The Search in the Mirror

As much as I like to convince myself that I’m above the eye creams and before bed face regiment, I’m not. You see, despite my best efforts (and reading every “live your 40’s confidently” blog out there), I haven’t entered my 40’s gracefully. It’s been more of a dig-my-heels-in type of journey. I’m determined to defy the process. Which means Mary Kay night eye cream and exfoliation (which I’m still not sure I’m doing right). All these efforts with little or no change.

So I recently asked myself, why? As someone who knows the importance of inner beauty, why am I using the mirror as a measurement of my refinement. This fixation on what I see in the mirror only shows my outer self. The mirror can’t reflect the maturity in my relationship with Jesus. It doesn’t reveal that because of age, I’ve gained experiences that have taught me how to love others more deeply. The mirror doesn’t get a glimpse of the compassion in my heart that’s grown over time or the gratitude I feel every day, knowing many weren’t fortunate enough to even see their 40’s. The mirror can’t evaluate the joy that comes with knowing a Savior is on your side.

What I do know, is that when someone is beautiful inside – when they love Jesus, their joy exudes a beauty that no night cream can match. We’ve all known someone like that. Where you can’t necessarily put your finger on it… it’s not their new glasses, their hair color, or the lack of smile lines around their eyes. But they are one of the most beautiful people you’ve ever seen. I’ve seen it before, you have too. It’s the result of a beautiful soul that loves Jesus and lives a Christ-centered life.

Let’s be beautiful that way. Let’s not waste precious time focusing on what we see in the mirror, but rather spend time beautifying our souls.

So in fairness I can’t commit fully, to giving up night eye cream… but I can tell you, I promise to be intentional about backing off. I’ll lighten my nighttime process and in place, spend a bit more time with Jesus… renewing my soul. Are you in?

Relevant Verse: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16

Lord, help me to remember as the days pass by, how I can become more beautiful for the Kingdom. Keep my eyes fixed on You and focused on the truth of what makes me beautiful. Amen.


What’s in Front of You Today?

A few years ago I treated myself to a Roomba… you know, one of those robotic vacuums that magically tracks its path and cleans every inch of your floor. Recently, while it was running in the kitchen I was unloading dishes and cleaning counters.

And that’s when I noticed it continued to miss a small section of floor which seemed to have an abundance of grass and dirt.

So I did what every Roomba owner would do.

I got down on my hands and knees and swept the dirt into its path.

Just as it was about to successfully suction up the dirt it made a surprise turn and redirected its path because it was programmed to be concerned about the far off corner of the room rather than what was immediately in front of it.

So I crawled along on the floor and again, with my hands, swept the dirt into its new path.

And again it seemed to intentionally dodge the pile of dirt.

This process went on a few more times until I moved the dirt so close to the machine, it was almost impossible for it to miss.

I know what you’re thinking. Considering the time I invested, I could have just picked up the dirt and put it in the garbage myself. I realize that now. But at the time I was committed and determined. Don’t judge.

But this experience made me laugh a bit… at myself and also at how similar it must be for God. It may sound silly, but stay with me here. He so often puts things in my path that are right for me. Things that I was created for. And just as I’m headed towards them, I make a quick turn and miss them altogether because I’m preoccupied with something off in the distance. So He patiently finds a way to put them back into my path again, and again… and again, until finally I run right into them.

It makes me wonder what my journey would be like if I paid a little more attention to what is right in front of me. So often I’m checking my calendar on my phone and preparing for events later in the month. But what if I was more intentional about what God placed in my path for today. What if I focused on navigating the day ahead and allow God to handle the things off in the distance? Because God rarely reveals His plan all at once. Instead He shows us one day at a time.

Maybe we could do this together. Take smaller strides through today, with more focus on what’s right in front of us. I imagine we’d find that our worry about what’s ahead diminishes and our joy in today would increase. And as we practice this day after day, our trust in our future would be more grounded in Jesus and our ability to embrace the moment would shine. I’m in. Are you with me?

