Learning to Sail Smoothly Through the In-Between

To Sail

There is this place called the in-between, where many of us live. We are in-between where we were and where we want to be. We want a new adventure now and whatever difficult thing we are dealing with to end … over and done with. Often, the in-between is a difficult place of disappointments, laced with real sadness. It is a troubling time, a fretful time, a restless, tiring journey of sailing in rough waters. Yes, the in-between can be rough and also lonely. This is your story, your journey. This is your in-between. You own it. Perhaps you have already come to realize that your life in the in-between is most profound when there is silence all around you or during a time of aloneness.

There’s waiting in the in-between. There’s waiting for something to change, or to have our dreams fulfilled or … simply fill in the blank: “I am waiting for ________.”  Waiting is definitely a type of rough waters, a personal trial, with suffering, possibly as its companion.

What I’m learning about being in the in-between is that sailing through the rough waters of waiting is the best place for me now. And as I learn to hoist the sail and press on throughout this waiting period, I will find that the inconvenient moments, the monotony of routine or the struggle to overcome are, in fact, my greatest opportunity for growth.

The In Between

The in-between is a vast space to explore and I’ve explored it longer than I care to! However, during this waiting period in the in-between, I have discovered a lot about myself. Sometimes I say, “My God! When will this waiting be over?” And sometimes I say, “My God! Thank you for the in-between!” I sound quite fickle and I admit that I’m discontent in the waiting. I’m very goal oriented and live in perpetual pursuit of something. I find myself evaluating my progress toward that thing that will give me satisfaction, to fulfill my life … it’s exhausting to adjust the sails, to tack and jib, to fight the wind on my own. I long for the other side of this.

Recently, I read Mark 6:45-52. It’s the story of Jesus disciples in a boat, making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. I thought I knew this story well, but I had missed significant details.  Such as one word in verse 45:

Immediately he [Jesus] made his disciples get in the boat and go before him to the other side …

They did what Jesus made them do. Get in the boat. Those guys didn’t do anything to cause the storm and they certainly didn’t expect a storm or ask for the trial they were facing. They happened to find themselves in the right place at the right time and they were utterly astounded by God’s grace. (verse 51)

I discovered another significant point in verse 48 of that text:

And about the fourth watch of the night he [Jesus] came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them …

Jesus seems very relaxed while being in their storm. He knew they had rowed and struggled for about eight hours. It’s tempting to judge the faithfulness of God based on His ability to remove difficulty from our lives, when in fact, difficulty is almost always a sign of His faithfulness.  Notice in verse 48 that Jesus meant to walk pass by them, but then they cried out in fear and immediately he spoke to them. God’s love is borderless wide and his compassion is infinitely deep. God’s grace rescues us.

The In Between

I’m asking two important questions: “What in the world is God doing?” and “How in the world should I respond to it?”

I’m learning that He has brought me to the uncomfortable place of the in-between to produce in me what I could not achieve on my own. God’s divine power plus his divine compassion equals everything I need. [1]

And how in the world should I respond to waiting in the in-between?  Utterly astounded by God’s grace while “giving myself permission to enjoy fully the things I have, the person I am, and the life I am currently living while continuing to harbor the dreams that keep me growing and stretching into the future.” [2]

It is only when I’m hooking my life to the glory and grace of God and getting my identity from him that I can truly live with singleness of focus for the long run. This is because it is only God who has the power to satisfy my heart. I was made for him. I was made to have my life shaped by an acknowledgment of his presence, a rest in his love, and an active allegiance to his purpose. When I live this way, my soul is satisfied and my heart is at rest.  — Paul Tripp, A Shelter in the Time of Storm

Psalm 27:4 Smooth Sail in the In Between

Smooth Sail

I’ve loved reading the book: A SHELTER in the TIME of STORM: Meditations on God and Trouble, by Paul David Tripp. The book is based on Psalm 27, a psalm that teaches you about faith, safety and the presence of the Lord. Psalm 27 tells us that even in the middle of difficulties that we do not understand, nor seem able to escape, we have reason to take heart and to have hope.

