The Cost of Serving the Urgent

Last week I took a deep breath at the end of a busy day. The Hubs had headed out to the gallery to get some more work done. The Tiger was already in bed, and I was hoping he would fall asleep quickly, and then the Bear would follow suit. {They are kind of getting up to mischief when we put them down at the same time at night so we’re figuring out how to work that out best, and sometimes it involves letting the Bear stay up until the baby’s asleep.}

We’d been scrambling all day, and probably the day before. And the day before. Thanking heaven for ‘summer camp’ keeping the Bear busy at the church where he goes to preschool during the year, thanking the Lord for my Mom and Dad, helping with the boys so that the Hubs and I could be at the gallery working lots and often. There was a general sense of urgency about life — this deadline looming ahead of us. So many tasks that needed completing before that deadline.

But I’d decided that evening, at bedtime when Work, Round 2 often starts, that it was time to play the board game the Bear was asking me to play. He looked so sweet, sitting on the floor in Dinosaur pajamas, over-the-moon-excited that we were going to play a board game, that I stopped to snap a picture with my phone, eager to savour the moment again, even after he’d gone to bed.

I took the picture with Instagram, and wanting to share it, I paused for a moment to give it a caption. These words immediately came to mind: Probably the most important thing I’ve done today. And remembering this old post of mine, I added #SpellingloveT-I-M-E.

When I enter into the space where ‘the urgent’ becomes the tyrant dictating my life, a couple of friends often come to join me on the journey. I sometimes start getting ulcers in my mouth, or strange aches and pains in different places. I sometimes get headaches, and I struggle to put one foot in front of the other to get everyday things done. It’s like my body is saying, “Hey Idiot! Stop stressing and running around! I’m not supposed to run on all six cylinders for this amount of time. You’re gonna burn me out!”  My time with the Lord gets pushed aside because of all the other things that need to get done, and THAT is when things really start heading south.

Ya’d think I’d learn my lesson by now, wouldn’t ya? 

After the Bear and I had played our game (he beat me twice without me even trying to let him win!) and read a story and he’d settled off to sleep I thought more about those words I’d given that photo — and the truth in them. More than I want the Hubs to have a successful photography business, more than I want to create breathing space in our budget so that we can perhaps look for our own home, more than I want to live with a house that is even reasonably tidy, I want to raise these boys we’ve been given to steward well. I want them to be well-adjusted. I want them to serve God with passion. I want them to know we love them.

I don’t want them to grow up saying they felt disconnected from their parents. And I want to know about their lives, and not because they are posting about themselves on Facebook and I’m reading it.

I was reminded of some simple truths about living under the Tyranny of the Urgent — lessons that I often need to be reminded of — as I thought through where we were and how things were going.

First, if you live your life trying to please people OR please your own unrealistic expectations, you are inevitably going to fall short and be frustrated with yourself.  If you focus on trying to please God every day, you’ll find that pacing yourself, making wise choices, and even getting GOOD rest pleases Him. No one else is going to guard your time and rest. People will take as much as you’ll give them, and encourage you to keep giving out more.

There will always be something that feels urgent, but doesn’t have to be treated that way.

If you can rest in the knowledge that the only one you need to please is your heavenly Father, and focus on following His leading, you will do well. With His leading I can love my husband and my children well. Listening to His whispers I can recognize when urgency is dictating my schedule while important is slipping through the cracks. If that’s the case I’m probably overcommitted or not managing my time well. I need to start asking questions. What needs to get axed? How should I re-prioritize?

Second, the Lord tells us to rest for a reason. Each day has sufficient trouble of its own. We aren’t supposed to worry about tomorrow. We can rest in the knowledge that God is in control. When we begin stressing that we have to get everything sorted out, voila, we have sore throats, headaches, sickness…and even worse health conditions, many that would have been completely prevented had we been willing to change our pace and make rest and concern for our health a priority. {Remember, don’t kill your horse!}

There will always be something urgent on the agenda. If you keep running after the urgent, you’ll neglect the important, and suffer the consequences.