Relevant Verse: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

Lord Jesus, please help me trust that You have the days ahead covered so I can invest in the joyful gifts You’ve placed in front of me today. Thank you for your faithfulness. Amen.

Life is Like a Puzzle

I was recently putting together a puzzle, and you should know I’m not really a puzzle person. I believe it was a 500 piece puzzle, although it looked like a million, as the oddly shaped pieces sat scattered on the table. The picture on the cover of the box was a colorful sunset over the ocean. A pristine image which I was eager to complete. Now, per my grandmother’s example, I know the process works best when I put together the outside edges first. So I began…

"Wait on the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait on the Lord." Psalm 27:14

I started by sorting the edge pieces and the inside pieces into separate piles. But in my eagerness to see the orange-pink horizon complete, I would find a few center pieces and become fixated on building those further. {And in fairness I should disclose that I’ll take advantage of any pre-joined pieces and take credit for those. You’ll want to keep that in mind should we ever do a puzzle together.} I would attempt to find pieces that further expanded the colorful center cluster. I’d then try to compare those to the picture on the box, shifting that group of 3 or 4 interlocking pieces around to establish where they belonged.

It became a hopeless task. Until I had the outside edges complete, I had no framework to reference for placement. Independently the pieces had no real purpose until they were secured into place with the use of the completed edges. This framework would not only keep them in their correct position, it would prepare them for more pieces to come together – creating a beautiful and complete picture.

So it was back to the pile of edge pieces. And once I had the edge of the puzzle complete, the colorful picture swiftly came together.

I think my faith journey is often like this. Maybe you can relate. We are called to work on building our faith foundation… a framework. God wants us to know His Word, to know His Son and to establish the most sound and complete framework possible to build from. Along the way He fills our lives with many independent pieces, which from His view fit beautifully and naturally into the picture. But if we haven’t built (and don’t maintain) that framework of faith – those life pieces can’t interlock with our life in Christ. Without that faith in Jesus properly built, life often seems scattered and makes little sense. It’s when the pieces of our lives secure themselves to an established foundation in Christ, their purpose becomes evident. And the completed picture is pristine.

Relevant Scripture: “Wait on the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait on the Lord.” Psalm 27:14

Heavenly Father, help me to build all pieces of my life off of my faith foundation. When I get fixated on “inside pieces” – bring be back to the “edges” and show me how they fit together with my faith in You to create the most beautiful picture possible. Amen.

Transform Your Life

Transform Your Life… that seems to be a familiar phrase this time of year. I know it’s certainly one I’m familiar with. The idea of a new year brings this momentum that “now” is the time. It’s time to make changes I failed to make last year, it’s time to launch myself into a new and refreshed Carrie. It’s time to make that bucket list and check some things off.

Psalm 51:10

Usually my list of transformations is reasonable;

  1. Finish painting the bathroom vanity
  2. Update/Improve my workout routine
  3. Work on that character trait I’m less than proud of
  4. Learn to Sew
  5. Do a back walkover
  6. Start painting the bathroom vanity (moved from the 2018 list to 2019)…

All in all, an attainable list (minus the back walkover). But typically my momentum is short-lived. In no time, I’ve fallen back into my old workout routine. And the books that were going to change my life are now strategically stacked according to color at alternating angles {imagine something you’d see on pinterest, they look more like a piece of art than tools to transform my life}.

So albeit good intentions, it’s quite possible I’ve started my transformation with the wrong approach. Jesus warns us about trying to accomplish too much, independently of Him. He warns us that we need a prepared heart and mind – renewed in Him, in order to be prepared to continue on this transformation of life. Maybe I’m transforming the wrong things…

So this year, my first 3 months of the New Year I will be tucking those resolutions away and returning to the basics.

Want to join me?

