All posts by ashleymcarmichael

Prophets & Promises

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t spent a lot of my life studying the prophets of the Old Testament. I love God’s word and I spend a lot of time reading my Bible, but the prophets always felt kind of…depressing. Sure, there are a lot of good nuggets in there that look great on a coffee mug or wall art deco, but most of what you read is a lot of doom and gloom—or at least it feels that way. So I always kind of just glossed over them in my reading. Hello, Malachi, how are you? A cursory ‘fine’ in response was all I was looking for before I skipped on to Ruth or Esther, or James.

So when I ran across a study on minor prophets, I kind of dragged my feet on starting it, but it just kept haunting me (thanks Holy Spirit) and I gave in. Eventually.

I don’t regret it.

Over the past few months I have come to appreciate all that I’ve uncovered in these hard to pronounce, but kind of amazing little books. The history alone is mindboggling, but when you really dig in, these books really speak to my current struggles, and, I’d hazard to guess, yours too.

So in this new series I’m starting (finally; I know it’s been like a year since I’ve posted anything. Life. You dig?), I’m going to dig into some of the prophets and promises of God, what I’m learning, and how it might teach you a little something too.

Investing in Prophets

This word can be a bit scary. Prophets. It feels kind of funny on the tongue, foreign and funky. Most people hear it and think it’s synonymous with ‘fortune teller’ or ‘psychic’. Prophets do sometimes talk about the future. I won’t deny that, but they do so in a much different way than what mainstream media tells us. They don’t gaze into crystal balls or look to anything human or mystical. No, a prophet is inspired by one thing and one thing alone: God. Whether it’s through His word or through constant meditation and prayer, prophets speak revelations. The sovereign will of God, which (as it happens) can apply to the future, but interestingly just as often focuses on the present and past. They rely on spiritual discipline, not on whims of unknown spirits.

I’ve been learning a lot about that concept of discipline lately, too. I used to think I was pretty good on that front, that I had a lot of discipline. And in some ways that is correct, but in other ways I have a long way to go and a whole lot to learn. Building spiritual discipline is arduous and often heartbreaking, but in a way that allows the Lord to move in and redesign your motivation and focus.

And sometimes it hurts.

The OT prophets would be the first to tell you that discipline is hard and painful, yet they’d also be the first (most of them) to tell you that it is 100% worth it to walk that closely with the Lord and to rely on His word and will for your every move.

Building Spiritual discipline is arduous and often heartbreaking, but in a way that allows the Lord to move in and redesign your motivation and focus.

Spiritual Discipline for the 21st Century

If we are honest with ourselves, we’d admit that our society lacks any kind of discipline, spiritual or otherwise. We rely on instant gratification to fulfill our needs and get angry and impatient when we have to wait in line or our computer runs slower than we’d like. So how do we build spiritual discipline in a world that thrives on a me-first mentality? Believe it or not, we build these disciplines in the same manner as the prophets. Sure, it looks a little different for us (we’re unlikely to clothe ourselves in sackcloth when we are grieving over our troubles), but the problems and trials we face have no different roots than what we see in the Bible and so the examples and words of wisdom and warning still apply to us today. Humans are humans, sinful and ugly in all their me-first glory.

Elisabeth Elliot wrote a fantastic book on this very subject called Discipline: the Glad Surrender. The book gets to the heart of spiritual discipline in the 21st century starting with the title itself: glad surrender. We don’t like to surrender and we certainly aren’t happy about it by nature. Especially in the US. It connotes weakness and humility that our society puffed up on pride and self-sufficiency can hardly stomach let alone pursue. But we’d be wise to at least try, especially if we are wanting community with God, which inevitably will lead to amazing growth opportunities we would never find otherwise.

Discipline is the wholehearted yes to the call of God.

