When You’re Too Tired to Dream

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Dear sisters, each of you needs to hear something slightly different today. Some of you need encouragement to stick with your plans and achieve your goals. 

But others of you may find yourself in the place where I was recently…too tired to dream anymore. Especially if you are a natural go-getter, this is my story for you. I pray that it encourages all of you to trust our God and take the time to be still in His presence.


I wonder…do the waves ever get tired of rolling in and out, day and night? Rushing forward, surging back, all in sync with the silent pull of the moon so far away–you’d think they would wear down after a while.

I feel like the tides sometimes, crashing up against the same rocks day after day, wearing smooth tracks on the sand in the same place I washed across just a few seconds before.

Routine. Normal. Everyday. And I get so restless. It is easy to wonder–am I making a difference at all? 

You feel so small sometimes. Maybe you’re just one drop of salt water riding a wave you can’t control. Life is going crazy around you and you feel like it’s all swirling by, and what if you aren’t doing something that matters?

After working from October to nearly the end of November in another state, I came home just before Thanksgiving. Coming off of a “just-had-the-coolest-job-in-the-universe” high, I plummeted into dishes, cooking, stress, a noisy house, and lots of decisions to make.

Over the next few weeks, I tossed out a year and a half of plans, failed to get a couple jobs I wanted, and ended up a bit breathless. Truth? I wasn’t so upset about the ditched plans as I was about the uncertainty that followed.

A change of plans? Sure, I can deal with that. Total restlessness? That was a bit harder.

You ever have those days when absolutely nothing sounds enjoyable? I’m talking the “bookworm can’t get up the motivation to pick up the new book” kind of restlessness. Yeah, that’s serious all right.

But at the same time, a very basic routine intervened. So…I didn’t want to do much at all. I still had to get up. I still had to do dishes and cook some healthy food for my family. I still had to play the songs I was about tired of hearing on the piano. I still had to pull on my rubber boots and slog up our red-mudded road with my mom on our daily walks. I read the books that I needed to return to friends. I cleaned my drawers and closet.

I didn’t have a big job or project. I just did what I could think of to do.

A host of negative emotions followed my restlessness: Guilt that I wasn’t getting anything important done. Nervousness that I wasn’t doing what others thought I should be accomplishing. Absolute terror that I would never get back that spark that I somehow lost along the way. Worry that I was missing out on something God had for me to do.

I was afraid because I didn’t want to live from one task to another for the rest of my life. But I was all dreamed out, and somewhere deep inside, I knew that the restlessness would pass.

My 2-month stint away from home with the writing job had left me a writing cripple. I gained fantastic experience, became a better writer, and learned a huge number of things, but when I got home, something was wrong. I didn’t want to write. Yes, it’s true. Me, the writer. Me, the girl who has a few book ideas a week. Me, the girl who gets excited about words like “synecdoche” and “asyndeton.”  I. Did. Not. Want. To. Write. It was truly frightening.

I wondered if I was just being lazy. Should I have pulled out my laptop and put in a few hours of staring at the screen everyday? Should I have forced myself to snap out of it and get busy? Maybe.

But what I did instead seemed to work a lot better.

I rested.

Yes, I kept up my basic routine. I ate, exercised, read, did things with my family. But I let myself stop my projects and just recover from all the recent ups and downs of life.

Wave in. Wave out. Wave in. Wave out.

And in spite of my fear that the waves would never end — that I’d be stuck in the tide for good — that’s not what happened.

Since I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself, I talked to my parents and we found some wise ways I could use my free time to be a blessing to others. My weeks were finally free enough that I could drive across town and help out my music teacher friend if she needed me, spending a day showing a group of children how to hold a violin and pluck the strings. I could go play piano for someone who needed a smiling face.

And somewhere between the waves, a new rhythm emerged.

Instead of worrying about all the projects that I couldn’t bring myself to plan, I slowly built up what was important to me. Guarding family time. Working on my relationship with God. Having the freedom to drop everything to help out a church friend. Cooking healthier meals with my mom. Taking walks on that wonderful muddy road.

The small, repetitive, seemingly-unimportant tasks became the things that freed me.

I’ve written on this blog about the importance of the “small things.” However, being worn-out gave me a vivid illustration of just how vital these tiny pieces of life are.

Maybe those in-and-out waves aren’t so awful after all. Maybe they provide exactly the subtle rhythm that each of us needs to thrive.

Instead of fearing the restlessness, I learned to rest in the middle of it. 

Do you want to know what happened?

My “free-time” spent teaching music to little kids or playing music for a nursing home resident became the highlights of my week. Soon, I found words creeping into my head–an idea for new song lyrics, a theme for a blog post, or a hankering to write a scene in a novel I’ve never quite finished. My writing returned!