I’m committing to small moments of quiet time with Jesus every day. Not multi-tasking moments {which is often what my Jesus time becomes}, but intentional, mindful time to renew my heart and mind in Him. It may be in the form of scripture or maybe a devotion… or maybe just sitting quietly and listening. But I’m committed to transforming my heart and mind through the peacefulness of His presence. And then, and only then will I tackle my other transformations. Because I’m beginning to think maybe if I dug deep and worked these first few months of the year to transform my heart and mind – maybe my transformation initiatives would all come together differently.

Good differently.

  1. Finish painting the bathroom vanity
  2. Update/Improve my workout routine
  3. Work on that character trait I’m less than proud of
  4. Learn to Sew
  5. Do a back walkover
  6. Start painting the bathroom vanity (moved from the 2018 list to 2019)…
  7. Renew my heart and mind in Jesus

Let’s do it. Let’s tuck that list of transformations or resolutions aside for the first few months of this year. Together, let’s get aligned with Jesus in our heart and mind. Let’s make Him the priority of renewing our lives and see what comes next… I’m pretty sure it’ll be better than anything we could have imagined.

Relevant Scripture: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

Father God, help me to stay focused on renewing my heart and mind in You. Guide my commitment to renewing my soul before tackling my other life transformations. Amen.

Be Bold & Courageous

My friends: Be bold. Be brave. Be courageous… whatever it is that brings you joy, do it. And do it with confidence. Because I’ll let you in on a little secret – our God is with us wherever we go. And that, alone, is enough to sustain any adventure that awaits you.

This past weekend I was on an early morning walk with my daughter. She just turned 8. And every part of her soul looks for adventure and risk. The ground was lightly snow covered and the temperature was just below freezing. This meant there were small patches of ice, unseen, just below the snow.

As I mentioned, she’s naturally a bit daring. But today was exceptional, even for her. She relentlessly tested her footing. I couldn’t help but smile as I watched her carefree spirit skip, hop and twirl across the sidewalk. Along the way she often slipped. But she continued on boldly, bravely and courageously. You know why? Because the entire time, I was walking with her. I was holding her hand with my feet firmly anchored on the grass just off to the side. She could enjoy the adventure because she knew I would catch her if she started to fall.

You see, this is a lot like our life as Christians. When we make the decision to declare Jesus as our Lord, we set our feet firmly on the foundation of Christ. It is then, that we can feel brave, bold and courageous to test our footing. It is then, that we can try ourselves at things we never thought possible. Because regardless of how slippery the ground is beneath our feet – there is a God who is holding our hand every step of the way.

So maybe you’re thinking about stepping out and doing something beyond your comfort. Maybe a God-sized dream has been knocking at your door. I’m here to remind you to go ahead, do it. Be bold, brave and courageous. Because once you’ve given your life to Christ, you’re grounded in Him. He’s holding your hand. He’s prepared to tighten His grip and pull you to safety, if necessary. And He’s also willing to relax his hold just enough to allow you to skip, hop and twirl.

As a matter of fact, He’ll smile as you bravely, boldly and courageously create your most joyful life.

Relevant Scripture: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Lord, help me to trust the words of Joshua 1:9. Help me to feel your presence and know that you will be near wherever I go. Father I give myself to you and celebrate the adventure that lies ahead. Knowing no matter how slippery the ground beneath us me, my foundation is built in your stronghold. Amen.

Celebrate How Far You’ve Come

Generally speaking, I think it’s safe to say you should typically travel through this life facing forward. As a matter of fact, our faith encourages us to look forward with expectation and excitement of what’s to come. We know what’s to come is far better than what’s behind us.

This all makes sense to me. Keep facing forward with faith and expectation, right? This theory was proven recently when I made the mistake of glancing backwards during a run. I quickly glanced over my shoulder and {imagine the most dramatic, non-graceful, tuck-and roll fall possible} down I went. Hard. I mean, cry-worthy. What was I thinking? If I’m moving forward, there really was no benefit in looking back. I mean, after all, we don’t have the luxury of living yesterday. So bring on tomorrow, because with Jesus, I’m in.

