The Secret to 20 Years of Marriage

Gina Butz relationships 5 Comments

The secret to 20 years of marriage

photo by

20 years ago, I walked excitedly down a church aisle to my grinning man. Standing on the wooden steps, light streaming in from the high windows, we said our first yeses to one another as husband and wife.

Marriage starts with a yes. We enter in bravely saying, “Yes, I will journey this life with you,” most of us barely knowing what that will really mean.

That first yes is easy. But what is the secret to staying married for the long haul?

Marriage is a million yeses.

We say yes to doing the dishes, getting up with the kid in the middle of the night, mowing the lawn, and a thousand other tasks we would probably rather not do.

We choose to step toward reconciliation when we’ve disagreed, to forgive, to admit wrong.

Decisions are made to deny our own desires, our ways, our plans, and allow someone else’s wants and needs to trump our own.

We overlook the offense, accept the quirks, smile instead of frown at the annoying habit, knowing that the thing that bothers us will probably happen again tomorrow.

Wrinkles, receding hairlines, stretch marks, and pot bellies we accept into the story.

Walking together through the valleys and the challenges, going places we would rather not go, is a choice we make.

We commit to being in their court even if no one else is.

Naked vulnerability, physically and emotionally, becomes part of how we live.

We sign on daily to bear witness to someone else’s ordinary and extraordinary moments.

We say yes to all of this and more.

Sometimes a yes is easy.

It feels like the most natural thing in the world. We say it gladly, as though it was what we were made for.

But other days, a yes is sacrificial, so hard we feel like we deserve a medal for it (note: my husband should have oodles of medals for saying yes to me. He’s on track for sainthood).

Some days a yes asks too much humility, too much vulnerability, when our hearts are already raw. It’s tempting, in those times, to let our yeses become nos. The more we do that, the more our hearts close.

Some days we determine that our spouses don’t deserve a yes, and we’re right. So often they don’t (and neither do we).

But this is where we’re called back to the economy of the Kingdom, which says we have been overwhelmed with what we don’t deserve, and we are called to model our lives and marriages after our Savior. God says yes to us again and again, moving toward us despite our response or worthiness.

Each time we choose to move toward each other, we create a greater space for the other to rest in, a place of acceptance, grace, love, and commitment, of belonging, permanence, and rootedness. The yeses deepen our dependence on each other, claiming ground in each others’ hearts.

Each yes to our spouse is a reflection of the relentless, pursuing love of God.Twitter

This is the opportunity we have, not only in marriage, but in all relationships-to say yes when it’s hard, when we’d rather go our own way, and serve ourselves. We journey well together when we choose to give and move toward each other, holding tight, leaning on each other.

So we keep saying yes, day after day, year after year. That’s the secret to how we got here. And it’s how we’ll keep going.

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Surviving Your Child’s Senior Year

Gina Butz parenting, perspective 6 Comments

Photo by Cole Keister on Unsplash

It’s finally here: our son is a senior in high school. This thought instills in me an equal mix of terror and grief. We have to help our son navigate all the craziness of this year to do the very thing we don’t want him to do, which is to leave us. Cue tears.

I want to do this well, though. Hopefully, we look back and say we navigated this year with grace, wisdom, and hope. We feel like we made the most of it. I’ve been pondering what that might look like, and I’ve decided on four words as our mantra:

  1. Celebrate

    Let’s begin with a hearty celebration for getting to this place. He’s come a long way from the boy who put an unpopped kernel of corn in his own ear because his sister wisely wouldn’t let him put it in hers. He has learned to navigate life in three countries, discovered life passions, learned to drive, held down a job, made deep and lasting friendships, and embraced his own walk with Jesus. This is all worth celebrating.

    But God’s goodness to him has only begun, and it is sure. The word “celebrate” leads us to a mindset of gratitude and expectancy. When we are tempted to be overwhelmed and we need prayer, begin by thanking God for what He is doing.

    And after we plant ourselves in God’s goodness, we need to:

  2. Breathe

    It is easy to look at the business of AP classes and college applications and financial aid, and run for the hills. But getting through this year will be the kind of journey that is “one day at a time,” and probably “each moment at a time.”

    So when it all feels like too much, take a deep breath and be in the moment, both to experience it fully, but also to remember that it’s all going to be ok. This breathing has already begun in our house, in earnest. I’ve grabbed my son by the shoulders and done it with him. Lots of deep breathing happening around here.