Opportunities began to spring up, making me smile at my silly fear that I’d have nothing to do. 

Resting prepared me to dream again.

It can be hard to know when to take this kind of breather. People around you might wonder what happened to your packed schedule and productive personality. They might ask what you’re doing these days. They might wonder why the projects are on hold.

But sometimes we just need to be still. Yes–be still and KNOW He is God. He is God when we’re worn out. He is God when we can’t get up the oomph to plan one more project. He is God when all you can accomplish is the bare bones of a routine–and He is faithful to make even these small rhythms of the day into times of growth and refreshment.

This isn’t a call to be irresponsible or lazy, but there is truly a time when it is wise to step back and breathe. If you have been plowing full-steam ahead for too long, consider if it is time for some rest.

If the things you are passionate about suddenly grow dull, try taking a break and focusing on the basic, everyday tasks that God has entrusted to you.

Most of all, if you need to take a breather in your small corner, remember that your value is not based on how much you accomplish. As Christians, our value rests in the undeserved love of God. His grace and creative touch make us valuable–not anything we do on our own.

Take this time of refreshing to dive deep into God’s word and prioritize the vital rhythms of your life: personal faith in Christ, family relationships, and fellowship with your church family.  Put nonessential plans on hold and give your body, mind, and emotions time to recover their normal energy. 

 Is it time for you to rest a while?


“Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise; your power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning. And so we men, who are a due part of your creation, long to praise you….You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you.”

– Augustine of Hippo –

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Travelers, Tent-dwellers, and Troublemakers

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“I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.”

 – Psalms 116:1-2 NIV –


Men of dust, doubt, and deceit. Hardened men — men of blood, accustomed to pagan rites, gory battles, and rampant immorality.

This was the world of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

And yet God chose them. Why? Certainly not because of their piety — we’re talking about a group of polygamists, liars, and cowards.

But He still chose them. Out of millions of people, he put his favor on one undeserving man, commissioning a journey that would transform a childless old man into the father of a spiritual nation.

He appeared to them, one by one (Abraham: Genesis 12:7, 17:1, 18:1; Isaac: Genesis 26:24; Jacob: Genesis 32:24). He spoke to them, came to them in dreams, and visited them in visions. He made promises to them.

He put tears of laughter on the face of the century-old Abraham.

He vowed faithfulness to the promised son Isaac.

He wrestled until dawn with the stubborn heel-grabber Jacob.

As I recently finished reading through Genesis, I realized that many people today have it all wrong. Some see the God of the Old Testament as a severe Judge who finally mellows out and becomes more loving by the time the New Testament era arrives. But I found this idea to be the farthest thing from the truth.

In all His majesty, holiness, and justice, the God of the Old Testament is the same unchangeable God as the gracious Deity of later Scripture. His mercy didn’t begin when the calendar switched from B.C. to A.D.

Oh, give thanks to the God of heaven!
    For His mercy endures forever.

– Psalm 136: 26, NKJV, emphasis mine –

You see, I believe that many people have difficulties with the severe punishments for sin recorded in the OT stem because of one common misunderstanding: We do not realize the seriousness of sin.

When we realize that one sin — even the “tiniest” sin we can imagine — is so serious that it incurs death on the sinner, we start to see that no punishment in the OT is less than any one of us deserve.

The wonder is not that God had so many people punished. The wonder is that He chooses to spare any of us (Romans 9:14-24).

We think of ourselves too highly. We see innocence where there is corruption. We see purity where sin has already crept in. We set up a mock trial, usurp the judge’s bench, and think we can pass the sentence to excuse our human frailty.

Who are we to do this?

When we finally see what every last one of us deserves, only then are we ready to see the true character of the God of the Old Testament…and the New.

“Nothing humbles and breaks the heart of a sinner like mercy and love. Souls that converse much with sin and wrath, may be much terrified; but souls that converse much with grace and mercy, will be much humbled.”

– Thomas Brooks –

This is why Genesis was more beautiful to me this time than any other time I have read it.

I don’t claim to understand how deeply my sin grieves my heavenly Father, but I know this: when I read about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, I grasp a little bit more of the astounding mercy of God.

Jacob gives me hope. A thieving, lying, cheating polygamist, as stubborn as they come, received grace from the God of his father and grandfather:

“Then Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your family, and I will deal well with you’: I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant; for I crossed over this Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two companies. Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children. For You said, ‘I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’”

– Genesis 32:9-12, NKJV, emphasis mine –

These men were not cardboard patriarchs. They had skin that burned, hearts that hungered, and souls that strayed. They were real. They were like us. Yes, these desert dwellers of 4,000 years ago had to answer the same question as we do today: Do we believe God or don’t we?