[1] Paul Tripp, Uncomfortable Grace |  [2]  The Resolution for Women, by Priscilla Shirer. Original quote:  “Give yourself permission to enjoy fully the things you have, the person you are, and the life you are currently living while continuing to harbor the dreams that keep you growing and stretching into the future.”

Slow Down to Notice…on a Road Trip

Barns of Passing Time

I have a hobby of taking photos from a moving automobile. Like the one above of a barn and homestead with a for sale sign in front view. I can only imagine how many memories and stories that have been noticed in that home or the life that fed that old barn’s history…stories and words wrapped up and knotted deep into a legacy.

Slow Down to Notice

So I take a photo from a moving automobile because I slow down to notice this image of a story that is posted for sale. It’s there, off the road where it’s waiting to be noticed, captured and remembered.

Recently, my husband and I packed the car for a long road trip to home. It was pleasant to be the passenger with my main man and talk about our kids, our grandkids, life, work, politics…we talk about our parents that are living and the ones that have passed to a better place. Memories are shared on road trips. Road trips give us time to slow down and notice, even while the pedal is to the metal.

We slow down on this road trip to notice each other through the stories we share. It’s a verbal embrace. There is a connection when we laugh at each other’s corny jokes or disagree with the other’s opinion about a politician’s decision.

When we slow down and notice someone by listening to spoken words, there will be community, friendship, and a feeling of being safe.

Road trips are good for this. He is not looking at me while I talk, yet he notices me.  He is listening to my words…my voice, my story. And when he shares a story, I may glance over at him, but mostly I’m looking out the window with my head leaning back and resting against the headrest…slowing down my thoughts to hear him and notice him.

It’s ironic that we own a house with a for sale sign in the front yard. Of course I know that bricks and mortar or beams of wood cannot contain life and stories but it’s the people with the stories that walk through an opened back door to have a cup of coffee at the kitchen table.

Slow down and notice them.

We may be selling a house but we are not selling the stories that happened in that house.

We’re on a road trip. We are slowing down to notice a lot more than just the two of us sitting in this car. We slow down to notice and talk about the goodness of God demonstrated everyday in our lives and the peace we have through Christ while enduring trials and a life transition.

When we slow down to notice…to remember the stories of God’s forever faithfulness to us, we are filled with awe and flooded with peace.

Stories are like a road trip. The years fly by at high-speed and there are twists and turns and potholes that slow us down. An unexpected and sometimes unavoidable crash stops us cold. We run out of gas. We have a flat tire. We need help with the repairs. We are forced to slow down and notice the grace and love from God, no matter what the circumstance.

So yeah, I want to slow down and notice my husband and family. I want to notice their stories and words, to embrace them and travel with them on a road trip wherever it may lead. I want to slow down and notice the beauty of God’s grace and his majesty…to hear his words. To be embraced and know that I am noticed by God.

Always Awake and Always Keeping: God Works for You

Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved, he who keeps you will not slumber. (Psalm 121:1–3)

Do you need help? I do. Where do you look for help?

Today, I was reminded again that God is the mighty creator over all of our problems. How thankful I am that He never sleeps. God is a tireless worker. He works around the clock to keep our feet from stumbling. God is eager to help and is looking for work to do on our behalf.  “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show his might in behalf of those whose heart is whole toward him” (2 Chronicles 16:9) [1]

Whatever hardship we are facing, it is not a surprise for God, however much it may have hijacked us. For the Lord is our keeper. He will keep our life. He will keep our going and our coming in this day and forevermore. I am amazed that God is working for us!

God loves to show his tireless power and wisdom and goodness by working for people who trust him. And why shouldn’t we trust him? He is the unsleeping ever-keeping God.

Mountains and hills

[1] God Works for You, Daily Devotions by John Piper, May 21

What She Needs Most

winter trees

I have a friend preparing for battle. Actually, it’s the same type of battle she has fought before but this time it’s different, because she is already tired from fighting it for a long time already.  Previously, she had enjoyed a lengthy respite with joy and hope that the good health would last and last and never stop. What she needs most is not to lose her grasp on hope but even more importantly she needs to know most that God has not loosened his grip on her.

