious shadows.

In times like that, when life seems darker than usual, I find it helpful to ask myself, “Is life really as awful as it seems…or do I just have poop on my upper lip?” In other words, am I carrying around a stinky attitude that is polluting the way I experience the world? Am I walking into beautiful, fresh-scented rooms, but carrying my own negative aroma with me—an air freshener in reverse?


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Sometimes our experience of the world changes, not because the world has changed, but because we have.

Maybe someone has hurt our feelings, and the unresolved hurt we are hanging onto makes us view all other relationships with mistrust. We begin to see people through a filter of skepticism; every relationship becomes a potential source of pain.

Maybe we feel disappointed by God, let down by a promise yet unanswered, and we find ourselves becoming cynical, sarcastic, jaded. Angry with God, expecting the worst, determined to take care of ourselves if God won’t do the job.

Maybe we’ve lost something or someone, and the loss casts a shadow of sadness and fear over our should-be-happy moments.

Jeremiah 17, the famous passage about depending on God, contains a fascinating turn of phrase:

The man who trusts in mankind,

who makes human flesh his strength

and turns his heart from the Lord is cursed.

He will be like a juniper in the Arabah;

he cannot see when good comes

but dwells in the parched places in the wilderness.

                        Jeremiah 17:5–6 HCSB, emphasis added

            Take a look at those emphasized verses: he cannot see good when it comes. Sometimes God is blessing us—life is good, people are kind, blessings abound—but our own perspective has clouded our view, tainted our experience, of the world. We’ve taken our eyes off God and His power and goodness. We’ve become self-focused and tunnel-visioned, our senses warped by pain and disappointment, so we cannot see—or smell!—the good when it comes.

The next time your life feels like a series of misfortunes, or God seems distant, or friends seem scarce, try taking a look in the mirror. Maybe you really are going through a miserable time; maybe you really are facing more than your fair share of difficulty; maybe people truly are being cruel and selfish…or maybe, just maybe, you’ve got poop on your upper lip.

 

Need some biblical air freshener to help change your perspective?

Try studying these scriptures—they are about forgiveness, joy, and trusting God:

Habakkuk 3:16–19

Psalm 37

Psalm 147:1–7

Matthew 6:5–15

Matthew 18:21–35

Philippians 4:4–9

Philippians 4:11–13

Here’s to breathing fresh air, my friends!


If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:

My new book, When God Says, “Wait”

When God Says Wait: Navigating Life's Detours and Delays Without Losing Your Faith, Your Friends, or Your Mind

On Pinkeye, Lice, and Love

13 Reasons Moms Never Get Haircuts

When Being a Grown-up Means You’re Still Growing Up

When Your Life Feels Wasted

Don’t forget to claim your free ebook here!     

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When You Need to Remember


Photo courtesy of Unsplash. Photo credit TJ Holowaychuk.

My husband, Mr. Dreamer, loves this time of year with its resolutions and new beginnings; I, Mrs. Over-analytic and Fearful, find the whole new-year-new-you thing kind of exhausting. Scary. Overwhelming. We have a running joke in our marriage: Kevin likes to live in the future; I can’t get out of the past—so somewhere, between the two of us, we find a way to live in the present.

Every January, we get pummeled by the same message: Look ahead! Dream big! Pray brave! But sometimes it’s hard to look ahead. Tiring to dream big. Scary to pray brave.

And that’s where remembering comes in. Remembering what God has already done: love already shown, gifts already given, prayers already answered. Sometimes we become so consumed with the future, so eager to move on to the Next Big Thing, that we forget to celebrate what God has already done. The astounding miracles we have already witnessed. The crazy prayers that have already been answered. The progress we have already made—imperfect progress, sure; incomplete progress, yes; but still—progress! Forward motion! Growth!

The other night we had a fun talk as a family. We intended to make a list of family prayers for the new year, but then we went off on a tangent. Kevin and I started telling the kids our favorite stories about times when God has answered crazy prayers for us—prayers that once felt impossible. We talked about everything from our miracle Christmas baby story after years of infertility (a story the kids have already heard ten thousand times and will hear ten thousand more because it’s the greatest God story of our lives); to the time when, after decades of unbelief, Kevin’s beloved relative turned to God, thanks to a run-in with a falling oak tree; to the “smaller” stories, like a time when we were working like crazy but still couldn’t pay our bills, and Kevin and I both secretly and independently begged God to mail us money—and when we went to the mailbox there was a check for the exact amount we needed!