God, in His great mercy, set His love on them and granted them the grace to believe.

And the desert dwellers became saints of God, believing His promises of a Seed to redeem them all (Genesis 3:15; Galatians 3:16-19).

They didn’t have all the answers. They made a mess of many decisions. They saw God Himself one moment and were scheming up their own solutions to His promises the next.

But He chose them.

And, man by man, He drew each of them close and poured out love on a sand-covered, sin-grimed wanderer. So when I read the Old Testament, I’m not confused by plagues or punishments. I’m astounded that God chose to set His love on a bunch of clueless tent-dwellers and make them His.

It reminds me of what He did for me — a person just as clueless, just as unworthy, and just as much a saint of God — through the sacrifice and triumph of the Promised Son, the Seed of Abraham.


“The high heaven covereth as well tall mountains as small mole hills, and mercy can cover all. The more desperate thy disease, the greater is the glory of thy physician, who hath perfectly cured thee.”

– Abraham Wright –

Of Resolutions and Revival

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“There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech. We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on His Word spiritual strength for labour in his service. We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them. . . . Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God’s Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. From such folly deliver us, O Lord. . . .”

― Charles H. Spurgeon ―


Recently, several friends of mine and I were talking about our desire to grow closer to God. It seems that the “cares of this life” sweep us up and we get distracted from the things that are most important.

I realized that we were probably not the only girls hoping for increased spiritual maturity in the next year. With all the resolutions and goals people often make at the start of a new year, some aspect of Christian growth may be at the top of your list in 2015 too!

Bible Reading

“Here, then, is the real problem of our negligence. We fail in our duty to study God’s Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring, but because it is work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy.” – R. C. Sproul

Ouch. Mr. Sproul has a point, and it is not a comfortable one. Could it be that amid all my busyness, projects, and responsibilities that laziness is at the root of my sometimes-lacking Bible reading?

Just. Do. It.

Nike may have claimed the phrase, but I think it fits my needs pretty well too. I have to sit down, open my Bible, and actually read.

I have to pray for the Holy Spirit to open my eyes and let me truly see His truth. I have to pray for desire to keep on reading when I’d rather say, “I don’t feel like studying the Bible today.” I have to pray that my obedience will bear the fruits of wisdom and joy. I have to “put feet” on my belief that I cannot go today, or tomorrow, or the next day without God’s grace and truth permeating my heart.

But, apart from “just do it,” there are a few resources I’ve discovered that encourage me to dig into my Bible reading:

One Year Reading Plans

There are a lot of ways to read through the Bible in a year. Both biblestudytools.com and biblegateway.com have multiple one year plans that you can use to guide you through your entire Bible in a year!

These sites also have reading plans for focusing on particular books or topics, or, if you’re really up for a challenge, read the Bible in 90 days instead of 365!

This year, I got a One Year Chronological Bible for Christmas, and I am loving it. Not only is the Bible organized into daily readings, but the books are placed in chronological order. It is so neat to see how the genealogies line up between Genesis and 1 Chronicles (and realize that Noah was still alive when Abraham was born–who knew?), or read in Acts about where Paul was staying while he wrote the letter to the Ephesians. There are non-chronological One Year Bibles too, in a variety of translations.

Audio Bibles

During a recent short-term job, I found that an audio Bible was perfect to listen to while I put on makeup, ate breakfast, and packed my lunch for the day. I’d often follow along in my Bible while munching my cereal. Here are two of my favorite audio Bibles:

dailyaudiobible.com – This one is free, with the options of (1.) a daily Psalm, (2.) a daily Proverb, or (3.) a daily reading that will get you through the whole Bible in a year. Brian Hardin reads the passage from a translation chosen for the week, so sometimes I don’t care for some of the looser paraphrases he choses, but overall I really enjoy Daily Audio Bible! And did I mention it is free?

thewordofpromise.com – This one can be purchased on CD or MP3, but it is SO worth it. With dozens of voice actors, dramatic music, and sound effects, this dramatized Bible is amazing. It brings the Scripture to life! I love the rich variety of voices. Often, the way the actor reads a particular verse makes me think of the verse in a new way. I cannot recommend this audio Bible highly enough!

 There are also several free options on biblegateway.com that I don’t usually use, but they might be just what you need!

Bible Study

For looking up verses, reading commentators such as Matthew Henry, and comparing versions, my go-to resource is biblegateway.com. That’s also where I get the verses to paste into my blog posts!