But the respite did cease. The ensuing battle has caused her to suit up again with the armor she has worn many times before, so many years ago. Not quite as shiny as the first time she put it on, but still ever so beautiful and true to fit…in perfect design by the one who made it for her. There are some battle scars on the armor, which I hope and pray will remind her of victory and not defeat. If truth be told, she has never taken that armor off. But perhaps it had felt lighter during the wellness years and may seem quite heavy and difficult to wear right now. I want her to believe that the armor is light while resting upon her yet heavy enough to protect her from stinging discouragement and fatigue or the feeling of hopelessness or to be tempted to doubt the promises of God.

Winter Tree

I want her to be brave, once again and suit up in the protection of that spiritual armor. Putting on spiritual armor simply means that she continually clothes herself in the Lord, relying on His gifts and graces through this trial. What she needs most is for her friends to stand firm with her, to help hold the armor in place through prayer.

She is one of the strongest women I know. Perhaps her strength has come from those previous battles and dark storms…her leaning into God, listening to his voice to calm anxiety. No, anxiety sounds too simple of a description. It’s more like a tsunami of everything difficult. I don’t think of God’s voice as being soft and quite, otherwise, how can we hear him over the chaotic noise and pain of the battle rushing and overwhelming us?

God speaks with words and remarkable things happen. What she needs most is to hear God’s loud words, his voice to speak into her storm.  For her to know his presence with her and to have an unreal, supernatural peace from the gospel of grace in her life. What she needs most is to know she is treasured.

She has been a voice of grace words and peaceful comfort to so many in need, reminding them of the strength they have through Christ. What she needs most is the relentless prayers and grace words from friends to lift her up.

Late Spring Tree

She is a warrior. She has hidden so much of God’s word in her heart. Memorized it. Feasted on God’s word and experienced the sweet satisfaction of God forever keeping his promise to give her what she needs most…at the time that she needs it.

What she needs most is not to forget that it will be so.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.  John 1:5


The Whole Armor of God Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God… Ephesians 6:10-18

To Count It All Joy is a Real Life-Change


I’m so thankful to have coasted through life without a major illness, broken bones or high blood pressure, or anything else. I’m never ill and instead of medications in the medicine cabinet there are vitamin supplements. I love to run and work out at the gym but now all of that has come to a screeching halt. I’ve not been able to pick up a thin brush to watercolor paint, nor able to sit at my desk in front of my computer because of excruciating nerve pain. It has not been easy to deal with this trial.

I understand that no one is exempt from difficulties and trials. The business you work for is downsized and suddenly you find yourself facing the trial of how to provide for your family when you are unemployed. We hope our children are given a pass from hardships, but they are not exempt from a serious illness or being bullied by a cruel kid at school. Every individual and family will have their share of trouble and stormy seasons to plod through.

Trials should be expected. But you don’t know where your heart will go until you’ve been hurled into a specific trial that will cause a life-change. This life-change can be one of bitterness and constant complaining or it can be a life-change of joy and perseverance that keeps you in the boat, steadily rowing against the headwind, perhaps exhausted but not without hope. (Mark 6:45-52) There are moments when we’re crying out, “Where is the grace of God?” and we’re getting it. But it’s not the grace of relief, and it’s not the grace of release. Largely, those are to come. We get them in pieces, but largely they’re to come, because what we need right now is the grace of refinement. We better become committed to teach, comfort, preach, and encourage one another. [1]

I’ve been close to losing hope and have the weight of depression over this unfortunate situation. I once wrote a post about being a “Mat Carrier”…the service of intercessory prayers, carrying my friends to Jesus when they can’t walk to him on their own. (You know the story in the bible of a lame man being carried on his mat by four good friends so that he could meet Jesus and be healed.) In my state of despair and weariness, I realized that I am like that lame man in need of help from my family and friends to carry me to God through prayer.

