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When It Rains at the Beach

As women, we all too easily fall into a false sense of our role as the Executive Director of Vacations. That is, until it rains at the beach.

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“If you don’t Instagram a picture of your toes in the sand with the ocean on the horizon, did the vacation actually happen?”

This was a question I asked myself as we were driving home from our recent vacation. Looking through my feed, it was hard to tell we had even been to the beach. My hashtag #fortmyers2015 produced only eight images in as many days; most of my photos were taken indoors or included boding gray skies.

For months, my husband, our three children, and I had been looking forward to a week at the beach with my immediate and extended family. We had planned and prepared. We were ready to soak up the sun, splash in the pool, build sandcastles, and frolic in the shark-free, shallow waters of the ocean.

When our beach week finally arrived we were met with a weather forecast of rain every day of our trip. I’m not talking about the occasional late-afternoon coastal shower. I’m referring to nearly a 100% chance of rain every day, throughout the day. Over the past twenty years, only twice have I been on a vacation like this; both trips were during a legitimate hurricane off the coast.

As women and mothers, we all too easily fall into a false sense of our role as the Executive Director of Vacations. Many of us usually coordinate the travel plans, the accommodations, the packing of everything from sunscreen and beach towels to the groceries we will take; being so busy about the trip convinces us that we are in control of our time away. My Type-A nature causes me to assess the situation and take charge.

My original vision for a sunny and sandy trip began to slip through my fingers, and I panicked. Early in the week I couldn’t settle in with the idea of doing nothing on this rainy vacation. In my restlessness, angst, and boredom, I googled things to do in our beach town when it rains. For the first time ever, I took my kids to an indoor inflatable bouncy house and a science museum while we were at the beach.

When It Rains at the BeachClearly, this rain (quite literally) threw a wet blanket on our traditional vacation fun. The rain also brought up in me a feeling of frustration, helplessness, and the desire to manage the tempo of the trip despite the weather.

During our wet week, I began to think about the spiritual connections between this unwelcome rain and my expectations for what our week at the beach was supposed to look like. I was reminded that try as I might to ensure that our vacation goes off without a hitch, I am not the one in control here. God used the rain as a gentle indication of His sovereignty.

I reflected on Psalm 147:8 that says, “He covers the heavens with clouds, He provides rain for the earth, He makes grass to grow on the mountains.”

1. He Covers

Throughout Scripture, clouds have significant meaning. Clouds can symbolize transitions, the faithfulness of God, protection and covering, the presence of God, as well as the abundance of God’s gifts in the form of manna and blessing. I’m thankful for the rain clouds on vacation and their reminder that God loves me, is constantly with me, and covers me with His blessing. I don’t have to seek out those things in my own strength. As a daughter of the King, His covering is my inheritance.

2. He Provides

I can often get lost in my own self-sufficiency. I put entirely too much faith in my plans, my strengths, my own ways of doing everything. I think I’m the one doing all of the work, making my own provision for myself, my marriage, and my family. This recent week of rain shattered that myth. God is the provider of all good things; even when those good things come to us through trial, pain, or disappointment. Often times it takes a literal slowing down to recognize and appreciate that provision.

3. He Makes Things Grow

Water is a key element in ensuring that living things continue to grow. All living things need the nourishment that water or rain can bring. In our spiritual lives, when things are always sunny and going our way we can often get stuck in the mundane, the routine, and the commonplace. Some of us even begin to dry up and wither with a soul-drought when the sun is always shining. We all need the occasional reminder that the rain brings; it helps us see the growth that needs to take place in our spiritual selves. Sometimes the rain forces us to revisit our spiritual disciplines, invest our time with God more purposefully, and reflect on what God is doing in our lives.

Although still disappointed that our beach trip ended without the normal adventures of sandcastles, sun tans, and family domino games around the pool patio, I am most grateful for the reminder of who God is and what He longs do in our lives. Without the rain I don’t think I would have made the connection. Without the rain, I would have returned home from our beach trip still thinking about all of the ways I’d helped to make our family vacation a success. Instead, I’ve come home able to recognize how God abundantly showered me with His love and blessing, His provision, and the promise of new growth in Him.

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Claire is a native Southerner and graduated with her M.A. in English from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where she spent several years teaching in the freshman composition program. She and her husband Ryan, along with their three children now call home anywhere the Army sends them! Claire enjoys trying new recipes, reading on her screened porch, spending time with her family, and entertaining guests. She's been documenting life on her blog since 2008; these days she muses about the challenges of living out her faith as a military wife, the importance of goals and reflection, homeschooling her kids, and her love for reading at elizabethclairewood.com. She recently released her book, Mission Ready Marriage as a resource for other military wives who may need hope for navigating the often challenging lifestyle.

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When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.

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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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When It Rains at the Beach

by Claire Wood time to read: 4 min
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