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How to Find God—and Joy—When Life Is Hard


Reliving these stories, the miracles big and small, was a powerful reminder for me and Kevin, a reminder that we have already seen God perform staggering, “HOW DID HE DO THAT?!” deeds many times; a reminder that even when the road ahead feels scary, our problems overwhelming and impossible, we already have so many reasons for great faith. . . It made me—me! faithless, scaredy-cat me!—get excited about daring to write down big prayers for the new year. It made me faithful that the powerful God who has done great things in the past can—and will—do great things once more—in His own time, in His own way. It made me confident that God hears us even when His answers come more slowly—or in different form—than we had imagined. And it reminded me just how loved—how deeply, personally loved—we are by our heavenly Father. Best of all, as we recounted these stories, we watched faith light in our kids’ eyes. I could see their faith blooming even as we spoke. They laughed, they grew wide-eyed, they stood in awe of God.

As you ponder your hopes and prayers and needs for the new year, I hope you’ll first take an hour to sit down and remember. To remember all the prayers God has already answered, all the miracles you have already seen. To celebrate and thank Him once more for gifts already given. To bask in His love, which He has proven time and again. If you have children, sit them down and tell them your God stories in the spirit of Exodus 13:14: “In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.'”

When all that is done, then you’ll be ready to start dreaming for the future, drawing hope and faith and confidence from what God has already done for you.

As for me, I will always have hope;
I will praise you more and more.

My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,
of your saving acts all day long—
though I know not how to relate them all.
I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord;
I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone. Psalm 71:14–16


If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy:

When God Says Wait: Navigating Life's Detours and Delays Without Losing Your Faith, Your Friends, or Your Mind

My new book, When God Says, “Wait”

When Mugs Break: Lessons in Fear

On Pinkeye, Lice, and Love

How Southerners Do Snow Days

When Being a Grown-Up Means You’re Still Growing Up

 

 

 


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When All You Want for Christmas Is a Baby


When All You Want for Christmas Is a Baby: A Spiritual Survival Guide for When You’re TTC at Christmas

Ah, Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year. . . unless you’re going through infertility. Every commercial mocks your pain: angel-eyed toddlers looking oh-so-squeezable in red and white striped pajamas, waiting wide-eyed for Santa. (And how about that Pampers commercial they play 5,000 times every season with all the babies sleeping to “Silent Night”? Excruciating!) Every trip to the mailbox is an assault on your soul, every Christmas card a test of your gratitude, your self-confidence, your ability to keep jealousy at bay: babies in Santa hats, toddlers on Santa’s lap, and best (meaning worst) of all: the pregnancy-announcement-slash-Christmas-card combo, a double whammy! It’s enough to make the sanest and holiest of us Google things like “1,000 ways to blow up a mailbox.”

And then there’s the dilemma of your own Christmas card situation: Do you get a dramatic haircut so something looks different from last year’s card? Buy a puppy? Put an asterisk on the empty space between you and your husband and include a line on the back of the card that says, *A baby should be here. Yes, we’ve been trying to start a family FOR AGES, and no, we don’t want advice about ovulation and base temperature?

As a survivor of several Baby-less Christmases, I want to encourage you that with God’s help, you can have a joyful holiday season, even if you are also enduring a season of infertility. You can have fun. You can stay sane. You can enjoy the life you have even while you pray for the life you want.

Here are a few strategies that helped me and Kevin survive our TTC Christmases (TTC means Trying to Conceive):

1–Battle envy with love and self-pity with gratitude.