 Scripture Memorization

If you want to challenge yourself to learn a chapter or even a book of the Bible by memory in 2015, scripturetyper.com is a handy way to do it! All you have to do is create an account, import the passages you want to learn in the version you want to learn them in (the site uses biblegateway.com, so you don’t have to type them in yourself), and presto! You type a verse while looking at it, then type every other word by memory, and then finally type it without looking at the verse at all! The Scripture Typer system helps you keep track of what needs reviewing, lets you move through a passage quickly, and is a fun way to learn the Bible by heart. Try it out!

A Friendly Face

Whatever your spiritual-growth goals are for the year, find a friend–or two, or three–to help keep you on track.  Make a plan to study together, send each other reminder emails, and just encourage each other to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”(Philippians 3:14, ESV)!


I shouldn’t be surprised, but somehow the unending freshness and relevancy of the Bible catches me off guard again and again. The Book does not change…but it truly changes me. As I am reading through the Old Testament, I am staggered by the mercy of God to an undeserving people. I am blown away by constant signposts pointing toward the Promised Seed, the Messiah that would indeed be God dwelling with men on the earth (see 2 Chronicles 6:18; Galatians 3;16).

Oh, sisters, join me! Taste and see that our Lord is truly good (Psalm 34:8)! His mercy lasts forever, and His truth is without end!

“For in Him we live, and move, and exist….”

– Acts 17:28 –

Always Before Me

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“I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.”

– Psalm 16:8, ESV –


 A ship bucking the waves will wander if no anchor ties it to the sea floor.

And this girl careens into bland unsteadiness without her God.

It’s so easy to go through the motions. It is so easy to offer up the token prayer and a few minutes of Bible reading and check “quiet time” off my agenda for the day.

And, unsurprisingly, going through the motions does nothing to steady me.

So, like an unbalanced top, I go spinning through my days and weeks with a haunting feeling that I’m missing something. I know I should slow down and be still. I know I should do many things.

But usually it is desperation that brings me around at last.

Sometime, a long time ago, I picked up a book called The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. Perhaps it is my Protestant upbringing, but I looked with suspiscion the little book written by a Catholic monk. But the title lingers with me…the practice of God’s presence. The idea intrigues me.

Could it be that my life of faith needs a lot more action verbs to go along with it?

Practice. Practice God’s presence. Set. Set the Lord always before me. Seek. Seek His face forever. Run. Run for the prize.

Lately, I’ve been more into the passive verbs…or lazy verbs is more like it. Scanning the Scripture. Hoping I’ll pick up some spiritual steam by osmosis. That didn’t happen. My spiritual gusto finally dwindles back down to desperation.

But I don’t feel capable of getting myself on track again. I don’t feel able to conjure up more “spiritual steam.” I don’t know how to prime the pump on that well of joy.

Laying in bed listening to the music filtering from the CD player, I realized…maybe I don’t have to do all those things. Yes, I have responsibility. I have to exert effort. I have to make choices. I have to lift my eyes and see Him.

Yet, out of the night silence, the song quieted my heart:

After all these years

I would have thought that all these fears

Were laid to rest

But I still get scared

 

I thought that all my struggles

Would be victories by now

But I confess

That the mess is there

 

Oh, I know the work that you began

Is coming to an end someday

After all these years…

 

You never let go

You never let go…

Your love endures forever

Wherever I go

After all these years

That’s all that I know.

“After All These Years”, by Peterson, Goodgame, and Cates

 

Far from excusing my sin, the song pierced me and led me to the mercy of the One who is still with me, after all these years, after all the times I go about my day with hardly a nod in His direction.

And this I know–the God who never lets go can take my stubborn, lazy heart and turn it toward Him.

I’m not off the hook. I still have to practice and set, seek and run. But my strength won’t cover it.

Thank God that He never lets go, even when this ship tries to squirm loose of her anchor.

Maybe you, like me, have felt the fervency of your relationship with God slipping of late. Join me in seeking His face with all that is in you. Join me in praying for a heart that loves what He loves.

So…I am practicing. The sinking sun’s gold reminds me of Who has hold of my hand–the One who can form sparkling fireballs with his words. The dinner that I’ll soon be preparing is food He provided. The rattle of a family member’s work in the other room, the quiet tones of music streaming from my computer (“After All These Years” on repeat), and so many other tiny things stir up my heart to thank God–and in so doing, I remember that He is here. I remember that He is Great, and Good, and that this great, good God somehow, miraculously, loves me.

After all this time, He’s still holding on to this often-wandering child.

Now, all that is left to do is open my eyes and see.


 “O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!

Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee.”

– “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” by Robert Robinson –