But maybe, just maybe, it’s worth it to take a glance back every now and again. You’re catching me on the coattails of a birthday. So in addition to eating an entire bag of chocolate covered cherries and having dinner out, my birthday ritual includes some self-reflection. And as part of that process, I look back over the previous years and make note of where I’ve been. Sometimes I even open my journal. In it I find joy. But I also find entries where I felt pure darkness and hopelessness. During those times, I find days where life felt empty. Where I wanted nothing more than to crawl back in bed, where facing the world seemed too overwhelming. Or entries where I witnessed a loved one hurting and asked God to intervene. I reminisce about days consumed with empty prayers that seemed to be unheard.

But it is in the process, where I also find reason to celebrate.

Because as I look back over the heart-wrenching struggles, challenges and emptiness of life – the view in the mirror proves I’ve gotten past those days. It’s where I can see how my prayer for help was answered as He gave me strength {instead of immediately fixing it like I had asked}. That glance backwards is where I see how strong I am, when I seek God’s help. It’s also where I understand that emptiness and how it came together months later to bring me a new friendship. It’s where I see my struggle over the course of years shape me into a person with greater empathy. It’s where I look back and smile… acknowledging all that God and I have accomplished together.

It’s often times, in that rear view mirror, where our faith and hope in Jesus is strengthened. It’s where we are reaffirmed to trust God, because He’s proven Himself time and time again. It’s in this rear view mirror that our soul is strengthened to trust our Lord and live, facing forward, with excitement and anticipation as His plans unfold. It’s here where our soul celebrates God’s faithfulness… but it’s also where we can applaud our strength too. Certainly we find it in Him, but when we look back we’ll realize how brave and courageous we were too. We’ll see that in those times when we trusted God, together we made it through.

You’ve got these examples too. I know you do – they aren’t always easy to see {particularly when the experiences are recent}, but God’s been there. He’s seen you through. And you’ve been brave and courageous to arrive there. You {and God} are worth celebrating. So as you skip through your day facing forward, find a moment to look back and celebrate how faithful God has been and how strong you are. Together you and God have come a long way… together, you’ve got a joyful journey ahead.

Relevant Scripture: “The LORD will give strength to His people; The LORD will bless His people with peace.” Psalm 29:11

Father God, I celebrate all we have done together. Our past experiences reveal your uninterrupted faithfulness. And you give me hope to look forward as Your plans unfold. Lord it is with great anticipation and confidence that I look forward, trusting You for where we’ve been and where we’re going. Amen.

What Brings Your Soul Joy?

The question seems so simple, right? “What brings your soul joy?” We often interchange that question with a similar one, “What things do you enjoy?” Sometimes we are asked in casual conversation, maybe in an interview or possibly as we’re meeting someone new.

And if you’re like me, you give some expected response, “I love spending time with my family, I enjoy running and I enjoy doing door-to-door school fundraisers.” And we feel satisfied with that.

Well, spoiler alert… I love my children and husband, 100% of my joy isn’t found in our togetherness. And running… here it is, I love the feeling I have AFTER I run. I barely like it, much less find joy in it. And door-to-door school fundraisers, well if I’m saying the things I’m supposed to, I figured I’d toss this one in too.

But let’s be clear on what I’m asking, what brings you JOY… authentic, soul-filling joy? Joy within you, as designed by God, independent of the world. Joy that makes you feel close to God because he wrote it on your soul.

Do you even know the answer? Well joy seekers… get your coffee, this topic has been on my mind for quite some time. I’m digging in, searching for answers {would love your comments} and am chasing joy. Because Jesus didn’t create me to live in mediocrity. He wants me to know my joy and live it. And here’s how the story goes…

Sometime between my early 20’s and adulting, I actually lost track of those things that brought me personal joy. That kind of joy where I felt close to God, that joy which was dependent on understanding God’s stamp on my unique spirit. I suppose it happened over time. As life took over, society influenced my existence, parenting became a priority and professional expectations increased, I shifted my understanding of joy. Instead of maintaining my uniquely designed love for art projects, sidewalk chalk, song writing and listening to music while at a coffee shop {it’s important you understand this means sitting still, sipping coffee and listening to music – not doing these things while multi-tasking), I left them behind. And before I knew it, I couldn’t fill an hour of time doing something I loved.