The Christmas season can make us more painfully aware of our own empty arms compared to our friends’ full ones. Romans 12:21 encourages us to “overcome evil with good.” Whenever I was tempted to envy friends their babies or pregnancies, I worked to resist envy by focusing on how much I loved my friends. I deliberately centered on thoughts like this: I love this friend. I am happy that God has blessed her with a family. I am glad she is not suffering through infertility. I pray she enjoys a fulfilling Christmas season being pregnant/being a mom, just as I hope to enjoy my own Christmas in my own way. (And then I ran to the nearest Starbucks and drowned my sorrows in a decaf mocha.)

We have to deliberately combat self-pity with gratitude. When the Enemy whispers, “God is holding out on you. Your life is terrible. Everyone else has more than you,” we have to replace those lies—which lead only to sadness and bitterness—with the only thing powerful enough to overcome them: gratitude. Remind yourself of God’s goodness, thinking through all the gifts he has already given you—be as specific as you can. I like to make gratitude lists and read them to God in prayer!

2–Think ahead, and be gentle with yourself.

Christmas heightens our emotions, and if you’re going through infertility, you’re probably going to feel more fragile during holiday seasons.

We all have things that trigger us: seeing pregnant women or new moms; walking within 100 feet of the baby aisle; Instagram bump-dates. If you can identify the things that most hurt you and tempt you to feel down, then you can plan ahead to either avoid those situations entirely, or at least to experience them in smaller, more manageable doses (doses that you have spiritually and emotionally prepared yourself to handle).

For example, let’s revisit the Christmas card issue. If you hold your breath every time you open a card, waiting for temptation to take you down—the stab of envy when you see the umpteenth baby swaddled in a stocking; the painful sense of insecurity or even inferiority when you see yet another friend walking across a field holding hands with her children and just looking so daggum motherly and complete—then go easy on yourself. You don’t have to drool over every baby picture and linger over every life update. Set the Christmas cards aside and open them in batches with your husband at your side. Pray and set your heart on celebrating the lives of the people you love, give the cards a quick once-over, and move on with your life. Your life, the life God gave you—a life that is fully meaningful and valuable and packed with love, with or without a baby. (And hey—if you really can’t handle the baby’s-first-Christmas-themed cards, who’s to know if you skip opening them altogether?!)

If you usually buy gifts for a family in need, but the idea of shopping for someone else’s kids brings up too many sad feelings this year, perhaps you can buy gifts for an adult instead. Or bypass the whole gift-shopping idea and donate food to your local food bank or time to a soup kitchen.

Social media. . . take it easy for a while, my friend, unless you have a superpower that makes you immune to envy.

And can we talk Christmas pageants? My advice is to head to the bathroom for a nice long break during the kids’ performances at church. I mean, the heart can only take so much.

Infertility is hard enough on regular days; during the Christmas season, go as easy on yourself as you can. Even though I joke about these things, I’m not suggesting we make excuses for becoming selfish or cynical or rude—but it’s not wrong to shelter ourselves a bit from some of the difficulties the holidays bring. It’s wise to think ahead, plan ahead, and pray ahead.

3–Be intentional in your thinking. 

It’s oh-so-tempting to spend the entire holiday thinking about all the things you wish you were doing this Christmas…the baby you wish you were holding, the toys you wish you were buying, the sleep (weird as it sounds) you wish you weren’t getting.

And if Satan has his way, that’s all we will think about. We’ll be consumed by the sad things, the loss, the hole in our hearts. And in so doing, we give away any chance of joy. We give away our happiness, our gratitude, and our perspective.

I’m not saying your sadness and pain and the hole in your heart are not real. They are real. Your sadness is valid. Your loss is legitimate. But we can choose what we focus on this holiday season—and always.

Christian tips for infertility

Focusing on what we don’t have has never been God’s way. All throughout scripture, God encourages his people to remember what he has already done for them. What gifts they do have (even if they still lack some things they want—or even things they need). I love David’s attitude in Psalm 13–begging for relief even as he remembers God’s past kindness:

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me. –Psalm 13, emphasis added

Here is a simple strategy that helps me reclaim control of my mood when I’m hurting (adapted from my book When God Says “Wait”):

–Take a moment every morning to write down 3 things you have to look forward to that day. (Some days you might be really stretching things, but that’s okay: This morning I’ll splurge and put fancy creamer in my coffee; today I get to meet a friend at the gym; tonight I’ll get to snuggle with my husband and re-watch Stranger Things.) No matter how difficult life is, we all have good things in store in every day, if we’ll just train ourselves to pay attention.