Third, remember the story of Lazarus. (See John 11:1-44) Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, but He stayed where He was for two more days before heading over to Judea. Lazarus was the brother of Martha and Mary. This family was very dear to Him. When He (finally) arrived on the scene, Lazarus was already dead, and people were mourning him. The question obviously came from both women — “Ugh, Jesus, where ya been? Cuz if you showed up, om…seeing as how you have healing powers and all…well…it seems pretty apparent if you hadn’t taken your time about getting here, our brother wouldn’t be in a tomb right now.”

It isn’t readily apparent why Jesus decided to take His time about getting there, but He does say in response to the news of Lazarus’ illness, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” So for God’s glory, and in God’s timing (we can be sure it was God’s timing since Jesus never stepped out of God’s will) Jesus traveled to Judea without a big rush, and by the time He arrived, Lazarus had been dead four days.

You may or may not know the rest of the story: after conversations with Martha and Mary, and seeing the weeping, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. In doing so, He demonstrated His power, not just over sickness, but also over death, and many Jews began to believe in Him because of this amazing miracle. (So much so that the Pharisees began plotting to kill Him.)

Jesus could have rushed over to Martha and Mary’s place and healed Lazarus before He passed away. The urgency of the situation could have forced Him to drop everything and ‘put foot’ as HH puts it. But He waited for God’s timing, and in doing so, God was glorified, and His will was done. Many believed, and the stage was set for even greater works yet to come.

There will always be something urgent you need to attend to. But rushing after the urgent might very well cause us to run right ahead of the will of God.

Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. {Psalm 32:9} Stay in step with God’s leading instead!

The thing is, if you let it, the urgent will always distract you from the important. And sometimes, a series of short-term decisions will change your course for you, and you won’t be headed toward your long-term goals. Are you taking on too many projects for someone else without allowing time for you to attend to your own work? Is your schedule somewhat determined by whatever it is that seems to need to happen the fastest?

When you look back on the season you’re in the middle of right now, do you think you’ll celebrate the choices you’re making with your time … or regret them?

Truly, along with our daily bread, we can trust God for the daily guidance to know what to put our hands to — and when.


When a Season is Like a Straitjacket

We are firm believers in the swaddle. Any clue what I’m talking about? I’m talking about the baby swaddle — the thing you do with a blanket, where you put it beneath a baby, put their arms down by their sides and wrap the blanket tightly around them, tucking it underneath so that it constrains them and holds them snug. At first it might seem like an unpleasant thing for the baby, constraining them with the baby version of a straitjacket, but by and by perhaps I’ll convince you that it’s a good thing.

Something you may or may not know about newborns is that when they’re fresh out of the box, so to speak, they have absolutely no control over their arms or legs. Maybe very little control, but it seems pretty much like none. They hit themselves in the head and wonder who did it. They scratch their own little faces with their sharp little baby nails, and then cry as if to say, “Who’s scratching me? Stop it!”


With the Bear, and again with the Tank, we found swaddling a really effective method of sleep training. Wrapping them up tightly inside a blanket or a thin sheet (when it was summer and too hot for a blanket) became a signal to them that it was time for a snooze. A swaddle, a pacifier/dummy/binker/whateveryouliketocallit in the mouth, a snug spot in the crib and they don’t need much more direction for the route to dreamland. Apparently it also mimics the feeling of being snuggled up inside the womb, which is a bonus.

Initially, both of our boys fought the swaddle.


You’d wrap them up snug and they’d wriggle and squirm and sometimes cry. The Hubs often stood by their cribs, holding each of them to his chest, firmly swaddled, and he’d gently swoosh them back and forth while they struggled against his firm grip. Eventually, it {almost} always settled them down, and once they learned that it was a cue, it became a tool for good.


I believe there are seasons in our lives when God “swaddles” us. For one reason or another, His hand is holding us firmly in one place, even though we feel like we’re ready for movement, for breakthrough, for a chance to use the arms and legs we’ve been given.