Elisabeth Elliot Discipline

So what are these disciplines we are to surrender to? This is not an all inclusive list by any means, but in this series these are the ones I’ll comment on most frequently:

  • Solitude & Silence
  • Fasting
  • Sabbath & Rest
  • Submission
  • Humility
  • Reading the Word
  • Worship
  • Prayer & Vision
  • Faith
  • Community: Family, Friends, & Neighbors
  • Service
  • Reflection & Discernment
  • Evangelism
  • Contentment

Promises of God

The whole point of becoming more disciplined really comes down to the promises of God. When we start living by the promises of God rather than explanations (or lack thereof), we see true transformation in our minds, hearts and souls, but we can’t live by His promises if we don’t even know what His promises are. And that begins by spending time with Him in his Word, in solitude and community, to build and strengthen our spiritual muscles that focuses on something far greater than ourselves.

We can’t live by His promises if we don’t even know what his promises are.

The prophets managed to do this without indoor plumbing, sliced bread, or penicillin, so I figure we can too if we are willing to surrender a bit of ourselves for a lot more of Jesus.

Photo by Julia Weihe on Unsplash

Moving Forward

There are times when I am reading something familiar and suddenly it hits me in a new way. This usually happens when I am searching for an answer to something specific. Last week I was reading through some of my Bible study notes and came across this familiar passage in Mark–it’s told similarly in Matthew and John when Jesus walks on water. It’s one of the first Bible stories I learned as a kid and, like most other kids who grew up in Christian households, I even tried walking on water once or twice (my faith wasn’t strong enough for success though. Shocking, right?). Despite the familiarity I have with these verses, I found they broke straight through to my heart, so I thought I’d share some of those insights.

Photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash
And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded. Mark 6:46-49

Sometimes it takes being alone to see clearly

This passage takes place right after Jesus fed the 5000 men plus unnumbered women and children. Verse 46 and 47 state,

"And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land” (ESV).

Instead of basking in his newfound popularity, Jesus withdraws to the mountain to pray. There is something beautiful and profound about a period of isolation in which you can reflect and seek the Lord’s will. Though there is value in seeking community, equally important is the value of being alone with the Lord.

The problem? Alone can be scary—especially if you are struggling with anxiety and fear. That’s probably why many of us seek to fill our isolation with whatever noise we can find: social media scrolling and posting, Netflix binges, radios turned on high, podcasts, etc. While there is nothing wrong with any of these things, when we use them to replace the silence needed to hear from God, our alone time becomes much less productive and our vision remains cloudy. When we take a step back from the noise, even if it’s just in our own heads, and seek God, our vision clears and we can move forward with a greater purpose and direction.

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

Sadly, few of us will sacrifice our time to seek this communion. Jesus could have pursued the momentum created by the miracle of feeding such a large crowd. He could have moved on to the next town immediately, bringing the crowd with him, a following that would rival a 1977 Grateful Dead concert.

But he didn’t.

Jesus knew two things. First, that fame and popularity fade and second, our healthy relationship with God is the only thing that sustains and grows us. I sometimes joke that I function a lot like a cell phone battery. I’m great in the morning, full of energy and ready to go, but by the end of the day, I’m running on empty and need to be alone to recharge. BUT if I really want to make the most of my recharge time, I need to plug into a power source and there’s only One who can offer what I need. Making alone time with God a priority shouldn’t be optional, it should be our priority if we want to move forward. 

Headway is still progress even if it is painful

Although we don’t really use the term literally very often, headway refers to the forward movement of a ship or boat, especially when it is slow or difficult. More often than not, life presents us with difficult situations that slow down our forward movement. What strikes me about verse 48a is the wording. It says,

“And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them” (ESV).

Sometimes in life it feels as though we are fighting the wind. Like an invisible force is pushing against us, hindering our forward movement. It’s exhausting and painful and makes us feel incredibly alone in our suffering.

The good news?

