Tag Archives: choices

Holding Patterns

There are some times in life when you feel like life is moving forward. You get a new job. You meet someone new. You get married. A baby is born. You travel to a new place.

There are other times in life where you seem to be in a holding pattern. Nothing moves forward, nothing catastrophic pulls you under, you aren’t going backward—you are just…marking time. You get up. You go to work. You do your thing. You come home. On repeat.

I don’t love holding patterns. I find them a little depressing. No, not depressing. Frustrating. Kind of like, okay God, have you forgotten me down here? Kind of feeling.

But then I reflect back on times when life is crazy, moving forward and changing, and I realize that in those moments I was wishing for something a little more stable. I don’t like change…and yet I need change to feel like I’m really living my life. It’s one of those geeze, Ash, could you stop being so darn human for one second and just be satisfied with all the ways you’ve been blessed…kind of situations.

So the more I mark time in this holding pattern season of my life the more I start to realize it’s actually a blessing—“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) —or in the case of a holding pattern a season for every inactivity as well

A Time to Listen

I am actually a really bad listener. If I had a nickel for every time I said “huh, I think we’ve had this conversation before”, simply because I asked a question I should have already known the answer to, I’d be able to retire. Most people forgive me for this, because despite the fact that I have the same conversation sometimes multiple times, it is not out of malicious intent—and most people know I really do care—but I don’t always listen with the purpose of remembering or internalizing. I think this evolved as a way to keep me from losing my mind. I’m naturally very introverted, but on average in one day I have hundreds of conversations…that may be an exaggeration, but I’m really not sure that it is (math…I have 25-30 kids in each class and I try to personally talk to most if not all of them at least once during the class period, though I’m not always successful. Then there is the mornings when I open my room for students because I get there early before the library even opens and kids like to have a place to sit. I’d say a good 15 or 20 are in there, then at morning duty I talk to people in the halls, then at lunch my room is never empty. Never…so okay hundreds is probably an exaggeration, but still. That’s a lot of conversing).

The point is, I’m not good at listening, because although I have these conversations, listening but I am very good at hearing. (As a caveat I should say I’m not good at every-day listening, but when something is really important, I’m much better able to tune in and internalize what is being said).

Holding patterns are great for learning to listen. There aren’t as many distractions and honestly it’s a skill we all could use some practice at. This semester I’ve had the privilege of teaching a creative writing course, and it has been so incredible. Just having the time to actually talk and listen to seniors as they prepare to enter the ‘real world’ which, if we are being honest, they’ve already begun the process of by this time in the semester, has really shifted my focus. Sure, I’m in a personal holding pattern, but these young adults are just getting started and the listening I do…I mean, it’s great.

But that also gives me time to just listen at home to…if I can put away the distractions long enough (Netflix is truely evil in the sense that it can be such a time suck…and Gardenscapes…Heaven help me). God puts us in holding patterns sometimes to get our attention. It’s not that he has forgotten us, it’s that we have forgotten him and he just wants to give us the time to listen.

Get up. Listen. Go to work. Listen. Do your thing. Listen. Come home. Listen.

A time to kill

No, I don’t mean to plan out the serial murders of all those who have hurt you. I mean I time to kill self-doubt. A time to kill worry. A time to kill all those little lies that have crept into your consciousness during those busy times.

Sure, this kind of killing off should be happening all the time, but during the holding patterns they become more evident. That’s when you have a choice: listen to the lies, or kill the lies and replace them with truth. You’ve got the time to really build that truth storage, so take it.

Photo by Aljoscha Laschgari on Unsplash

Get up. Listen. Kill the lies. Go to work. Listen. Do your thing. Listen Come home. Listen. Store up truth.

A time to heal

Along those same lines, holding patterns give us time to heal from the wounds, changes, surprises, disappointments etc. of the moving forward time. It’s funny we don’t really think we are that wounded until we have time in life…a holding pattern…in which we can reflect. It’s in these moments that if we allow God to enter in we can start to heal.

Get up. Listen. Kill the lies. Go to work. Listen. Do your thing. Listen Come home. Listen. Store up truth. Heal.

And in that pattern, God reveals his wisdom, love and plans…that’s when I notice the healing really starts. At least for me.

A time to build up

A holding pattern gives us time to grow and learn. We aren’t as worried about time, people, or things so we focus on our own healing and growth. Organisms that can adapt, change, and grow survive. Those that can’t, don’t. God blesses us with holding patterns to give us time to breathe and adapt.

Get up. Listen. Kill the lies. Build up & store knowledge. Go to work. Listen. Do your thing. Listen. Come home. Listen. Store up truth. Heal. Build up knowledge.

Photo by Ryan Fields on Unsplash

Because the truth is, holding patterns can be frustrating or they can be blessings. It’s up to us (me, sigh) to decide how we are going to use each season God grants us. When we start to see the potential in every season, that’s when we truly start to live.

Authentic :: Tamar part 1

A Tale of Two Tamars

Two women of the same name are perhaps among the most tragic stories in the Bible. Well, there are a lot of tragic stories, but these really do make a person sit up and go ‘what now?!’