–Take a moment every evening to write down 3 things you are grateful for from that day: God prompted a friend to send an encouraging text just when I was feeling down; I got a phone call from my mother (I have a mother! She is alive and she loves me enough to call me!); I laughed at lunch with a friend.

Exercises like these bring gratitude and a healthy, big-picture perspective into our lives.

4–Be proactive in planning your holiday season. Focus on fun!

Christmas 2004 was rough for me and Kevin. It was the third Christmas since we’d started trying to conceive. Everything in me wanted to hide in my bedroom all December watching Die Hard, the most non-kid-related but still vaguely Christmasy movie I could find (ahem—even Die Hard has one annoying reference to the pregnant woman who needed a couch to sit on—no movie is safe when you can’t get pregnant!).

But I decided to fight back. Baby or no baby, I still loved Christmas, and I didn’t want infertility to ruin my favorite time of the year.

That year Kevin and I were intentional about doing a lot of fun things—fun things we might not be able to do, we reminded ourselves, if we had a baby in tow! We deliberately made new memories together. We decorated our house like crazy and made it feel festive. If memory serves, that was the year we drove out to the country to a Christmas tree farm and cut down our own tree. We went to late movies and made ourselves sick on popcorn. We slept as late as we wanted and cooked fancy breakfasts. We went a little crazy splurging on gifts for our siblings. We planned a fun vacation for the following spring.

Try this: Sit down with your spouse and make a list of things that would be fun to do this Christmas season, maybe some things like. . .

–Take an overnight trip away, just the two of you

–Cut down your own tree

–Go to a wine tasting or concert

–Watch a holiday light show

–We are always happier when we are giving. Find ways to serve your community: My favorite way to serve at Christmastime is to visit seniors in nursing homes (ahem, added bonus: not one of the nursing home residents will be pregnant!). Call ahead and ask how you can give: You can bring cards, sing Christmas carols, help with their Christmas activities and parties, or just sit and chat with the residents. Get ready to hear some amazing stories!

(Check out these related posts for more ideas: Have a Merry Married Christmas, and 10 Questions to Ask Now to Have Your Best December Ever.)

Christmas can be tough when you can’t get pregnant, but with focus and prayer, you can still claim joy. You can make memories and have fun. You can remain grateful and spiritual. You can stay close to your husband. You can sidestep the Enemy’s traps of envy, self-pity, and sadness.

Are you struggling to conceive this Christmas? My heart is with you. Send me your name—I’d love to pray for you!

-xoxo, Elizabeth


If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:

When God Says Wait: Navigating Life's Detours and Delays Without Losing Your Faith, Your Friends, or Your Mind

My book, When God Says “Wait”

How Southerners Do Snow Days

When You Walk Through a Valley

The One She Needed to Write

Have Yourself a Merry Married Christmas

My friend Caroline’s blog, In Due Time

Loved Baby by Sarah Philpott, a book for those going through miscarriage or infant loss

 

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When Waiting Is Quiet


when waiting is quiet

I’m sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, magazine in hand. The room is filled with people, but they’re unnaturally quiet—so quiet I can hear the clock on the wall marking lost time…all the wasted life I’ll never get back because I spent it breathing stale air in this crowded room.

I flip a page and stifle a snort: another celebrity has lost all her pregnancy weight in three days, and if I’ll only hire myself a personal chef who serves me a delicious diet of kale, chia seeds, and fresh fish imported by helicopter from Siberia and then boiled in colostrum and coconut water, I too can sport a postpartum six-pack. For the hundredth time, I wish I’d thought ahead and brought my computer—or at least a good book.

A nurse opens the swinging door with a whoosh, and everyone in the room looks up expectantly. I think I see a lady near the door slipping a fiver into the nurse’s hand, as if she can bribe her way to the top of the list.