We’re not alone. Sure, those in the boat are fighting hard and putting all their energy into their next step, so it’s hard to see the bigger picture. If we zoom out though, we see that Jesus was still there even when they felt alone and maybe even abandoned in their struggle. In those moments when you are fighting through a storm or struggle, you have two options: give up or fight through. I’ve weathered enough storms in my 35 years that I can understand the temptation of giving up. Of just letting the wind have control to take me where it chooses. That option isn’t the best, though. You either drown, get blown off course or you end up back where you started, beginning the fight all over again, which really is twice as exhausting. Probably why the rest of the verse is so powerful:

And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea" (ESV)

When you are in the middle of a fight, it feels like it will never end. Looking back though, you realize that it’s the darkest moment–right before dawn. Right before you give up that light breaks through. I’m not much of a night owl, but I get up stupid early and there is nothing more hopeful than those moments right before the sun breaks over the horizon. It provides that extra push and energy that helps you keep moving forward. That’s why I love Kierkegaard’s saying:

Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards

Søren Kierkegaard

Keeping our focus ahead, continuing the fight and remembering we are not alone allows us to keep our head in the game to make headway no matter the circumstance. After all, just because the wind is against us doesn’t mean we can’t make progress.

This past year has been a hard one. I see all the memes about the struggles of 2020 and it’s a very real fight for many people, but despite all that, we can still make progress as a society. Personally, I’ve struggled for many years against a war that rages in my mind. My anxiety can be a veritable nightmare and every day I have to make a choice about whether I’m going to give into it or if I’m going to continue to fight against it to make progress. I was joking with a friend of mine over text the other day and the exchange went a little like this:

The truth is, stretching is a painful process, but it’s really the only way we can grow and experience the Lord’s grace and mercy. Even if we want to stomp our feet a little along the way.

Just because you can fix something doesn’t always mean you should

Maybe the most profound part of this passage was in these five words:

He meant to pass by them...

This is the very end of verse 48 and honestly it makes me pause. I’ve asked that question more than once over the years: why does God seem to pass people by? We know he is all-powerful and nothing is out of his control, so why doesn’t God just stop all the pain and suffering?

I don’t have an answer to that, in case you are wondering, but I do know that sometimes Jesus allows for our suffering for reasons we may never understand this side of heaven. Life has taught me that our suffering allows us to appreciate our blessings a little more. It builds strength and character and overall can make us better humans. Since we are broken and we live in a broken world, that might be part of the answer, but I honestly don’t know for sure.

Photo by Dana Luig on Unsplash

When I put it into my own context, I can understand that just because I can fix something for someone else, sometimes it’s for their own good to figure it out on their own. That’s really where true learning happens, after all. Take toddlers, for example. We could make their lives so easy by carrying them everywhere. But they have to take their own steps and fall down a few times before they learn how to walk. If they don’t complete that process, then they’ll be handicapped, not helped. I wonder if that’s what God is doing for us sometimes. I’m not stupid enough to make that a blanket statement, but I wonder if that might explain some things sometimes.

The Choices we Make do Matter

Even so, that shouldn’t stop us from crying out to the Lord for help. Because let’s face it, our father is compassionate and Jesus has a greater love for us than we could ever understand. That’s why I love how this ends.

 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out (vs. 49)

Isn’t the ‘but’ conjunction fabulous? I love how much three little letters can shift an entire narrative. Though Jesus was going to do one thing, the crying out shifted his intentions. Changed his mind. This just reminds me that our choices do matter. I was watching the new show Virgin River and I really liked what one of the characters said about fate:

Fate is a collection of everyone’s choices.

I’m definitely not a fatalist. Sure, God knows the outcome, but our choices make a difference in how and why things turn out the way they do. It cycles back to the give up or fight through debate and lends perspective on how prayer can change everything. Jesus had intended to pass them by UNTIL they cried out to him. He could have helped them from either shore, but instead he joins them, a physical reminder that he is always with us.