    We breathe in God’s strength, wisdom, and guidance in every second. Then breathe out the fears and uncertainty, letting His presence with us be our rock of refuge and rest. Next, we:

  3. Trust

    Easier said than done, but what a great opportunity this year will be to grow in our trust that God is greater than anything we face. The older our kids get, the greater the challenges. We could let that cause us to up the control ante, or we could release the reins altogether. Trust that even though we have to release them more and more, His grip on them is greater than ours, and never loosens.

    Isaiah 26:3 says that the perfect peace we seek for this year is found as we depend completely on the One we trust. And as our school administrator shared with us during orientation, “You feel like you’ve been dropped in the deep end of the ocean. But remember that God is the Creator of the ocean.” He will guide each step. He can be counted on to carry us.

  4. Savor

    When life feels tough, it’s tempting to rush through the stress and exhaustion to reach the finish line, but if we do that, we will miss the journey God has for us along the way.

    Instead, let’s savor every moment. Linger over meals and family times and the last ponderings of each day. Live this year fully present, putting aside our tasks to make space for just being together. Hold each minute just a little longer and recognize the gift it is. We want to slow down time, but if we can’t, at least we can relish it like the richest of fare.

If you’re with me in this boat, let me know. I’d love to hear how you hope to journey well as you launch your child. If you’ve already been through this, I welcome wisdom. If this is your future, it’s never to early to start practicing these attitudes.

Wherever are you on your journey, would you pray for me? With God’s help, we won’t just survive this year, but it will be a year when we experience Him deeply.


Related posts:

As the Ride Winds Down: Thoughts on the Last Moments of Childhood

When You Just Have to Do One Day at a Time 

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When Your Birthday (or any day) Sucks

Gina Butz expectations 5 Comments

when your birthday (or any day) sucks-learning to rejoice in spite of circumstances

photo from

Birthdays are supposed to be great. They’re supposed to be the days when all your wishes come true. But sometimes, well sometimes they just suck.

Our family took a once in a lifetime kind of vacation this summer. On one of the last days, my husband was scrolling through his Facebook feed and said, “Oh hey-it’s my birthday.”

This was news to both of us. Not the most auspicious beginning.

The morning was decent-a long walk around the insanely cool, old neighborhood where we were staying, some quiet reading time. Then we set off for London. It kind of went downhill from there.

We couldn’t find anywhere to eat. We had to keep stopping for the bathroom. Since my husband was the only one registered for the rental car, he had to do all the driving and for crying out loud that country’s not made for driving high speeds. Or two lanes at the same time. Plus, left side. And stick shift. I think we all lost years off our lives navigating those roads. Thank God for a diesel engine because where are the gas stations? Four plus hours of this.

But we had something to look forward to-seeing the new Spiderman movie at a cool old theater (can we just assume everything I’m talking about is cool and old? This includes my husband, wink). And then . . .

We couldn’t find parking, because no one actually drives in London. Or rather, they drive but seemingly never park. We finally found a space, begged a parking permit off a local, and made our way to the theater where we discovered we had shown up for a 6:30 showing that was actually at 7:30. Dejected, we headed back to our hostel, which was seemingly 4 miles away yet took us 30 minutes to drive.

So, dinner. Dinner at-say it with me-a cool, old pub. But we got a late start and most everything in the little town center near us was closed. We found a place called the Snooty Fox which sounded oh so promising. Ah, but no children under 18. They directed us to a restaurant 10 minutes away. It closed at 9. It was 8:50.

Ready to throw in the towel, we found a mini mart where two of us grabbed snacks to eat. In the end, the others got burgers and fries from a sketchy looking pizza joint. And thus ended the lame birthday.

Yep, sometimes your birthday sucks. Sometimes you have the highest expectations for the perfect day and it’s anything but. It rains on your wedding day. It’s 100 degrees at Disney World. You drive 2 hours to take beautiful beach pictures and it’s actually super windy and cold (this may or may not be a true story).

And you’d think we would be ok with that, but there’s something bred into us, woven into the great American dream that “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” means things SHOULD go our way. It’s our right. Especially on our birthdays.

But the passage that came to mind for me as we tramped from place to place was Habakkuk 3:17-18, Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, YET I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

There is always a “yet” when we have God.Twitter

There is always a reason to give thanks, a reason to praise. Because no matter what happens or doesn’t happen, He is still on the throne. Yet, He is good. Yet, He is faithful. Yet, He is with us.