You might feel swaddled:

  • By a job you’re ready to be out of, but the job hunt is getting you nowhere.
  • By your finances constraining you and hindering your movements
  • In a relationship with a roommate, a professor, a colleague at work — you’re ready for it to be done, but you’re stuck for now.
  • In a season of life that’s just hard, but not over yet.

The thing is, sometimes we’re kind of like the newborn flailing her arms because she doesn’t know any better. God in His graciousness is appointing this time and this season, as a time for growth, perhaps a time for us to rest, a time to learn to trust Him, and a time to gain strength.

Most of us know that a beautiful butterfly doesn’t start out that way. They start out as little caterpillars, not particularly exciting creatures, definitely incapable of flying. But after munching on leaves for a good wee while, their metamorphosis begins. And during the pupa, or “chrysalis” stage, growth and differentiation occur. The caterpillar is becoming a butterfly.

The hard skin that surrounds the butterfly, called a chrysalis, keeps it swaddled until this life phase is finished. Once the butterfly is ready to shed the chrysalis, she uses her wings to break through. The strength that she gains while pushing her way out with her wings is a necessary part of the process. Once she’s out, she’ll sit on her old shell, harden her wings and get ready for take off!

Without the chrysalis stage, the butterfly will only ever be a caterpillar. But if she allows the process to do its good work, she will emerge on the other side, strong enough to fly.

If you’re in a season that feels like a straitjacket, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to sit still. You are a part of the process that will grow you and help you become who you are meant to be. When the caterpillar is fully grown, it makes a button of silk to attach itself to a leaf or a twig, and then it sheds its skin to reveal that chrysalis layer — the hardened skin underneath. Some butterflies are able to move their abdomen while inside their chrysalis to make sounds or scare away potential predators.

Isaiah 30:18 says:

Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him.

Trust the God who created the seasons as a part of life — the God who is also sovereign over them. Though it seems like He is waiting, He is being gracious. Though it seems like He isn’t listening, He is showing mercy. Like a year of work at a pawn shop, or a week of extra waiting for a baby’s arrival, the Author and Finisher of your faith has blessings in store for those who wait on Him. And in the waiting, you’ll gain the strength you need for the road ahead.


From Milk to Meat

When I first started walking with God, I prayed and things happened. I asked Him for things and they were there. I must be the greatest Christian ever! I thought. It was so encouraging to feel like God was so near.

When I read God’s Word and I didn’t understand, I asked Him to help me. Sure enough, through a sermon or at a Bible study the next week, He helped me understand in response to my expression of desiring to know Him more.

Meat!A growing relationship with God is a lot like growing up. As a baby, you have all your needs met immediately. Nobody tells you to be patient. You cry and someone comes to comfort you. You fall and someone helps you up. Your daily bread (or milk) comes often and regularly, and you don’t have to do anything for it.

But eventually we all grow up, leave the milk behind and start feeding ourselves. We need patience, because we learn that the world doesn’t revolve around us… dang! We may even begin to dare I say it…work for our food. Sadly, the packed lunches with a bag of chips and a love note on the napkin come to an end. Yes, I had an especially wonderful Mom who packed my lunch from kindergarten through my senior year in high school and sometimes wrote a note to tell me she loved me on my napkin!

Perhaps through chores or a part-time job, we begin to make a contribution to our own sustenance in one way or another. Eventually, it is more and more up to us to make sure there’s food on the table. (Our daily bread is a provision of God, but we are still required to work for that provision in one way or another.)

It’s a lot like our walk with God. Patience is a necessity. I pray for things now, just as I did ten years ago, and they don’t always magically appear. By patience, possess your souls. I might have to wait six weeks, six months, six years…and sometimes it might not happen the way I hoped it would.

Does God love me less than He did a decade ago? No. As a matter of fact, He trusts me more. He trusts that I am able to handle the waiting. I won’t faint, I won’t pass out when the thing I’m longing for is not immediately presented.  The patience teaches me perseverance, and when the longing is fulfilled, it is so much more precious and meaningful than it would have been had I prayed and received it instantly. The Lord also knows that I’ve grown up in the generation of those who pace in front of the microwave, and it is very good indeed for me to learn patience.