Because he is. Even when the wind is against us and the struggle is painful. He remains, just waiting for us to cry out and invite him into the boat to calm the storm.

5 Things I learned when I started my new job

So many of you may not know (because quite frankly I’m about as bad at updating people on my life as I am at keeping this blog current. Go figure.) BUT I started a new job in August. I’m still working in the same school district, but I have a new title–and it is a doozy. I’m out of the classroom and in the district office as one of the Technology Integration and Implementation Specialists. Try saying that 10 times fast, I dare you. Don’t worry, I’ll wait…

Yeah, I thought so.

Anyway, I realized within about the first 10 minutes of starting the job that I was going to learn a whole heck of a lot in this new position. You know that saying, you don’t know what you don’t know? Well, I do know now. I know that I know very little and it’s very humbling when you’ve been the girl with all the answers for the vast majority of your life.

Not that I’m all that smart, but I tend to give off a kind of “she knows what she’s doing” vibe and that has taken a lot of time and effort to cultivate. Now, that doesn’t mean I really do know what I’m doing. And that certainly doesn’t mean I actually have all the answers (because trust me, I don’t) BUT I usually can fake it till I make it. And I don’t really fail. Does that sound arrogant? I don’t mean for it to, but it is one of the primary reasons why I struggle so much with pride.

So, here’s just five important things I learned when I took on this job.

Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash

Number One: Broaden your thinking

I like to think of myself as a pretty open-minded individual. I like to learn. I love hearing others’ ideas. I even like a healthy debate–as long as there is no shouting. I don’t like shouting. As an English teacher though I had a pretty narrow focus: make sure you are meeting the standards and doing what is best for your students. The other stuff was just..well it was just stuff. Hoops to jump through if you will so that I could do my job the way I believed it should be done. That was fine and all, but about fifteen minutes into my new job I could see that sometimes what I thought was just a hoop actually had a purpose. Something that felt, as a teacher, to be a roadblock was actually a guardrail. I couldn’t see the cliff on the other side because I didn’t have the right view. Sometimes it was by choice and sometimes it was just because those that did have the view knew something I didn’t. Now, I’m not saying that all the bureaucracy is good or purposeful because it’s not. BUT I am saying that there are a lot of moving pieces in an organism as complex as a school system and sometimes you get to see the bigger picture and its pretty eye-opening.


Something that felt, as a teacher, to be a roadblock was actually a guardrail. I couldn’t see the cliff on the other side because I didn’t have the right view.


Number Two: Don’t let your first impressions of people blind you.

One of my favorite books is a pretty well-known classic called Pride and Prejudice. Depending on how much of a geek you are, you may not know that the working title for this novel was actually First Impressions, so believe me when I say that Lizzy Bennet would totally back me up on this. First impressions are rarely correct, and even when they are people can and do surprise you. I’m really quite introverted, despite years teaching in the public schools. In the past few weeks, I have met an innumerable amount of people. Students, parents, teachers, administrators, publishers, vendors, pretty much everyone who has an interest in how schools work has somehow been a part of my working life in the past few months. Some have made a great first impression, and others not as much. Either way, I’ve learned that when you make a first impression into a box in which you place a person, you can miss out.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Number Three: The best people don’t seek attention and their humility is often misunderstood.

People think that humility is putting yourself down, but really that’s not true humility. Humility is accepting responsibility for something that’s not your fault, but you do it because it’s the better choice than wasting time playing the blame game. Humility is shrugging off an insult to yourself, but getting so angry you can’t stop the tears when someone insults or threatens your people. Humility is not taking credit for decisions that make life easier for people, even though you totally deserve a little praise. Humility is hard, which is why there are few truly humble people in the world. I’ve met a lot of them recently and other than highlighting my massive pride problem, it is changing the way I see the world.


Humility is hard, which is why there are few truly humble people in the world.


Number 4: Just because you believe something to be true doesn’t mean it is.

