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brown wooden ship's wheelWhat happens if one day God decides to process all the paperwork on your prayers and suddenly, you’re sitting on top of a big pile of money? You look out at the driveway and see that there are suddenly several new cars! In the backyard, there’s an in-ground pool and a sculptured-stone fire pit. You notice a small chalet in the corner of the yard. You ask, Is that the place where we store the gold-plated rider mower? No, you’re told. That’s the servants’ quarters!

Okay, you need to sit down and take a breath. What happens now? 

Once you get the resources you’ve been asking for, sure, there will be more money, but also more drama to deal with. More tasks to keep track of. More appliances in need of repair. More bureaucracy to navigate. More taxes to pay. 

Dealing with problems, lack of money, and doing without is ground-floor training for the good times. This is the time to develop a system by which you get important tasks done. To learn how to stay on budget. To prioritize what is screaming for attention and what is really just a squeaky door hinge.

If you hadn’t gone through the boot camp of making do and scraping by, you might never know how to manage abundance when it comes. Challenges aren’t punishment or penance. Trials aren’t tests, but training. So with that wherewithal-workout under your belt, when your ship comes in, you’ll already be wearing your captain’s hat, ready to take the wheel. 

Confession: I’ve never been “big” on shoes. (I picture well-shod women everywhere gasping.) Shoes are utilitarian things to me; as a child, I couldn’t wait for school to be over so I could shed the clunky things. And growing up in sunny Southern California, shoelessness was not only acceptable but common. As a result, I developed a lazy walk, an easy stride, knowing the ground beneath me would always be warm and dry. Then I went off to college in Indiana.

Walking on ice and snow was a disaster for me. I fell constantly, my legs sliding out from under me in a flail of limbs that led to bruised tailbones and broken toes. I simply could not figure out how to navigate slick surfaces. I watched my friends. They walked more deliberately than I did, with a purpose. Growing up in the Midwest had informed their walking style. Dumb little sunbunnies like me were left behind.

Eventually I discovered how to pick my way through snow and ice. I had to, living in Kansas. I make my steps firm, a march-step. To make up for my shorter strides, I tell myself to keep moving. March, march!

So it is in our spiritual lives. When all is going well, we breeze along, shoeless and happy. But when metaphoric snow and ice befall us, we can easily slip and fall. We are not prepared. Sometimes it takes everything in us to keep ourselves marching along.

How can we find traction in perilous spiritual moments? In faith as in walking, it requires mindfulness. We cannot blindly shuffle through our day. Every movement, every moment, must be deliberate, focused on the one who sustains us, who keeps us upright: God.

That is not to say that we don’t need to be mindful when all is well. We should. But when the chips are down and the way gets treacherous, constant reliance on God may be the only thing that can keep us moving. God, help me get out of bed. God, help me at work. God, help me not to break down right now.

In many recovery groups there’s a saying about taking things one day at a time. However, sometimes a day can seem too long. I prefer, at times like these, to think about taking it one STEP at a time. And with every step, keep God in mind. God will carry you through. Now take the next step. March, march!


My teen-age son has really struggled with exhaustion and health issues that have led him to be late for school quite a bit, even missing some days altogether. As you can imagine, mornings in our house can become rather, well… heated.

I ask him to wake up and he tries, but falls back to sleep. I come in again and again, each time with the same result. The bus goes by and I silently seethe. Late again. Yesterday, I blew my top and started yelling. The cat high-tailed it down the hall, ready to flee the danger zone.

Still tight, I went to another room to pray, hoping it would calm me down. I asked for Cole’s Yes Life to begin. Each morning, when I’d go in to wake him, it felt like I was part of the No Life.

Getting stressed, waking him up and being tense at him.

I prayed directly to God. “Lord, I can’t take these mornings anymore,” and I felt in my mind, No More! But on my heart, I saw the words Know More.

And it came to me, clearly.

Know that you can’t “No” your way to “Yes.” You can’t come in and rant to wake up your son and hope he has a good day. This is where the good day has to begin.

I prayed for him to have his Yes Life now: his music and friends and blessings. A life of his choosing. His own path. Every good thing.

And I wondered how long it would be my responsibility to make life work for him. I prayed, “When does a child’s life transition to him? When do they get to decide things for themselves and blaze their own trail using a map of their own making?”

I assume it is when they have the life-skills and work-ethic they need to get a job, pay the bills. Just generally take care of it all. But there’s also something else. Something that lights you up from the inside. Makes life meaningful. Connects you to your community (of musicians, or Christians, or people who like Lego) and lifts your spirits.

For me, it’s my faith and perpetual prayer. For you, it’s the zhoozh that sparks your soul. It’s something everyone must find for themselves.

So for now, I pray for answers and trust the God who posed the question. When there isn’t a clear-cut solution to an ongoing problem, bring as much “yes” as you can to the “no” in your life. Keep pushing on, and you’ll get through it.


Have a Mary Little Christmas

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