She has always known me best, this best friend of mine. For years she has picked out my music, recommended some of my favorite authors and sent me gifts I cherish. The retro journal. The cigar box purse. The necklace with the chieftain, the turquoise cross and the words create and inspire – all a nod to my home and my heart.

So, when I opened her latest box and saw the book of Puritan prayers, I knew.

I knew if Ang had mailed it to me, I needed to read it.

And so I began.

The preface tells me the “strength of Puritan character and life lay in the practice of prayer and meditation.” Often they wrote down their prayers and devotions, scribbled down what God was doing in their souls. And when difficult times came, when their faith was tested, they read and they remembered all that God had done.

Then, the editor, the late Arthur Bennett, shares “The Valley of Vision,” the prayer that stopped me from turning the next page. The prayer that won’t let me go.

LORD, HIGH AND HOLY, MEEK AND LOWLY, it begins. Let me learn by paradox, it pleads.

that to have nothing is to possess all,

that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,

that to give is to receive,

that the valley is the place of vision.

I’ve never pushed vision and valley together in my mind. Maybe that’s the whole point. The paradox.

I imagine vision comes on the mountaintop, where all can be seen and celebrated. But maybe vision has its place in the valley, like light in the darkness. Maybe, when difficult times come, vision is more important than ever.  Maybe vision is what pulls us to the next mountaintop.

Or maybe, when we’re at our lowest, the only way to look is up. No distractions to the left. No distractions to the right. Only up. Only God.

And maybe that is the clearest way to see.

What do you think about the valley being a place of vision? How do you interpret that?

Sometimes it isn’t the bad weeks that make my heart race – it’s the busy ones.

The late-night work events. The meeting with the higher-ups. The talk at church. The paperwork piling up at home and pushing against a deadline.

All good things. All things I wanted to do.

Still, I woke up last week feeling nervous and rushed. My drive to work came to almost a complete halt about the time I reached Holy Sepulchre Cemetery and its neighboring road construction. I drummed my fingers and tapped my foot, urging the cars ahead of me to move. I wanted to be really early for work so I could move a few things off my to-do list before my meetings even started for the day. Maybe then I could relax my shoulders a little. Maybe then I could settle in to a comfortable pace.

But instead I drove 3 mph and stopped. Then, 5 mph and stopped again across from stone crosses and angels with their wings spread protectively over graves. Some newer cemeteries don’t allow for tall statues on headstones. Some even ask that headstones be flat and easy to mow around, but I like the older style with its symbolism, with its reminders that God is with us in death.

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img_0742That’s what I’m thinking while my heart and mind are speeding and my car is idling. I’m thanking God for comfort and protection – and for angels of all forms that surround us when we’re hurting and grieving. And just about the time the traffic clears, so does my mind.

If I can trust God in the worst of times, surely I can trust him in the busiest of times.

If God carried me when Daddy died, then a big meeting is nothing in comparison. If powerful angels spread their wings over us when we’re most broken, perhaps they walk alongside us when we’re just meandering outside the lines of our comfort zone.

By the time I reached the expressway, it’s my car that’s going faster and my soul that’s more at rest.

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IMG_0465 (1)It happens to all of us, this in between. We aren’t quite settled where we are, but we aren’t sure what the next step is. So, we’re in between.

You know that tired, old phrase about how when God closes a door He opens a window? Well, that’s fine unless you’re in the hallway, the in between.

It’s not so bad if it’s over quickly – if the hallway from the living room to the kitchen is short. But when it starts to feel like you might as well pitch a tent in the in between? Well, that’s when I start to wring my hands and question. That’s when I start to whine and complain.

And that’s when I have to refocus on one of my favorite parts of the Bible where it says to think about things that are true and lovely. Things that are right and pure. Noble. Admirable. Excellent and praiseworthy.

Several years ago I wasn’t happy with my job but the places I had applied to were taking forever to get back to me. I felt like my entire life was on hold. I was stuck in the in between and the in between was full of nervousness and worry.

For me, the way out of worry like that is to make a list of what is true and what is lovely. What is admirable and excellent.