Over the past few months, I’ve had to eat a lot of crow. Some things I hardcore believed to be true about people and ideas were shattered as I realized how scope and context can be manipulated to serve others’ agendas. Uncovering those agendas is a tough reality that I’ve had to come to terms with as I move forward. Not only that, I’m having to sort out what I believe vs. what I’ve been told to believe or what I thought I believed or what I believed that turned out to be false. Sound confusing, it is. Most days my brain is spinning. Just a quick example: the job I do now, I honestly didn’t understand as a teacher. I wondered what they did at an office all day. I wondered why we needed so many (I think we had 4 at the time) and what they could possibly be contributing. I wondered what I would do in the same position. Turns out I still can’t explain this job to people in a way that makes sense, but I will say that I am nonstop. Ever listened to Hamilton? That whole “Why do you write like you’re running out of time?” question is for real when it comes to my job, but you can substitute ‘write’ for ‘research, type, talk, respond, create, reply, collaborate, design, record, request, etc.’ . My job varies from day to day–actually hour to hour really–and I have to be flexible and willing to move at a moment’s notice. Yeah, I spend a lot of time on the phone and in front of a computer, but I’m also out at schools and in classrooms. I’m collaborating with my team and brainstorming new ideas. I’m learning new programs and solving problems…and sometimes failing to solve problems (which I hate. I start to growl when I can’t solve something. It’s not pretty).

Photo by noor Younis on Unsplash

Number five: People just want to be heard

I know there are a lot of problems in the educational world and when you add technology to that, the fact is we may never solve all the problems that exist. And for every problem we solve six more pop up. Programs work great in some capacity but there isn’t a panacea program. Trust me, I’ve looked. Even so, the vast majority of people, even the ones who complain the most, simply want to feel seen and heard and understood. And this is true in life as well. I’m learning that I’m not very good at concentrating on what people are saying to me for more than a few minutes and I am learning to focus and not just listen but actually hear what people have to say. And those voices are beautiful (and sometimes angry). Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of power to change the world. I wish I did (well, sometimes I do. Other times that feels like way too much work and responsibility). What I do have the power to do is hear people and work to help them find a solution–even if it’s not perfect, I can still show them that I care. And that’s how you change the world. One listening ear at a time.


The vast majority of people, even the ones who complain the most, simply want to feel seen and heard and understood.


Crisis Moment in the Quest

I stared at my computer screen for 30 minutes yesterday willing some kind of creativity to flow out of me and into my novel.

Instead I got up and did the laundry.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I sat back down and stared for another 20 minutes–on and off while scrolling through social media. I prayed for the words to come…

And then I got up and dusted the furniture in the front room, rearranging to fit my new cabinet.

I sat back down and stared for another 10 minutes or so, then got up and broke in the yoga mat for a workout (something I really don’t enjoy) hoping that the endorphins would spark something.

You would think that school being closed, stay at home orders enacted and social isolation (thank you COVID-19) would give me the time I needed to work on my writing so I could actually get something done.

Instead, it has dried up a well that had just started flowing. It feels a little like life has been paused, which makes it difficult to find the motivation for things I *should* be doing. However, during this time I have learned a lot about myself and my writing that I didn’t quite understand before, but feel like I’m getting a handle on now (2 weeks down).

This is nothing new–going back to Campbell and the quest I started last month–all journeys must reach a crisis moment where the quester (anyone notice that quester is a part of sequestered? Is there a connection there? Not sure…think there should be…) feels defeated. That feels like an appropriate description for my creative juices during this time of uncertainty. And probably why until yesterday I hadn’t written a word on my novel (or blog, or even morning pages) even though I’ve had gobs and gobs of time.

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

I never realized how much inspiration and motivation I pulled into my writing just by being around humans–forget interacting with them, just being around them is often enough. I will go to Starbucks, or Panera and just sit for hours with my earbuds in–sometimes listening to music, but often listening to the life going on around me and it feeds my soul.

