It was a typical Saturday afternoon. On a path around the sprawling, multi-venue park I have walked and/or jogged dozens of times. The fields were quiet after a busy soccer season. Even the picnic pavilions and tennis courts were empty that day. The broad expanse of rolling, grassy areas, open stretches of water and tons of trees seemed reserved only for the myriad of birds, ducks, and other animals that call the park “home.”
I decided to reverse my usual route. It felt fresh and I appreciated a slightly different view of the surroundings I soak in nearly every week while my son tackles his 3-hour golf lesson. Captivated by a lone water-skier that sent sprays of water into the air, catching the sparkle of the late afternoon sun, I found myself tracing the water’s edge more than usual.
I came to an opening in the waterside grasses. In that gentle shallow area, the water was so clear I could see the sandy bottom. I stopped to take a picture of a patch of lily pads floating nearby. It was striking to see the color changes from grassy edge to sandy bottom, to deeper water, to far-bank greens, to bright blue sky and puffy white clouds.
As I surveyed the scene, I let out a subtle, “wow.” It was beautiful. I felt spoiled to spend so many of my Saturday afternoons in this place. But something struck me funny as well – right in the middle of my camera shot was a stripe of busy highway! The Florida turnpike packed with cars and trucks zooming by, seemingly oblivious to the scene that held my attention.
I was grateful. At least in that moment, I wasn’t racing somewhere on the highway, and could enjoy a long walk on a quiet path. And it got me thinking… how many times does the Lord nudge my heart to step out of the fast lane? To slow me down enough to enjoy things I would have missed otherwise? To receive the gift of stillness from Him, to draw my heart into a place where I can see His beauty and offer Him praise? How often does He welcome me to a path of solitude…and I stubbornly choose the fast lane instead?
It reminded me of summers when I happily adjusted to a much slower pace. Times when it was easy to let hours slip by with an open Bible, a notebook, thoughts, prayers… and the Lord – so much so that I began to ask myself, “how many things can I say “no” to so I can say “yes” to more time with Him?”
The truth is I’ve been longing for that summer state of mind all year. I have felt a growing hunger for more time… with the Lord. A shift seems to be happening in my heart. Turning my focus toward our home-front, simplifying our frenzied existence, handing me a beautiful gift – the chance to pause… and look UP.
In the swirl of real life, He simply nudges me to stop the swirl! To be intentional about creating (or grabbing!) my own pause. To just STOP… and look UP… to Him. And sometimes, those pauses need to be longer than others.
So, this week I took a brave step to walk away from a ministry that I love. It is bittersweet. My heart breaks for the things about that particular role that thrill me and challenge me and bless me and grow me all at the same time. But the still small voice to come aside with Him grows stronger too, and the thought of being free to answer that call with open-ended abandon is even more thrilling!
There have been other times when I rushed ahead of God’s perfect plan and He needed to yank me out of the action, effectively saying, “whoa! cool your jets… let’s make sure we are on the same page!”
This time, the approach has been gentler, a wooing of my heart, tugging at its strings. It is like He is saying to me, “I don’t just want you to cool your jets, I’m asking if you are willing to remove the engine all together and hand it to Me in trust?”
Empty. Vulnerable. Completely unsure of what will come next.
But safe in the hands of a loving Father.
And I said “yes.”
What do I ever risk when I stand before my Creator, my Savior, my Sovereign Lord, with open hands and an open heart? When I give Him a blank slate to create again, a cleaned-out vessel that He can fill?
I don’t know what He is preparing me for. But I know a few things:
I will be filled with a deeper, broader knowledge of Him, His heart. Intentionally opening myself up to that kind of filling is always a worthy endeavor!
His plans for me are good, exact and eternally purposeful.
No one knows me better or knows how to mold and use me the way He does. He will be faithful to guide me to the tasks He has designed for me.
Wherever He takes me and whatever roles He gives me will be ones that I will treasure.
Open your mouth wide and I will fill it with good things. – Psalm 81:10
Open your hands to receive more than you can hold. – Malachi 3:10
This second verse is talking about giving to the Lord what is rightfully His – the first fruits, a tithe, of the harvest. Could it be that what He is looking for from me isn’t about product or money? Could it be that He longs for me simply to give Him my time? “See if I will not open to you the windows of heaven, and pour out a blessing, that there will not be room enough to receive it.” Malachi 3:10
Being confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until the Day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:6
Opening my heart and hands (and schedule) to receive from Him.
Receiving His best with JOY.
It’s sweeter than the fast lane!
May the God of HOPE fill you with all peace and JOY as you trust in Him – that you will overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13
“Simple truth will keep us going, simple love will keep us strong…
How could I ask for more?”
– Christy Nockels –