It’s similar when it comes to learning God’s Word: I shouldn’t expect a Sunday sermon to answer every question I’ve come up with during the week. It sure would be a long and discombobulated message! We need to learn to go after God — to seek wisdom and look for understanding the way you might look for a treasure if you knew you could find it.  Having a study Bible helps. Having resources like Matthew Henry’s Commentary (a personal fave) and Spurgeon’s Treasury of David online are also incredible resources for gaining understanding of the Word, the ways and the will of God.

If you have the ability to read, you have teeth. And if you have the Bible, and clearly you have the internet or else you couldn’t read this, you have meat..and hearty condiments to help you enjoy the meat! Don’t settle for the milk of a sermon once a week. Don’t settle for letting someone else tell you the Word, the ways and the will of God. Sink your teeth into the steak, the lamb chops, the glorious bacon cheeseburgers of a personal relationship with the Living God. Let Him tell you who He is. Let Him feed you in green pastures by still waters. And ask for His help, if you find you’re not hungry. If you knew how good it is, you would be!


An end note: I’d like to start digging deeper around here, together. I have some ideas a-stewin’ and a-brewin’ about how this space might allow us to encourage each other deeper in God. If you think you might like to write a guest post about going deeper, please let me know!

He Even Sweats the Small Stuff

We’re in a season of being very careful with our finances at the moment. I hope even when we are in seasons in the future where things aren’t so tight that we continue to put into practice the things we’re learning now. We’re thinking about the way we spend God’s money (since it’s all His) in light of eternity, and living in a more and more disciplined way, so that we can give more away. We hope to keep living like this for the rest of our lives.

Something all of this has been teaching me is patience. It seems like before I left the States, when I was working a 9 to 5, if I wanted something, I went out and bought it. I didn’t think much about it, unless it was really expensive. I hadn’t really submitted my finances to God’s leading. Now that we’re here, and in such a different situation, I’m careful about my spending. We are living on a budget to cover the bare necessities, and we trust God for what we need beyond that.

One thing I’ve committed to the Lord is the desire to make our flat feel more like home, and to decorate, despite the fact that it’s not really in the budget for me to do so. I just trusted the Lord to provide as He saw fit. I wanted to print out some pictures to help spruce things up a few weeks ago, so I picked some that I thought would be great and went to the Kodak picture maker at the grocery store. I was eager to get way more pictures than I needed, and fell back into the old mindset of spending without really thinking. The machine printed out a receipt, which I handed to Mark. He was going to wait with the Bear for the photos to print while I finished the shopping. A few minutes later Mark came over, because the machine wasn’t working. We began to discuss the photos being printed.  I realised I had just attempted to print out way more pictures than I needed, and we would’ve had to pay more money than we really had for this non-essential. Fortunately, the machine was broken and wasn’t going to print the pictures anyway! I got a second chance, and just chose two or three favourites, and went through the cropping and printing process again. The second time around, the machine was still broken and wouldn’t print. I was really discouraged and kind of wanted to give up.

There are new photos in these frames now!

There are new photos in these frames now!

We decided to go the pharmacy across the parking lot that also had a picture printer, and I printed out the two photos I really wanted, and that was it. I planned on just finding old photos to fill the other frames, and I used creative means to fill in the gaps for one photo that was too small for the frame.  I felt good about ‘making due’ and not going overboard, but part of me still would’ve liked some good pictures of the Bear (instead of the old ones of Hero Hubby and me) to go in the frames.

I promise I’m getting somewhere! So, yesterday the Bear and I went across the street to the grocery store to get a few essentials. I ran back to switch one item for another while we were at the checkout, and some of the ladies who bag the groceries were smiling and playing with the Bear. After I finished paying and got things packed into the pram (stroller) to head back home, one of the ‘bag ladies’ came up to me and started saying something in Afrikaans. I apologised that I couldn’t speak Afrikaans, and she repeated herself in English: There are photos of the baby over there.