It wasn’t long ago that I asked myself this question and fortunately I realized, it’s still there. Despite the time which had passed, it hasn’t disappeared. I’d imagine it will be the same for you. We’ve just navigated our busy lives to a place that we no longer see it easily. And so we’ve replaced it with fillers that bring us joy – some healthy {and part of God’s plan}, some necessary and some less than ideal. But as children of God, it’s good to know joy that derives from the Holy Spirit and connects us directly to a joy between you and God.

Remember, you are worthy of a life of joy. You were designed with it in you. It’s yours to discover and Jesus wants to inspire you to live that joy. And once we find that joy within ourselves, it becomes intrinsically important as we are called by Christ to be disciples. I’m telling you, we are best prepared to share the Joy of Jesus with the world when we have found His Joy in ourselves. To fulfill the joyful purpose God intends for us, we have to know our personal joy.

So I encourage you to dig deep, find that joy. The fulfilling joy planted within your soul. The joy that somehow, feels selfish to feed. Yet the joy that makes you feel close to God because He designed you with it inside. Find it and unleash it. You’re worth it.

So my friends, “What brings your soul joy?”

Do that.

Relevant Scripture: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:11

Heavenly Father, I first thank you for the many blessings which surround me and contribute to my joy. Lord, help me to specifically find those joy-giving gifts You wrote on my heart before I was born. Help me to feel worthy of re-engaging with those joys that draw me near to you. In Your name, Amen.

Control Where You Stand

I have a complicated relationship with storms. I find them both fascinating as they captivate my curiosity, and intimidating with their unpredictable behaviors. It wasn’t too long ago that I found myself on the front porch enjoying the calmness of a late August evening while off in the distance a storm was developing.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you...” James 4:8

Shortly after my notice of the dark sky, I heard my phone and television from inside – that recognizable sound, alerting me to seek shelter. Although I heard the warnings, I found myself enthralled with the culmination of clouds and sounds. I felt comfortable watching until the very last minute, almost tempting fate to escape, because in this situation, safety was only a steps away. I could escape to the basement where warmth and calmness await. It’s much easier to weather the storm when you know where you can find safety.

If you’ve ever been caught in a storm before, you know how scary and chaotic it can be. Winds, rain, lightning. When a storm hits, you only have one concern – finding a safe place. I think we can all agree, life storms surround us, too. They can be conflicts at home, challenges at work, physical or mental health problems, frustrations with friends or a loved one who doesn’t seem to understand your perspective. Sometimes these storms feel constant and out of our control. And sometimes they are.

Finding safety in these storms can seem impossible. Our surroundings become more and more unpredictable and before we know it – the chaos of the storm becomes our normal reality. That’s not how God intended our lives to be. He wants to see you conquer your storms. Recently a friend and I paralleled our reactions to a storm in nature, to that of a storm in life. It seems a similar approach is beneficial;

  1. Recognize the storm: Scripture tells us this life will have storms, so one of the first steps is to recognize it. These storms are chaotic and often times leave little certainty. The chaos within a storm is sometimes self-imposed, other times it’s the result of situations around us. Some storms we can anticipate – they are on the horizon. Other storms just pop up, unexpectedly. Some leave a path of destruction while others seem to come and go quickly. Regardless of the size or complexity of the storm, Jesus warns of this burden. Once we allow ourselves to recognize we can then take the next steps.
  2. Avoid the storm: When possible we need to get out of the way of a storm by taking a non-intersecting course. There are often times different routes you can take to avoid a storm. Similar to storms in nature, I know when it’s on the way. In life, the Holy Spirit in us becomes restless when we know a destructive storm is coming {you may be familiar with this unsettling feeling – it requires listening to God as He speaks through you}.The bible warns us about such storms in this life, and it also provides specific scripture to help us seek another path. Take the high road, avoid gossip, walk away from unnecessary drama, stay focused on Him… if possible, avoid it.
  3. Seek safety: And if you find yourself in a life storm, my goodness – seek shelter. Find Jesus as quickly as possible. Remove yourself from the quick moving chaos that adds confusion. You minimize the potential damage and return to a life of clarity when Jesus becomes your shelter. He’s prepared, He’s ready – that’s why He came and took on the cross. He is where you should stand during the storm. And the best part; the more often you seek Jesus, the more practiced you become and more quickly you can retreat to Him. Carve out that path to Him and memorize it… get to Him and get there fast to avoid the destruction that may await.