So let’s set the scene for part 1:

Tamar the Canaanite (Genesis 38)

Once upon a time, in a land far away from his brothers, a man named Judah settled down with a Canaanite woman. Together this delightful couple had three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah. They were a perfect family. The three boys grew older and Judah realized his eldest son, Er, was just incomplete. So he found him a wife. Her name was Tamar.  


Photo by Artsy Vibes on Unsplash

Now, like most little girls, Tamar dreamed of the day she would marry and have children. She would be the perfect wife and mother because she’d been dreaming and preparing for this day her whole life. Unfortunately, about 3.5 seconds into the marriage, it was clear that her husband was not the Prince Charming she’d been dreaming of. In fact, the LORD found him to be so evil, that he struck Er down. Er died, and just like that Tamar became a widow.

Now, Jewish tradition dictates that if your husband dies before you are able to conceive a child to carry on the family name, then the closest male relative must perform his Levirate duties and produce offspring for the dead relative and the widow. Sooooo, Onan was required by law (and his father) to lay with Tamar. As it turns out, Onan was about as delightful as his brother and while he did sleep with Tamar, he made sure that his, well you see he spilled his…well, let’s just say he made sure Tamar would not get pregnant. So, seeing his wickedness, God struck down Onan too (seriously, I mean really you’d think he’d learn from his brother’s mistakes, but no.)

Tamar was still a widow with no children so Leviate law dictated that Shelah (the third son) sleep with her next. However, Shelah was kinda still a kid so Judah sent Tamar back to live with her father until Shelah was grown…or so he said. However, like most stupid fathers, Judah didn’t see any fault with his own sons, but rather blamed Tamar for his sons’ deaths. So he had no intention of allowing her to sleep with Shelah—thus condemning her to a life of solitude and shame.

The Jerkface.

Sometimes things happen that are just completely out of our control. What do we do when life seems unfair, unjust, or just plain wrong? If we are wise, we trust in the Lord and let him direct our decisions and our plans.

Right or wrong, Tamar devises a plan, and personally given the cultural context, I can get behind her extreme actions, and evidently, God directed them given the ultimate outcome. According to Jewish tradition, Tamar was most likely a Canaanite woman who converted to Judaism either before or after she married Judah’s son. When she devises the plan, the narrative takes on a positive tone, not condemning her, but confirming that she is doing what is righteous because Judah was being unrighteousness. Rather than living in the shame her father-in-law saddles her with, Tamar decides to take the future into her own hands, but trusts God will ultimately vindicate her.


Photo by Kyle Loftus on Unsplash

Genesis 38:20-23 we see that Judah has never been very good at the whole ‘personal responsibility’ thing. This is actually an echo of Genesis 37:26-27, where he wants to do the right thing, makes a comment or a suggestion or a half-baked action, but doesn’t really follow through. What it boils down to is Judah takes the path of least resistance–knowing what is right, but refusing to stand up for it. He sleeps with a woman who he believes is a ‘cult prostitute’ (or a prostitute for a religious sect), which is pretty heavily frowned upon in God’s law. He gives this prostitute some pretty personal items (kind of like giving her his driver’s license and social security card) as collateral and then, rather than tracking her down, he just shrugs off the items as stolen and goes about his business, never recognizing the sins he himself has committed.

Judah is quick to judge Tamar when it comes out that she is pregnant “immorally”. She’s been living in her father’s home, ignored and forgotten by him until he believes she’s made a mistake and then suddenly he’s all fired up–to burn her at the stake. Nevermind his own sins which he thinks has been forgotten and hidden. But yet again, God proves that he is just and righteous and not only will our sins be found out, but there is also always a consequence to those sins.

This story is not as tragic as it could have been. While it is not exactly a happily ever after kind of situation, it is a beautiful picture of conviction and grace, on the part of Judah, who when he does realize that he was wrong actually admits it and does his best to make it right. After all, Tamar’s life was literally in his hands. He could have ignored the message she sent him and had her burned at the stake–his honor forever in tact. But he didn’t.


Photo by Hello Lightbulb on Unsplash

On the surface, this appears to be condoning Tamar’s deceptive acts, but I think it’s actually highlighting her determination to follow God’s law no matter the consequences to herself. Let me explain.

  1. Despite the fact that her two previous husbands were jerks, she never curses God, the men, or even Judah. She had every opportunity to be bitter and surly, but instead she is obedient and compliant. She bides her time and takes action only when she sees that there is no other choice.
  2. When she devises her plan she is careful to still bring honor to bother herself and Judah. She targets him specifically, and strategically placing herself in his path. She covers herself with a veil, which shows an unusual amount of modesty for the ‘prostitute’ role she is playing.
  3. Tamar is thoughtful and cunning, making sure that she can prove who the father of her child is–securing identification tags rather than money, or other forms of payment that might have been tempting.
  4. When the scheme is found out, she does not go public. She doesn’t shame Judah (or herself), she trusts Judah and God to do the right thing, by privately addressing the issue (unlike Judah who rants to anyone who will listen about burning her at the stake).
  5. She is gracious to forgive, only grateful to be vindicated and justified in her own moral character.