“Mrs. Smith?” calls the nurse. Everyone not named Mrs. Smith heaves a despairing sigh. Mrs. Smith leaps up with a grin so broad you’d think she’d just been named the next contestant on “The Price Is Right.” (You know you’ve been waiting forever when going in to face the gynecologist with all her evil torture devices feels like an improvement on your situation.) I can’t decide if I want to offer Mrs. Smith a congratulatory high-five or shoot her an envious glare. The room falls silent. I go back to my magazine and mind-numbing stagnation.

Some waiting seasons are active, jerking us up and down and all around, keeping us guessing, dragging us through wild detours that may be insane but at least keep life exciting. As we wait for The Thing we want, we may be terrified out of our minds, wondering what twist awaits around the next curve, but at least we’re moving; at least we’re doing something!

But then you have the other kind of waiting season: The quiet kind. The monotonous kind. The boring kind. The kind when we’re stuck in life’s waiting room, in between phases, where nothing ever happens and nothing ever changes. Life feels useless, meaningless, a song stuck on repeat. Every day the same: Same old classes, same old job, same old apartment. How we wish things would change, how we long for the next thing—The Thing we are convinced we cannot be happy without…but The Thing won’t come. Life won’t change.


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In times like this, we face a choice: We can either sit there filling our time with empty, brainless things—reading magazines about other people’s lives, scrolling through Instagram pictures of everyone else’s Big Exciting Adventures… or we can fill our own time in meaningful ways. We can find ways to use the “down time,” the life in-between, with purpose. But how do we do that? Find purpose in pauses?

How to wait on God via @lizzylit

We don’t often think of Him this way, but Jesus was no stranger to waiting. In a way, He spent His whole life waiting: Waiting for the cross, the day of suffering that haunted his future like a daily shadow. Waiting to be set free from this broken world and His soon-to-be broken body. Waiting to return home to heaven and be reunited with His Father.

How did Jesus fill His waiting days? Not worrying about Himself or His own needs—no, He filled His days with service. With love. With constant communion with the Father He missed. We too can fill our in-between days by walking in His ways. By finding people to serve, needs to meet, ways to give.

In Luke 9:23–24 Jesus tells us, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it” (NLT). It’s not easy, but selflessness is the way of Christ. The way of purpose and meaning. Selfishness leads only to frustration and discontentment.

Let’s find people to serve, needs to meet and ways to give, even while we wait. If we reach out to comfort or befriend, to serve or to save even one soul while we’re waiting, this time is not lost. Waiting time need not be wasted life. We can redeem waiting times by giving them to God, so that when our name is finally called and our time in the waiting room is over (hallelujah), we can dance out of the waiting room feeling great about how we spent our time there. We might even high-five a few new friends on the way out.

Before you leave, sign up for my newsletter and claim your free ebook! 


If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:

When God Says Wait: Navigating Life's Detours and Delays Without Losing Your Faith, Your Friends, or Your Mind

My new book, When God Says “Wait”: Navigating Life’s Detours and Delays Without Losing Your Faith, Your Friends, or Your Mind

When Waiting Is Terrifying

When Your Life Feels Wasted

When Life Poops on Your Party

My new Instagram account, where I post lots of thoughts about waiting on God!

 

 

 

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When Waiting Is Terrifying


how to wait on God

When I was seven, I rode Big Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain at Disney World, got terrified out of my Jams and jelly shoes… and that was it. (Jams and jelly shoes—anyone else wear those? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?) From then on, I swore off roller coasters. I successfully avoided the rattling death traps for years, too chicken even to get in line. But the summer I turned sixteen, I got roped into going to Six Flags with a group of friends.

For the first hour or so, I held my ground: I wasn’t there for the roller coasters; I was just there for my friends. I paired up with Geoff, the other kid in our group who was too afraid to ride, and we wandered around the park together. (It occurs to me now that it’s possible Geoff was just pretending to be scared to make me feel less like a loser and to make sure I didn’t spend the day alone…if so, thanks, Geoff. Seriously.)