As we consider those steps and prepare to respond to the storm, let’s not forget that storms also produce growth. Even in nature, a heavy storm brings wind and rain. Rain brings growth and wind can clear out dead branches. In life, so it goes the same. Storms provide opportunity to choose another path, to seek safety in our Savior. This life will have storms, some manageable – some larger than we could ever have imagined. There’s no question about it, we can’t always control the storm, but we can control where we stand. Whether we avoid the storm or weather it – stand in the presence of Jesus. Seek shelter and safety in Him in the midst of every storm. He is prepared to shield us, protect us and provide the calm presence we seek.

Relevant Scripture: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you…” James 4:8

Heavenly Father, sometimes this life feels like one storm after another. It feels like everything is spinning so quickly and safety is out of reach. Remind me that you sent Jesus for this reason – to provide shelter from the storm and to restore calmness to my life. Prepare my heart so it’s ready to stand in the presence of Jesus. Amen. 

Seeking God Isn’t Doubting God

We are created as curious individuals who, from early on, are inquisitive and seek further, more detailed explanations. It’s part of the learning process. Even when something real is put in front of us, we continue to ask for supporting evidence that affirms those facts.

Matthew 7:7

It’s really nothing to be ashamed of {although as a parent I can speak to how exhausting this process is}. But exhausting or not I am never disappointed nor do I discourage my children from asking for more understanding and presenting questions that will help them fully wrap their head around what they see in front of them.

Take for instance our most recent adventure to the milkweed field. There, we carefully found a few monarch caterpillars and brought them home to care for and watch as they transform right before our eyes into butterflies. It’s truly a magical experience that leaves some questions unanswered. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t explain every, single detail of how the process happens {although my children seem to think if they ask more than once, and ask louder – I’ll know more}. I don’t know how the butterfly knows when to drop into a “j” and I certainly don’t know how it decorates its temporary home with that gold metallic band. Monarch MysteryRegardless, our entire family discusses and draws conclusions based on what we know about the caterpillar’s journey. But our need to seek more doesn’t diminish the reality of the outcome. As a matter of fact I believe it does just the opposite. It mounts of case for what’s to come. The more questions we ask deepens our desire to know this journey. And the questions we can answer, deepens our confidence in the outcome we know is true.

I parallel this to a recent conversation I had with a young woman about her faith. She was in a restless place and was seeking more faith and her need to feel the Holy Spirit alive in her. As we talked, she wrestled with question after question. And soon into our visits, she was using the words ‘seeking’ and ‘doubting’ interchangeably. As I listened, she began replacing ‘seek’ with ‘doubt’ altogether. Because she was seeking more faith, the presence of the Holy Spirit and answers about Jesus – and because God hadn’t clearly revealed those answers to her Earthly mind, she assumed she was doubting God. This caused her to abruptly reroute her belief in God altogether. This cycle isn’t foreign to me. I’ve been there too – maybe your faith walk knows something similar?

Much like I told her, I’m telling you – don’t be afraid of seeking. God’s ready for your questions. It’s part of your faith journey, one that is intended to have many seasons. Seasons that face deeper seeking and questioning. Seasons that unfortunately present doubt. And then seasons which bring an overwhelming presence of God, where the Holy Spirit is bursting at your seams. Seasons where you’ll move mountains and take on the world. And others where you harvest and reap, water and grow.

