To All of Us Who Are Charting Unknowns

The crickets are in full chorus, and, for me, that’s always a sure sign of the approach of fall.

In all its breathtaking beauty, pristine skies, and warm color, fall overtakes summertime, yet I struggle to say goodbye to our Canadian summer. With fading flowers, shorter days, and cooler nights, September will bring with it the new school year and the added challenges due to COVID.

We’ve already seen so much change and made so many adjustments. I’m amazed at our resiliency to face unknowns and navigate countless uncharted routes. How we’ve persevered and continued to try new things is remarkable. How we’ve kept going and reaching for our dreams despite uncertainty or loss is inspiring.

Stepping into new and unknown territory, or continuing forward on the current climb, can be unnerving. We want to know the route in advance, to have all the possible unknowns nailed down, to make sure we don’t get derailed. But in truth, we can’t and don’t have to. All the planning in the world can’t ensure a perfect outcome or ideal conditions.

Being courageous or trying new things doesn’t mean a lack of fear. It means treading forward onto new ground despite fear. It means with every step forward we tramp over fear until we have reached our destination. There may be some detours, some tough climbs, some falling rocks, but we stay the course, undaunted by the fallout.

Don’t be fooled. Trying new or hard things swings the door wide on fear, but what if we renegotiate our thought life and say that fear’s proximity signals we are on the right track? Its arrival means we are stretching ourselves and reaching and learning and growing. We are moving forward, conquering the rough bits, and refusing to atrophy.

Mistakes? Bring them on! They too need to be rewired in our thought process. Our brain will expand through missteps, and we will grow more sure-footed. Mistakes—or wilderness wandering—is often preparation for future treks. Through them, we learn to trust God more fully, we grow in wisdom, and gather more grip for the next hard thing. Wrapped in His forgiveness and grace, and increasing in confidence, we will lunge forward, like a cliff climber reaching upward to grasp the smallest rocky outcrop that seems almost out of reach.

Before we know it, we are challenging others to try hard things or to join us in ours. Then one bright day, we pause to check the map and discover how far we’ve come. We smile because at that moment we realize that although it wasn’t easy or perfect, we scaled the unknowns and arrived. It was worth the climb, and more than that, we are no longer the same as when we began. We are stronger and wiser, and our character has grown.

Somewhere along the journey, fear—overshadowed by courage—became a bystander.

My courageous step forward this fall is beginning to write my third book. Fear is lurking and eager to heap on discouragement. But I’m choosing to believe that it’s a signal I’m on the right track. I’m reaching and moving forward despite imperfections and unknowns. Each written word is a step forward in my climb, my journey, and I trust its completion will be worth the effort. After all, my word of the year is Fearless! And while that may not mean a complete lack of fear, I can definitely fear-less.

As you approach this fall, with its many unknowns and invitations to fear, be reminded that with every step forward, you are not only moving ahead, but also growing, learning, and developing. It’s not about the absence of fear, or fully controlling the conditions, it’s about taking one small and courageous step at a time and enjoying the view.

May you be enfolded by the grace and mercy of the Father, trusting that one glorious day all the twists and turns of your journey will make sense.

“The way we deal with uncertainty says a lot about whether Jesus is ahead of us leading or just behind us carrying our stuff.” ~ Bob Goff

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11

Let Your Yes be Yes, and Your No Be No

 

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I had an epiphany this morning. It went like this: what should I be saying yes to that I’m saying no to, and what should I be saying no to but have been saying yes to? I took a mental inventory. Upon entering the new year, or really any time, this sort of yes/no check-up is a worthwhile endeavor. After all, an unexamined life lacks direction and purpose. 

Let me take a small detour. About two years ago, I exacted a thorough decluttering of my life. I called it ‘The Year of No’. Once everything was stripped away, delightful ease arrived in determining the things that should never have been there in the first place, as well as other things that were healthy to allow back in. The fruit of this effort was a calmness and rest I’d never before experienced, as well as time to release two books! Continue reading “Let Your Yes be Yes, and Your No Be No”

The Best is Yet to Come

It’s more than a little discouraging when we feel stuck in a period of no growth. Let’s face it, we live in a fast-paced world where productivity is everything. If we aren’t producing then what are we doing? We worry when we’ve nothing to show for our labour. We place heavy expectations on ourselves and get worked up if a deadline or goal has gone unmet, or if our best-made plans fall through. If that weren’t enough, we feel guilty stopping for a rest.

Let me tell you a short story. Last year, my son, Konnor, gave me an orchid for my birthday. It was in full bloom with a terrific display of purple-laced white flowers that were staked and arched to perfection. They lasted quite a long time, then eventually wilted and fell off the stem. I wondered if the plant was finished.

After a bit of research, I learned I needed to cut off the barren stem and, depending on the type, it may again bloom. To my absolute glee, several months later, it began sporting an even lovelier array of blooms. Maybe the flowers just appeared more spectacular as a result of my surprise and wonder, but every time I looked at them I marveled and thought of my sweet son.

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My orchid surprised me blooming again in a spectacular show.

So here it is. Just like that orchid, so our lives have seasons. Sometimes we are amazed by the size and number of the blooms. Other times the landscape of our lives look barren and not especially spectacular (have you seen an orchid without blooms?), and you wonder if it will ever produce anything beautiful again. But as nature dictates, sometimes things need to fall away if anything is to flourish again. When a season has reached completion, there is much-needed preparation for the next one. For an orchid this is called the rest stage.

But that’s a bit misleading. I prefer to label it the rebuilding or preparation stage. Though the plant – or you and I – appear bloomless, there is a pile of unseen and necessary things happening during this time. After all, we can’t go into the next stage of fruitfulness unprepared. And so we rest, but we don’t exactly rest. We take in nourishment in the form of learning and lessons to prepare for what’s next, and then we wait for it to come to fruition.

And we need this stage more than we understand. After all, it can be a bit messy and uncertain when a main part of your life gets lopped off. Some of the things we go through during this barren stage are just plain painful. It seems long waiting for things to flourish anew, so long that we might begin to wonder if we’re the type that will ever bloom again.

But as I like to remind my kids, nothing is wasted. The most menial, the most monotonous, the most memorable, or painful – none are wasted. At the very least, the hard times of fruitless waiting help you to see that you are a resilient human. But this stage also has the effect of building character, patience, resourcefulness, endurance, strength, and possibly even peace, until eventually – and almost miraculously – new flowers appear.

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My orchid is preparing to bloom again. This time I staked the stem. Though temporarily flowerless, the solid leaves and aerial roots are dignified and strangely beautiful.

And like everything good and beautiful, the display isn’t just for your benefit. Everyone else in your circle of influence is affected too, celebrating alongside and being encouraged by the blossoms of beauty that have appeared. The weary wait has made this season even more spectacular.

Take heart. As my spiritual mom says, “The best is yet to come.” And truly it is. Let’s not waste time lingering and looking back at a finished season, or get stuck thinking of the past as “the glory days”. There are glorious days ahead. Let’s instead make the most of today and all its gifts while we wait with great expectation for what’s next!

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” ~ Isaiah 43:18-19

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  1. Are you living too much in the past, or too much in the future? While we wait with expectation for the things to come, let’s not forget to enjoy today. Who knows, there may be buds already showing. You don’t want to miss them!