All of these elements prove that Tamar was not just acting out of selfish ambition, but with a desire to honor the Lord, Judah and herself.

And we can learn a valuable lesson from her example in how to deal with those who have wronged us–a lesson that is hard to apply but valuable to remember, because at some point we will all feel taken advantage of, lost, or forgotten by the world. So, what do we do?

  1. Be thankful for what we do have, not bitter over what we have lost or think we deserve. After all, if we truly got what we deserved, we wouldn’t be any happier (death, we all deserve death and punishment because we are all sinners)
  2. Check your motivation. Always ask yourself if the actions you are taking will bring honor to God, and if the answer is ever no…take a step back and think about another plan, or just wait to hear from God. Jealousy, revenge, and bitterness do not bring honor to God, but obedience, justice, and thankfulness do.
  3. Think things through. All actions, even rightly motivated, have consequences so it is highly advisable that you consider all the possible outcomes before acting.
  4. Keep things private. I know posting your business and beef with others on social media feels good in the moment, but it causes way more damage to you and the other person when you go public with any kind of conflict. If you truly want to bring honor and justice to a situation, keep it private. Don’t “vent” about to others either. “Venting” is usually just a nice way of excusing your own gossip. Trust me, I know this from personal–heartbreaking–experience.
  5. Forgive. You’ll never truly bring honor, glory or peace if you don’t learn to forgive the wrongs. I’m not saying that it’s easy–I’m sure it was a struggle for Tamar, but forgiveness is the only way to move forward. They don’t call it ‘holding’ a grudge for no reason–it holds you back as much as it does anything else. Let go. Let God. Move on.

Photo by Darius Bashar on Unsplash

Tamar’s story might be weird to the 21st century mindset, but despite the differences, there is always a human connection to be made and if we are wise…we won’t just hear. We’ll learn.

Grandma Says: My journey through Psalms (78-81; 83)

I love history. It’s one of the few things that I understand the universal importance of learning. Oh don’t get me wrong, I don’t know if anyone really needs the specific dates of when Washington blew his nose right before he took office, but the older I get the more I realize history does, in fact, repeat itself.

In Psalm 77, the poet recounts all that Israel has been through in the recent past. The poets cry is understandable as he just can’t fathom the waitresses of a people who have witnessed so many wonderful things.

But it’s easy…in the moment of crisis, when you are stressed, and weary, and tired of yet another peanut butter and jelly sandwich…to resort to complaints and curses..neither of which are productive.

Yeah, grandma said there’d be days like this.

And maybe Grandma even told you a few old stories about how God is always faithful. You want to believe her, after all bread falling out of heaven is pretty cool, but you’re tired and you’re sure she is exaggerating. After all, that can’t really be literal, can it?

It’s important for us to know our history and listen to the previous generation. They have lived through a lot. Maubr they’re out of control with their need to share their input, but really they are behaving as God intended. Generation to generation, guiding, teaching and learning. In theory.

But as they say, sometimes you just have to learn for yourself no matter how many times you’ve been warned.

I used to think the Israelites of the Old Testament had to have some kind of mental hangup or processing disorder to be so foolish and unwise, but we are really not all that different. We want results…now! We want answers…now! When we don’t get answers… we make them ourselves.

Generation after generation after generation.

So we have a choice to make. We can cry out to God with our complaints and worries…great, but do we follow after him DESPITE the circumstances, or are we just fair weather followers. Oh sure, it’s easy to follow God when he is sending plagues and parting seas, but how about in the desert? Do we still look for him, or do we abandon him, because we think he’s abandoned us?

Although history can teach us how to be successful followers of Jesus, we have to be willing not only to just hear, but to embrace the lesson. Otherwise our history repeats.

Grandma said there’d be days like this…because she knows. Are you listening?

The Pavement Ends

I was driving a couple of weeks ago, rushing from one place to another and not paying attention like I should. As a result, I missed the sign.

Pavement ends.

At 45 miles an hour this is an especially important sign to not miss, but just as I realized what was about to happen, it was too late–off I flew into a dirt and gravel road.

I won’t repeat all the words or thoughts that raced in my head or out of my mouth as the dust flew up around my car, but as I finally came to a grinding, horrifying halt–surrounded by a cloud of dust and miraculously unscathed–I ended with:

“Thank you God for protecting me even in my stupidity.”

What an appropriate expression of gratitude.

We live in a world of narcissism and self-promotion. A world that screams “Me! Me! ME!” and then “More! More! More!” and sometimes we get so wrapped up in that we forget to pay attention. Until the pavement ends.

Until something gets our attention.

Often there were warning signs, but we either ignore them or don’t see them in our ignorance. Those are moments of truth where we can either learn something or continue on a path of destruction. It’s time for us to stop allowing distractions keep us from the truth that is right in front of us…before the pavement ends.

After praying my thanksgiving, I turned my car around and got back on the pavement, but this time I slowed down, put away the distractions, and continually praised God as I drove out of my studpidity and into his arms.