Scripture prepares us for these seasons. They are part of the free-will God gifted to us. He knew these seasons would be challenging and trying, but do not get discouraged. Do not doubt yourself and don’t doubt your belief in God. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He is ready to travel each question, and seek with you. Because seeking more faith and chasing a greater presence of the Holy Spirit {although it may feel like doubting}, only deepens and reinforces your relationship with God. So go ahead… ask, seek and knock – He’s waiting to satisfy your curiosity. He’s prepared to answer your questions in His time. And He will always meet you exactly where you are, regardless of your season.

Relevant Scripture: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7

Heavenly Father, satisfy our thirst when we are seeking more of you. Help us to not confuse seeking more of you with doubting you altogether. As our curiosity heightens and we desire to know more – help us find You and deepen that relationship. Amen.

Look Up

Recently I’ve had a few back-to-back days that I would describe as distracting. You know those days, right? Where my list of things to do is so overwhelming that I start everything, complete nothing and am frustrated at the end of the day because I’m exhausted with no productivity. The more I chase these unfulfilling distractions, the further I find myself from my purpose in God.

Acts 17:27

Episodes like these squeeze the joy right out of me. They leave me empty, sad and with barely enough energy to want to try again tomorrow. That’s been my cadence these past few weeks. And it feels that the more I wait on God to pull me out, the more distracted I get. It’s utterly exhausting.

In an attempt to gain clarity and end this cycle, I’ve continued to take my morning runs with our younger rescue dog, Marley. He and I have an understanding for these runs. He doesn’t pull me and I don’t pull him unless he tries to take my arm off attempting to catch a squirrel. It’s a silent agreement and it works pretty well. Until the other day. When he saw a squirrel and bolted. As this scene is unfolding and I’m anticipating my arm being pulled out of joint, I can hear the flexi-leash snap. I know what’s coming next. I’ve been down this road before {only much closer to home the last time}. The leash broke and was beginning to wrap back up into the device with no way to retrieve it. Holding on to the empty leash, I lunged multiple times towards the moving end… which was getting shorter and shorter, returning back into the flexi-leash never to be seen again. Unsuccessful in my attempt, {but entertaining for the neighborhood} the leash won. It wrapped back inside, into the darkness.

There’s only one thing to do, pray that the broken leash left me a few feet of lead. So I lure Marley in with an over-the-top excited voice {slightly embarrassing for anyone in earshot}, he buys it and comes bounding back. At that point I quickly find the leash broke RIGHT at the clasp, leaving me nothing to hold on to as we make our 2 mile trek home.

There was only one choice, to head home, unleashed. As each block passes, I realize he notices his freedom more and more. But instead of venturing further than his leash would typically have allowed, he continued to stay close, stay focused on me and listen for my commands. Distractions were everywhere, for almost 2 miles, but instead he continued to look up. And together we crossed busy roads, refrained from chasing other squirrels and made it home safely.

Now stay with me, I promise there are some relatable similarities here. Much like Marley, we’re unleashed. God doesn’t keep us tethered to Him, we have free will. But because of experience, Marley knew that if he continued to look up, patiently waiting for me to guide him – I would get him home safely. Just like I had hundreds of times before. Despite the squirrels and distractions around him, he knew the only way home was to look up and allow me to lead him.

God does this same thing… but in a much bigger way. As life {society’s} distractions become more frequent and consume our days, we are pulled further and further from God. So much, that we sometimes abandon our God-given joy and purpose altogether. But we have a God to look towards, where distractions fade and peace returns. He has proven Himself time and time again. He is waiting to lead us. Whether it’s leading from ourselves, from our distractions, back onto His path… or to safety. He’s waiting with unwaivering guidance. All we need to do is look up with faith, trust and expectation.

Relevant Scripture: “God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.” Acts 17:27

Dear Lord, this life presents constant distractions that lead us further and further from You. Much like a sheep needs its shepherd to lead it to safety, or a dog needs its owner to lead it home – we need you to lead us to the path you have uniquely designed for us. Lord, remind us to look up. Amen.