So I try to insert our own circumstances to remind myself, “Though we missed the movie, and the pub wouldn’t let us in, though we spent half the day driving and had to eat mini mart food . . . Yet I will rejoice.” 

Because we still have something that is above and beyond all these worldly hopes. Better than a day at the beach. Better than the happiest place on earth. Better than the best birthday.

We have a life that can’t be taken away by the worst circumstances. We have hope beyond this world. We have freedom and grace. We have joy and peace.

So there’s always a “yet” we can claim. Yet He can do more. Yet He can redeem. Yet He can work. Yet we can rejoice.

The list goes one. We can choose to claim it, even on the worst days.


Related posts:

Where’s Our Hope?

Grace for the Less Than Ideal Days

Finding Home – Guest Post at The Mudroom

Gina Butz home, personal, transition 0 Comments

photo by Andrew Branch

In October of this year, our family will celebrate the fact that this home is the place where we have lived the longest together. The bar is low: our record is only four years and ten months in one location.

My husband and I started our life together in a tiny basement apartment near downtown Minneapolis. We then spent thirteen years in Asia: six homes in two countries. When we moved back to the U.S., we lived another three months with family before settling here. The idea of having a permanent, long term place is foreign to us.

But in place of permanence, my view of home has expanded.

I’m happy to be guest posting again at The Mudroom today! Hop on over there to read how I experience home now. 


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Where’s Our Hope?

Gina Butz expectations, faith, hope 0 Comments

where are you putting your hope?

Photo by Tom Ezzatkhah on Unsplash

I’ve never been an optimist. I don’t like to call myself a pessimist, though. I prefer “realist” because it sounds better. Less of a downer. I just don’t want to be disappointed. Who does? Yet all the time, in so many ways, we hope.

I hope that the light will stay green until I get through it, or there will be good BOGO deals at Publix. I hope that the kids will find something else to do so I can have time to myself, and the key lime pie from last night doesn’t show up on my hips.

Those aren’t so bad. The bar is low. It’s when I hunger for deeper things that it can get dangerous.

I hope that my husband will always be there for me. I desire deep friendships. I long for our kids to grow up to love Jesus and follow Him. I want my life to impact others in a positive way. I would love to avoid pain. I wish all my prayers would be answered in timely and satisfying ways.

That is where hope gets tricky for me, because I know the potential for disappointment is so much greater. These are unpredictable, temporal desires, out of my control. My husband travels and leaves me alone. My friends get busy. My kids have to choose their own way, and it may not be mine. I am just one person amidst a sea of voices. The path of growth often leads through suffering. God has other ways of answering my prayers.

It’s tempting to lower my expectations, play it safe, safeguard my heart.

That’s not where life is though.

So do we stop hoping? Or do we fix our hope on something more solid?

This spring and summer, I have been camped out in the Psalms. I keep coming across verses about waiting on God, hoping in Him. He doesn’t ask us to stop hoping. He just asks us to place it in a different place. We hope not in gifts, but in the Giver.

But what does that look like? For me, I’m learning that it means laying all my desire before Him, acknowledging that they are good and God-given desires.

And then I have to open my hands and release my expectations on how those desires will be met. I trust that He will satisfy me in His time and His ways. Easier said than done.

But when God is the anchor of our hope, we aren’t blown about by the winds of disappointment as easily. We believe that He sees our hearts and knows our ways, and if we don’t get what we want, there’s something better in store. We have Him to come back to, our solid place, when we are disappointed.

Without this, without Him to go back to, I could easily lose hope. But with Him, I am reminded that hope is good. Hope keeps us expectant. It keeps us looking to Him, believing in His goodness, trusting in His love. Hope keeps our hearts open.

In that light, I could be an optimist.


Related posts:

On Waiting Well

Having Hope in a New Season

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Running from God

Gina Butz dependence on God, faith, trials 2 Comments

Are you running from God?

photo by Atlas Green

“What would make you run from God?”

A pastor asked us this question one Sunday as he began a series on the person of Jonah, the poster prophet for running from God.

The pastor suggested we might be tempted to run from a calling to another country, maybe one where westerners aren’t welcome. I found myself surprised that a specific location hadn’t even crossed my mind.