Two days ago I went with my roommate to pick up dinner we’d ordered and we drove past Panera–it was all closed up and the tables pushed to the side and completely deserted…and that hit me harder than a lot of other things during this time. It felt like a representation of my mind. Closed and cluttered with no real production happening.

Photo by Evan Wise on Unsplash

Avoiding the purpose I know is mine.

What a depressing image. And it definitely felt a little like defeat.

However, as we all know for the quest to be successful, though, the quester (sequestered?) must rise above this crisis moment if they want to obtain the treasure they seek–in my case, a finished novel.

So I took a shower, put on some music, and just started typing. It wasn’t good, but I can go back and polish it later. The point is, I pushed through that defeated feeling–which is what it was, a feeling, not a reality–and got to 40,000 words yesterday.

Sometimes all we need is a little perspective shift to rise above the crises in our lives. That doesn’t mean everything will magically be better or OK, but it can lead to a more positive attitude when facing difficult and unforeseen circumstances, be it a widely spreading virus or kool-aid spilled on the hard drive that housed the only copy of your burgeoning novel (yes, that happened to me in 6th grade–still can’t talk about it…it’s just too raw!).

Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but by lack of purpose and direction.

Viktor Frankl–Holocaust survivor

It’s not easy to choose positivity over the uncertainties, isolations, and hopelessness that life throws at us, but when we do, bad situations become temporary, and the end of the world becomes an inspiration to push forward–no matter what.


Want to read a little of what I wrote? Keep scrolling and then leave some feedback in the comments or on the FACEBOOK 🙂 Please note this is very RAW so I would love help in making it SHINE


EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER 20

“This is one of those times where I understand why people carried handkerchiefs, but quite frankly I’ve always found the practice a little disgusting, so if you want a tissue we can—“

“Don’t worry about it,” Andi let out a nervous laugh as she reached across the passenger’s seat to the glove box and pulled out a travel pack of tissue. “I think handkerchiefs are pretty gross too, but I keep prepared. It’s been a pretty emotional couple of years.”

“I’ll say,” Garrick sighed again, wishing he could rewind time and make the last year and half less stressful. Hell, if he could do that he would rewind it so that Andi and Greg never ended up together—though, that’s what Bryce had tried to do and it hadn’t turned out that well for their friendship. “This is a perfect Romans 8:28 kind of situation,” he said more to himself than to Andi.

“What?” She wrinkled her nose and studied him. Over the past year she’d done a lot of Bible reading, but her knowledge was severely limited in comparison to Garrick’s. She hadn’t grown up in church and Bible verses weren’t as imprinted for her as they were for him.

“Romans 8:28,” he said patiently. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” He pushed back a lock of her hair, smoothing out the worry lines on her forehead. “Everything you’ve been through sucks, Andi. I can’t even begin to tell you how much it hurts me that I couldn’t protect you from all of it. I was just thinking about how if we could turn back time we could just change all of it, but that’s not how life works—and that’s kind of questioning God’s role in all of it, isn’t it?” 

Andi pulled back. “You think God let all this happen to me on purpose?” 

Garrick clicked his tongue, and turned those words over in his mind before responding. “Not exactly. God is in control over everything, right?” 

She nodded slowly, but the frown deepened. 

“But, because he gave us humans free will, our actions still have consequences, both good and bad. Our choices don’t limit his control or power or authority, which I think is why the verse reads the way it does—all things for together for good—not that everything is good, or perfect, because we live in a world filled with sin and bad things are going to happen. Even to beautiful souls,” he rubbed his thumb along her cheek again, never breaking eye contact. “So it’s not that I think God ‘let’ this happen to you, but He will take it and work it out for good and for His purpose, since you accepted Him as your savior. Do I think life will suddenly be filled with nothing but sunshine and rainbows? Of course not, but I do think the more we seek Him in this, the more evident His hand will become.” 