The faithful and consistent prayers of family and friends on my behalf has helped renew my strength to persevere, to be hopeful, to experience more grace from God to stay the course…to be steadfast with rowing, making headway painfully for the wind is against me. (Mark 6:45-52)

I would like to say that I’m a brave person, able to face any challenge, but I’m actually afraid to face the unknown. I’m frequently asked, “How are you doing?”  So, instead of saying that I feel awful, I answer with a brave response which I believe they would rather hear. I think being afraid and wanting to be brave all in the same heart-beat is quite normal. Being angry or sad and asking God, “Where is the grace?” is quite normal. “If you have a body, you are entitled to the full range of feelings. It comes with the package.” (Anne Lamott, Grace (eventually): Thoughts on Faith)

What isn’t normal for me (or perhaps for anyone) is to have my first response to a trial as the apostle James exhorts us to do in James 1:2: …”to count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds.” Contrary to the way many believers sometimes think and act, Christian joy does not mean that we ignore or deny the pain of suffering and grief. Nevertheless, suffering and grief can lead to joy, for trouble provides an opportunity for us to deepen our relationship with Christ and to learn how to walk more intimately with Him. [2]

And there’s the rub! Suffering and grief can lead to joy…there is an opportunity for us to deepen our relationship with Christ and to learn how to walk more intimately with Him. I must make the choice to pray to God for more grace to be able to count it all joy. My life-change is becoming a deeper story of knowing Jesus more intimately and holding on tight to the gospel of grace.

Sure, I’m asking God, “Why now?” and “How long will this continue?”  I don’t know the answers to those questions  but I do know that the key to rejoicing in suffering is to trust that God is good and is sovereign. I am asking God for a life-change of deeper faith, a faith that is not just something I do with my brain (head knowledge) but the way that I live my life. [1] I am not being forsaken. I am not being forgotten. I am being refined. I am loved.

A memory I have from my childhood home is seeing the phrase, “Count it all joy” written on index cards and taped to the fridge, or in the corner of a bathroom mirror or on the dashboard in our car. My mom would also write those words in perfect calligraphy, framed and displayed on our family room wall. My mom suffered through chronic pain and illness for most of her life. Those four words, count it all joy, reminded her that God is good and she will lack nothing. I once read that joy is the best makeup [3] and mom wore it well. Truly, I am depending on more grace from God to strengthen my faith before I can even begin to smear on joy.

The joy is not in the trial but in the work of the gospel transforming and changing my heart. God is giving me more grace, albeit an uncomfortable grace. I visualize myself in that row-boat with Jesus’ disciples, fighting the headwind and struggling to row through the storm.  And there Jesus is, walking on the water towards me.  “I AM” is here! The One on whom all the covenant promises rest. The One who’s the same yesterday, today, and forever. The One who created the world by spoken word. The One who holds it together by his power. The One who is sovereign over every experience I will ever be in. The “I Am” has invaded my life by his grace. [1] This testing of my faith will produce steadfastness and I will lack nothing.

Throughout life, our faith must grow. We start with a small faith, but as we live the Christian life our faith becomes stronger, enabling us to trust God more and more. As the disciples once did, so too must we ask God to increase our faith (Luke 17:5). This He will do by bringing us through various trials so that our faith will produce the steadfastness of perseverance, guaranteeing that our sanctification will be complete. [5]

I’ve been writing this blog post for a few weeks, already, taking a few quick moments here and there to type a few lines or to share a few quotes from authors and pastors that communicate my thoughts precisely. This trial is not over and is bound to change in time, in some way. What will never change, however, is God’s gift of grace through the Lord Jesus Christ. His grace is filling and satisfying my faith. God’s grace is enabling me to count it all joy. That’s a real life-change!

God will take you where you haven’t chosen to go in order to produce in you what you could not achieve on your own. ~Paul David Tripp
Count it all joy…when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4 ESV)


 [1] The Difference between Amazement and Faith |Faith is not just something you do with your brain; faith is the way that you live your life. | Paul David Tripp. [2] Counting It All Joy | Reformed Bible Studies & Devotionals at Ligonier.org.  [3] Anne Lamott  [4] Anne Lamott |Grace (eventually): Thoughts on Faith. [5] Trials of Various Kinds | R.C. Sproul