Patience, Trust, and a Watchful Eye

The man I met in high school and married six years later is 100% Greek. During our first Thanksgiving together, Steve’s mom graciously spent the weekend teaching me to cook the ethnic delicacies of his childhood. I still make a mean avgolemono soup and a terrific pan of spanakopita, but the dish we’ve eaten the most over the years is rice pudding. I made it again this morning, partly because it’s one of the only foods my very pregnant daughter finds appealing right now.

But Greek rice pudding is a bit tricky. It requires patience, trust, and a watchful eye.

First, according to the recipe, you have to simmer (and stir frequently) a rice, milk and sugar combination for about 20 minutes. Simmer, not boil. Boil it, and you’ll have a milky mess flowing over the edges of your pot and onto your stove. Forget to stir it, and some of the rice will stick to the bottom of the pot and scorch. And as for that 20 minute cooking time, it’s not to be trusted. At about the 19 minute mark, you’ll have to start dipping into the pot to test the rice, looking for that moment when it’s just soft enough, not too firm, and not too mushy.

Next comes the adding of the eggs. This is not a cake you’re making. If you just dump in a couple of eggs and stir them around, you’ll get a disappointing mess of creamy rice shot through with hard little lumps of scrambled eggs. Instead, you must do what my old Betty Crocker cookbook calls “tempering the eggs.”

  • First beat the eggs in a bowl.
  • Then slowly, slowly add a small stream of hot milk and rice to the eggs, continuing to beat them.
  • When half of the hot liquid has been added to the eggs, slowly pour the pudding back into the pot, still stirring and simmering for another couple of minutes.

Then, finally, you can sprinkle on a little cinnamon and eat it, right? Nope. Not unless you want to burn your tongue. After all that, you still have to wait for it to cool. And, truth be told, before it cools it won’t look done. It will look like a sloppy mess. You’ll be pretty sure you did something wrong. But it thickens into creamy goodness as it cools.

As I made my most recent batch of rice pudding, I thought about how our spiritual lives also require a great deal of patience, trust, and a watchful eye.

We set out to make something of our day, or of our lives, seeking to do as our Lord leads us. Much of the time it seems to take forever to get where we think we’re supposed to go. Rushing almost always makes a mess of things. Patient, prayerful attention goes against our hurried natures, but it really is the only way to go. And so we wait. We pray. We attend to our tasks, following the instructions he gives us along the way. We trust, as things simmer, that God is turning them into something wonderful (no matter how they may look at the start).

Photo credit: @rasmusgs via unsplash.com

I Missed My Turn but I Didn’t Miss God by Becky Keife

Do you believe it’s okay to fail? If you asked me, I’d be quick to say, “Yes! Failure is a part of life. Failing means you’re human. Failure is an opportunity for learning. Failing means you tried.”

But turns out, what I know is true doesn’t always translate into how I feel.

Recently I messed up. I was talking on the phone while driving (yeah, I know) and I missed a turn. I didn’t realize my mistake until much too late. So late in fact that by the time I turned around, backtracked, and made it to my appointment, I was told that the doctor could no longer see me. The appointment I had waited months for. The appointment I had taken time away from work and arranged childcare for.

I stood in front of the receptionist, flustered and sweaty and desperate to turn back time, and I started to cry. Tears of frustration and embarrassment. And also tears of shame. But as I drove home, silently wiping tears and berating myself for my mistake, I realized that my response was less about the inconvenience I caused and more about what I believe:

I believe I shouldn’t make mistakes.
I believe I should always be focused and timely and efficient.
I believe a string of bad nights’ sleep shouldn’t affect my clarity of mind.
I believe failure is an indictment on my character.

As I type these words though, I can name for myself all their slippery slopes and half-truths. I would never believe these things for you.

But sometimes it takes missing a turn and crying in front of a stranger to realize you’ve got some work to do in the department of self-kindness.

Self-kindness doesn’t mean making excuses or justifying poor behavior. But it does mean making space for mistakes. It means acknowledging that you’re human. Perfectionism is a myth. Performance-based living is soul-crushing. So why do we live like a mistake-free existence is the ultimate achievement?

I drove to my mom’s house to pick up my kids. I thought I had collected myself, but as I sat on a little stool while my mom putzed around the kitchen, the flow of tears started again.

“I just feel so stupid,” I confessed.

My mom hugged me and affirmed that failures big and small can just feel plain devastating. Then she made me a plate of sausage and sweet potatoes.

Space to cry. To be held. Loved. Fed. Those were gifts I wouldn’t have received if I hadn’t missed that turn and seemingly messed up my whole day.

And this is the beauty of God: He loves us at all times, and He works in all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28) — not just on the days when we have our ducks in a row and everything goes as planned.

Today I want to hug the me from that day and tell her that she is no less valuable or loved because she messed up. Today-me knows that appointments can be rescheduled and God’s mercies are new every morning. I cannot miss His love. 

For more reminders that your limitations don’t disqualify you from God’s love and kindness, check out Becky’s upcoming book The Simple Difference, available now for preorder.

This article first appeared on (in)courage. You can find the original article here.

I Missed My Turn but I Didn’t Miss God (incourage.me)

Want to know more about the author? Her website is

Becky Keife | Home | Empowering moms to find their confidence in God

Photo Credit: Denys Nevozhai via Unsplash.com

Syllabi

I can still see my seventeen-year-old self standing in a college bookstore, a stack of syllabi in hand. I expect the prep-for-class process has changed, but back then it worked like this:

  1. Register for classes. (In a gym full of card tables!)
  2. Pick up a syllabus for each class.
  3. Read through each one to see what will be required throughout the semester.
  4. Buy all the books needed for every class. (In person. At an actual bookstore.)