“So,” she swallowed. “You think instead of wishing none of this ever happened we should ask God to show us how he’s going to work it for good?” 

Garrick’s mouth twisted into a half smile and he nodded. “Something like that. I came to terms with that recently myself.” 

“Lorelai?” Andi nodded even as she asked. 

“Yeah,” Garrick picked up Andi’s hand from here it rested in her lap. He turned it over so her palm faced upward and traced the lines with his index finger. “You may think the Lord has forgotten you, that He is far from you, but remember Andrea Cartier, he has engraved you on the palms of his hands. Nothing this world can throw at you will thwart the plans he has for you.” 

A shiver ran down his spine as the words he spoke raced across his own circumstance, and he nodded his understanding to the Lord speaking to him in this moment with the woman he desperately loved. 

“Thank you,” Andi whispered. “I don’t know how you do it, but sometimes you know exactly what to say—“ 

“Wasn’t me,” Garrick shook his head. “I needed to hear it as much as you did, Andi. He knew,” he nodded to the sky above, looking up. 

Andi followed his gaze. 

“Thank you,” she whispered, and this time, Garrick knew she wasn’t speaking to him.

Following the path

Pro tip: Don’t ask God to confirm something if you are not prepared for an answer you may not like

That may sound like an ominous way to start a blog post, but I have to admit it’s been a whirlwind few weeks–which tends to happen when you start out on a quest to resuscitate something you feel you have lost. You poke at things you thought were pretty sturdy only to watch them tumble like a Jenga tower. The falling is bad enough, but the noise is enough to startle you into confusion.

That’s pretty much my headspace at the moment.

Or, as Beth Moore puts it in her new book Chasing Vines:

“Nothing can get more confusing than feeling planted somewhere you’re sure is home and then getting uprooted and transplanted somewhere else. Without warning you face the prospect of having to start all over again. You had […] your sense of place, you thought you knew how this thing was going to go, your future seemed clear, your people were near and now you feel like a stranger …”

There is nothing more disconcerting than feeling like a stranger where you once felt like you belonged. An overwhelming sense of discontentment can be disorienting and, quite frankly, painful as you fumble your way through.

It’s the prayers in those moments that you send heavenward, hoping that that feeling will maybe just go away, or at least settle into some kind of contentment that your purpose only floundered for a hot second…until you realize that the seeds of discontentment might actually be God’s prompting to a new purpose.

And that all the hurt feelings and alienation were actually little ways in which God was answering your heaven-sent pleas.

Whether you like it or not.

Photo by Blake Weyland on Unsplash

Because let’s be honest. Change can be hard, especially if there is not a readily evident reason for making the change. Trying to explain it to other people is, well, tough. So you begin the arduous task of laying it all out on the table–these little pieces of evidence that God has confirmed to you so that others can rally behind you in this new quest.

I haven’t gotten to that last bit yet; I’m still gathering my evidences and working through it with the Lord on my own before I start bringing others in. But I can certainly feel it inching closer and the choice will have to be made: do what is comfortable, or do what God is saying to you.

And I pray I have the courage to follow through and obey the simple words of Genesis 31:16b:

“Now then, whatever God is saying to you, do.”

Because we should not, as Beth Moore says,

“Confuse fruitfulness with felicity.”

Walking in God’s will doesn’t mean we will live “happily ever after.” Life is not a fairy tale, and happiness shouldn’t be our number one goal regardless of what popular culture will have us believe. No, if we want to live purposeful lives, we must live in obedience to what the Lord commands and listen to his commands, whatever they are. As Deuteronomy 5:33 confirms:

“You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you…”

Sometimes we may feel like strangers.

Sometimes we may have to change our lifestyle.

Sometimes we may experience pain and rejection.

But always we will LIVE and LIVE WELL if we are following God’s path–even if we can’t see exactly where it might lead.

Photo by Lili Popper on Unsplash