Meanwhile, the rest of our group tore across the park together, laughing and giddy, seeking adventure. Geoff and I ate some junk food. Talked about Nirvana and the Cranberries. Watched other people line up for rides. Listened to the whoosh of the coasters, the screams of the riders. Studied people when they stumbled off, high-fiving and grinning, weak-kneed and windblown, but not dead. After a while, Geoff and I turned to each other and said, “We’re being lame. We have to at least try one ride. If we hate it, we don’t have to do it again. (Assuming we survive, that is…but let’s not think about that.)”

how to wait on God

So we picked the mildest ride we could find, got in line behind a bunch of six-year-olds, and bit our nails down to the quick while we waited. We chose seats somewhere in the middle of the coaster, where it was supposed to be the least scary, and talked each other out of wimping out at the last minute. When the ride jolted us forward, I shut my eyes and gripped the bar so hard my fingers locked up. My insides turned to ice. As we tipped back and ratcheted sloooooooooowly up that first high-as-Mount-Everest incline, I screamed until my vocal chords shredded to bits, took a breath, and then I screamed some more.

We reached the top of the first hill. Time stopped. My heart tried to rocket out of my chest. We started free-falling. My stomach plummeted into my toes; my bladder threatened revolt. I shut my eyes and curled up tight inside myself until I could hardly feel the wind tearing at my face. All I could think was, Please don’t let me die please don’t let me die please don’t let me die. 

At last the ride screeched to a halt. I took three seconds to make sure all my body parts were still attached and (most importantly) to make sure my pants were still dry. My vocal chords were destroyed and my fingers seemed permanently glued to the railing, but besides that, I was intact and unharmed. And then, as if I had stepped outside my own body, I watched my head turn to Geoff and listened to my own raspy voice squeak, “That was THE BEST THING EVER! Let’s do it again!”

Geoff nodded eager agreement, his wide eyes mirroring my I’m-terrified-but-still-totally-exhilarated expression. Turns out, we’d both had the time of our lives…but we hadn’t been able to register the joy of the experience until the ride had ended.

Off we sprinted to the next coaster, a scarier one. We had both squandered that first ride, just praying to survive, but we didn’t waste the next one. As the day wore on, we got bolder.  I started opening my eyes—just a crack at first, a little timid peep—until eventually, I opened my eyes all the way, almost the whole time. Geoff was the first to let go of the rail and wiggle a few fingers in the air on the way up the inclines. After a few more rides, I threw my hands up and surrendered to the stomach-lurching, bone-rattling thrill. By day’s end Geoff and I had conquered every terrifying ride Six Flags had to offer. We were full-fledged adrenaline junkies.

Sometimes waiting feels motionless, but other times it’s a roller coaster. It hurtles us up and down and all around—from uncertainty to terror to euphoria—till our emotions show signs of whiplash. We’re getting what we want—just kidding, not getting what we want; The Thing is finally happening—nope, not happening at all; God is saying yes—just kidding, He’s saying no—or maybe He’s saying wait—uh, we have no idea what God is saying… But guess what? We get to choose how we ride out our waiting seasons: Will we sit with our eyes shut, teeth clenched, fists tight on the rail, completely missing out, just whispering, “Tell me when it’s over”? Or will we open our eyes and let the ride take us where it will (where God wills), determined to find joy in the twists and turns, to experience exhilaration in the unknown?

No, it won’t be fun the whole time. It won’t always be peaceful or happy. We’ll have moments when we’ll wish God had buckled us into a different ride. But if we’ll learn to embrace the experience, it will be an adventure. A story—our life story. A life we do not waste. A life we live in the moment, every day—not just in hindsight, when we know how it all turned out. A life we live to the full, without fear: eyes open, heart unguarded, hands raised to heaven.

God’s way is perfect.
    All the Lord’s promises prove true.
    He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.
For who is God except the Lord?
    Who but our God is a solid rock?
 God arms me with strength,
    and he makes my way perfect.
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
    enabling me to stand on mountain heights…
You have made a wide path for my feet
    to keep them from slipping. –Psalm 18:30–33, 36 NLT


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When Mugs Break: Lessons in Fear

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My new book, When God Says “Wait”: Navigating Life’s Detours and Delays Without Losing Your Faith, Your Friends, or Your Mind

When God Says Wait: Navigating Life's Detours and Delays Without Losing Your Faith, Your Friends, or Your Mind