Hauling all those textbooks back to the dorm was no easy task. Talk about a beast of burden! The real burden, though, and the real beast, was in my own brain. I would inevitably look at a whole semester’s worth of assignments and wonder—with a good bit of worry—how I would ever be able to do all that work. Some part of me disregarded the long timeline, the months stretching out before me to offer the gift of ample time, as if it was all due TODAY.

Of course, I did have enough time, and did finish the assignments, and graduate and find employment and…But it took me a long time to learn this lesson:

When life looms large and its demands seem overwhelming, JUST DO TODAY!

Those early weeks of college were tainted by my insistence on mentally tackling way too much before the real time to do so. Life presents plenty of challenge, and when we try to take it all on at once, or even wonder how we will handle tomorrow while we are embroiled in today, we wreck any possibility of peace. Why do we do that? I think it has something to do with that old enemy of ours who seeks to steal, kill and destroy. It may also have something to do with our demented idea that we can control and handle all things on our own. Taking things one day at a time is much easier to do when we remember Who holds our future.

Jesus taught this lesson long ago. The sooner we learn it, the better!

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14: 27).

Roots for Fruit by Beth Smith

Photo by Daniel Watson on Pexels.com

This is an interactive lesson, so if you’re game, stop reading and go grab a sheet of paper and a pen or pencil (or, if you want to be really creative, a couple of crayons.) I’m going to write about roots again. Go ahead and draw the trunk of a tree.

In Isaiah 37:31 (NIV), God said of His people, “Once more a remnant of the kingdom of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above.” I think God wanted to remind us that we need roots before we get fruits. Roots do plenty of growing underground, often before we see any results. Matthew 7:16-17 says, “By their fruit you will recognize them… A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” We want good fruit, but we need good roots first.

Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit;” (John 15:5). Jesus is our taproot, the main root out of which our support roots spread.

Draw a long root straight down from your trunk. Label it Jesus.

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).

Draw two roots out from the taproot. Label them faith and thankfulness.

Continue reading

10 Things to Do When You Are Tired

My life is delightfully full—and also sometimes a bit out of balance. In other words, I get pretty pooped out now and then. What’s a body to do?

I know the Bible says that if I wait upon the Lord, I’ll renew my strength, but sometimes my strength, well, it needs renewing sooner rather than later. Here are a few steps I try to take:

Play worship music. It lifts my spirits and energizes me.

Use a Bible software app (like YouVersion) to fit in Bible reading on a busy day. Sometimes I listen while doing chores around the house or driving or lying flat on my back for a few minutes.

Put on a pair of supportive shoes. Don’t laugh until you’ve tried it. And this tip isn’t just for the over 45 crowd. I’ve been donning good shoes first thing in the morning since my kids were toddlers, and when I don’t, I pay for it by the end of the day.

Eat a piece of fruit. Sometimes, I just need a hit of sugar, but of the kind that will last a while without making me crash.

Try a cup of green tea—lots of possible benefits, only a little caffeine. Or give kukicha tea a try. (I love it, but its flavor isn’t for everyone.)

Reevaluate “The List.” Is there something that can be delegated or delayed?

Alternate “body tasks” (stuff that takes physical stamina) with “brain tasks” (the ones that require sitting and thinking.) At the very least, take short breaks from any particular type of task.

Remember, this time will probably pass. It’s easy to become even more tired today by thinking about all I have to do tomorrow, so I try to take things one day at a time. An easier day may crop up before long.  

Notice the “chocolate chips” of the day. Even when we’re tired, the day is better if we look for the little blessings and moments of joy sprinkled here and there.

And, of course, ask the Lord to provide strength. (He does promise it after all. See Isaiah 40.)

Back to Balaam

Photo by Nilina on Pexels.com

I’m reading the book of Numbers again, struck afresh by the humor, oddity, and warning found in the story of Balaam. Here’s what was going on way back when…

The Moabites were afraid of the Israelites. Balak the King summoned Balaam the Prophet, saying, “Come and curse these dangerous folks. They’re numerous and far too powerful for me. I’ll pay handsomely!”

Wisely, Balaam asked God about this deal and heard, “Oh, no you don’t. These are my blessed people, and you must not put a curse on them!”

When Balaam conveyed his response to the Moabites, they begged him anyway, promising more money. Balaam, wise once again, answered, “Your king could give me his whole palace filled with silver and gold, and I still couldn’t do anything that went against my Lord’s command.”

Eventually God told Balak to go ahead and go with those begging Moabites, but to be careful to do only what he, the Lord, commanded. Balak headed out the next morning, traveling by donkey. An angel, armed with a sword and visible only to the donkey, blocked the way. What follows is the best part of the story.

  • The donkey stopped walking.
  • Balaam beat the donkey.
  • The scene repeated two more times.
  • Then the donkey talked!

The beast of burden said, “What have I ever done to you? Why would you beat me three times?”

  • Did Balaam gasp in utter amazement? No.
  • Did he get on his knees and ask the Lord what in the world was going on? No.
  • Did he argue with the donkey? (Surely not!) Yes, that’s exactly what he did.

At that poing God finally let Balaam see the armed angel, gave Balaam instructions and allowed him to proceed. When the time came to pronounce a curse, Balaam blessed Israel instead (three times, in fact). Balak the King was plenty angry, but all the obedient prophet had to say to him was, “Must I not speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?”

Look for the lessons in this crazy chapter:

  • Nothing is too hard for the Lord.
  • Obey God’s instructions, no matter how hard the pressure to do otherwise might be.
  • The Bible is not boring!

Do you have a favorite Old Testament passage? If so, I hope you’ll share it with me!