  • It was true that I had a steady job that covered the bills.
  • It was true that I had a decent amount of experience and would likely be able to find a new job.
  • It was true that God was with me and for me.
  • It was true that my family loved me and was there to offer support.

Do you feel the shift? It is easy to be deceived in the in between because it feels like your foundation is shaky. You aren’t emotionally settled in one place. But focusing on the truth means focusing on the One who built the foundation. The One who calms the storms. The One who loves us and wants the best for us.

If you’d like your own copy of this scripture to print out and have as a reminder, visit French Press Mornings. You can download the scripture here and you can browse more of her work here.

What other things strengthen you when you are worried or nervous?

Family is only as distant as we allow ourselves to be.Brian opened the door for me and I slid into the back seat of a taxi cab for our 10-minute ride deeper into downtown San Diego.

Are you here for business or for vacation, the driver asked as we passed palm trees and then drove by street lamps that curved into modern art.

Both, we answered. I would spend my day attending a conference, while my husband walked to a maritime museum and searched for the best seafood.1cab

2cabI make sure to go on vacation every year, he said. It’s important to get away, and I have family I need to see.

In Denmark. In London. In parts of Canada.

I have about 1,200 family members, he said as we passed a Marriott and a Hyatt. Some people I haven’t seen in 22 years. Some I’ve only spoken to on the phone or on the computer.

“How many brothers and sisters do you have?” Brian asked.

Four brothers and two sisters, he said, before telling us how many children and grandchildren each of them had. And he knew details. How this one wanted a boy after so many girls. How that one told her mother such-and-such.

They weren’t just names written in cursive on the family tree, they were written in his heart. They were family. All of them.

Brian paid him for the ride, and I stepped up on the curb and silently thanked God for the reminder that family is only as distant as we allow ourselves to be.

If you are looking for ways to stay in touch with young friends and family members, I’ve written about that here – and I’ve spent time talking about ways to write more letters, too.

Today, though, the kind people at Kawaii Box are making it easier for one of you to reach out to family. They are giving away a one-month subscription to Kawaii Box, which sends a box each month packed with 10 to 12 cute stationery and kid items from Japan, along with a fun treat to sample.

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If you need a birthday gift, consider a one-time box for $19.80 – or subscribe all year for $17.90 a month. Shipping is included in the cost but consider ordering early if it is a gift. A box that is traveling that far can get delayed or lost. (Their customer service is great and they will help you if run into any problems, but you don’t want a young friend to have to wait!)

So, would you like a chance to win? Click here!

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I quickly learned that only the early get seats at Social Media Marketing World, and the rest line the walls until the fire marshal gets nervous. So, I sat in my seat on the left side of the aisle seven minutes before Park Howell was set to take the stage and show us how to tell better stories.

I was typing out a story of own on my phone when a woman put her bags down and sat in the chair in front of me. Before I could finish and hit send, she had turned to face me and introduce herself.

She started with her name and followed up with where she worked and what she did there. Then came the talk of all the awards they had won recently.

About three minutes in, she asked my name and what I do for a living. I dug for a business card.

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I’m Marketta and I work for a non-profit that serves people with developmental disabilities. We’re also expanding into child care and home health care, particularly for those who are older.

“I’m the caretaker for my mother,” she said.

That’s important work, I replied.

And with the word work, she was back to talking about hers. When the seats filled in to my right, she started the process again.

Striving.

Pushing.

Selling.

It made me, an introvert, feel exhausted on her behalf. I took the woman’s business card and dropped it in my bag, and I turned my attention to the speaker who told us we can’t be the hero of our company’s story. The hero has to be the customer, the one we serve.

The One we serve.

When I cast myself in the starring role, I leave no room for the hero to remind me that I’m already valuable. I’m already heard. I’m already loved by the One who created it all, who says to come to Him to find rest and peace.

Instead I find myself working hard to peddle the idea that I’m worthy. I want my product, my image, my suggestions, to be chosen. I forget the hero, the savior, says I already belong.

Turns out striving, pushing and selling aren’t just terms for marketers and people networking. They’re terms for me when I get the story wrong and carry the weight and the responsibility of the hero – a role I was never meant to play.

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