I went to the cigarette/lottery ticket/customer service counter, and another lady produced these absolutely beautiful photos of the Bear. (The photos I wanted had printed out when they fixed the machine.) They showed me each of them and another lady literally grinned as she held each one up that she liked! I think they’d looked through them a few times. 🙂  My heart was sore because I knew I didn’t need to spend money to buy them all. We don’t really have it to spend. I asked if they were going to throw them away if I couldn’t buy them, and explained that I had already printed out two of them at another store and I didn’t really have the money to buy them all. The lady behind the register said I would have to buy them or they’d throw them away, but the other two ladies also looking at the pictures said they couldn’t throw them away because they were just too beautiful. They started speaking to the lady behind the till in Afrikaans, and then one of them said:

“Do you have 15 Rand?”

15 Rand is less than $2 or about £1.20, and is less than a third of the original price. I definitely could spare that much for those gorgeous photos!! I was overjoyed when they rang me up and almost in tears on the way home.

Just a few days ago, I was thinking about a story a friend of mine shared at a Bible study I attended years ago. She was talking about how her family’s finances were very tight and she couldn’t really afford to buy makeup. She’d given this concern to the Lord, because she always wore makeup and it was really difficult for her. Shortly afterwards, someone showed up on her doorstep with makeup. We all rejoiced at God’s goodness.

When I remembered that story, I asked the Lord, “Lord do you really care about that kind of stuff? I know you do. Sometimes it’s hard to believe I guess.” And yesterday, He showed up with my “makeup” and it blessed my socks off. We serve such an amazing God. And He does sweat the small stuff — He is intimately acquainted with our ways. In His timing (this is where the patience comes in) He supplies in His exceeding abundance.

The Sermon in a Nutshell: Bring your cares to the Lord, the big ones and the small ones, and trust that with patience, in His perfect timing, He will supply your every need, with exceeding abundance!

Miss Music: When a Cat is up a Tree

Sometimes it’s best to just trust the Lord’s timing for things. This can be really hard, if you, like me, sometimes struggle with impatience, or if you unnecessarily worry or fret about something, even if it’s out of your control. You’ve probably experienced a moment when you’ve realised if you’d just been patient, and not tried to “jump the gun,” or make things hurry up and happen, you would’ve been better off. Haste makes waste.

One of my favourite stories my Dad tells is about Miss Music. I think the reason I like it so much is because he is laughing by the end so much, he can hardly finish the story. I warn you — some of you might find it a little offensive, and all I can say is, “I guess you had to be there.” See, Miss Music was my Aunt Jo’s cat. My Aunt Jo is an incredibly gifted musician — pianist, harpist — basically, you pass her an instrument and she’ll play you a tune, you play her a tune, she’ll play it back. Hence the cat, Miss Music.

One day, Miss Music climbed a tree in the front garden of Aunt Jo & Uncle Blake’s house. Aunt Jo was very very concerned. She was afraid Miss Music wouldn’t come out of the tree. My cousin Amy once called a fireman when her cat was up a tree, and he retorted, Lady…have you ever seen a cat skeleton up a tree? Enough said. Anyway, Aunt Jo was not satisfied with the idea of waiting, and trusting the cat would come down.

Exactly how the next series of events came about, I’m not sure. Basically, it was decided that a friend of Uncle Blake’s, Googy Singleton (yes, that’s his name, and no I’m not sure if I spelled it right) would bring his gun over. The plan was that Googy would shoot the tree limb down from the tree, and, since cats are always so dextrous as to always land on their feet, Miss Music would join the tree limb on the descent, and walk away unscathed, and safely out of the tree.

As you might guess, that’s not what happened. Googy aimed and took a shot at the branch, and — those with weak constitutions, look away — he shot the cat out of the tree…shewww…wham…dead.

“Miss Music, Miss Music!!” Aunt Jo exclaimed. By this point my dad is in hysterics telling the story. “Miss Music, Miss Music!!” Sadly, Miss Music made it out the tree, but she didn’t make it out alive.

The Sermon in a Nutshell: We often need to trust the natural timing of things. If you are loving and trusting the Lord, and obeying His commands, He is able to make every situation work together for your good. If you’re not trusting the Lord, maybe now’s a good time to start. You might be the one in the tree!