No, for me it’s not “please don’t call me to that place.” My “places” are more internal. Maybe I’m not alone.

We are, at the core, self-centered people, which is the heart of the book of Jonah. God was calling him not just to a place, but to a surrender of the heart. That, maybe more than Nineveh, was the place he didn’t want to go.

So he ran toward Tarshish. Not sure what made Tarshish so appealing. Me, I run too, but in smaller, less obvious ways (because I don’t know how to get to Tarshish).

I run by staying busy, too busy to reflect on my heart, too busy to hear from God.

I run until I feel I’ve given enough, done enough, been enough.

I run from insignificance, from feeling small or forgotten.

I run from silence, where I might encounter emotions or truth I don’t want to own.

I run from being exposed to God, or more aware of my sin, is not a place I want to be.

All places where He is calling me to surrender, to let go of what I cling to that I think is life.

I want Him to call me somewhere else,  some place where I look good and successful and admirable, and I don’t have to own the mess inside.

God calls us to places of surrender in order to do a deeper work in us. For Jonah, it was a big fish for three days. I can’t say how grateful I am that God has never felt He needed to throw me in a whale to get my attention.

For me, it’s places of unanswered prayer, unexpected disappointment, unmet desire, loneliness, trials. Those are places we would rather not be, but they are the places where God can bring us to the surrender that needs to happen for us to go deeper in Christ and further in mission.

This was a good reminder for me, to ask myself whether I am willing to sit in the places where He takes me, rather than trying to scramble out to a more pleasant existence. I need to surrender to His work within me.

What about you? Are you running from Him, or are you surrendering to His work?


Lean In

Why God Won’t Just Make It Easier

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You Are More Than a Number

Gina Butz grace, identity, loved 2 Comments

You are more than a number

photo from Pixabay

Sometime in college, it occurred to me that I was on track to graduate Summa Cum Laude. I only needed a 3.8. Unfortunately, I attended a university that factored minuses and pluses in the grades, rather than straight letters. I had no pluses-only some A-‘s. Those were enough to make me graduate with a 3.79 repeating, and they didn’t round up.

At first, I wanted to justify that number to people. I looked back in regret at a couple A-‘s that could have easily been A’s had I done one thing differently. But after awhile it occurred to me, “No one cares what my grade point was.”

My worth is far more than a number I achieved.

As our son heads into his senior year, we’re thick in the midst of standardized testing, the ultimate “judge you by a number” scenario. Our boy has studied hard, but the results haven’t been quite what he’d hoped. I thought back on my 3.79 repeating, and told him what I know, “You are more than a number.”

Everywhere we look, we are reduced to numbers: what the scale tells us, how much money we bring in, what our grade point average is, our time on that 5K, the number of our social media followers.

People use those numbers to assign value, to decide who’s in and who’s out, who’s worth their time. They use them to put themselves above others, to feel better about themselves, to claim a temporary space in the world.

But we are so much more than a number.

A number is just a snapshot. It is one picture in a huge collage of the whole of who we are. And most of those outward numbers represent transient, arbitrary, and superficial aspects of our lives. They can change tomorrow, for better, or worse. They won’t be true of us in a week, a month, a year.

They are a poor foundation on which to establish our worth.

They do not measure how much we are loved. They do not measure how well we love others. They aren’t a measure of our intelligence, attractiveness, importance, or character.

They do not define what we give to the world. They do not define our gifts or passions. They do not define our worth in the eyes of God. They don’t add or subtract to any of that one iota.

Some numbers are necessary, for a time. That’s ok. Let’s hold them with a grain of salt, though, and remember that they do not name who we are. We are so much more than a number.


Related posts:

When Comparison Tells Us Who We Are

The Lies of “Too Much” and “Not Enough” 

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Faith for the Small Life

Gina Butz faith 6 Comments

faith for the small life

photo by Ray Hennessey

I’ve always been small, the runt of the litter. In all my pictures growing up, I’m the shortest one. People regularly assumed I was a few years younger than I was. In response, I became what you might call “scrappy.” Trying to appear bigger, stronger, more capable than I was.

I still do.

Our kids finished school a couple weeks ago, and, in true Gina form, I made a summer schedule for myself that belies the fact that they still live in our home and require some level of interaction. By the end of the first week, I was disappointed. So much of my time was spent not on the grand plans I had, but on the seemingly mundane tasks of laundry, driving, cooking, and cleaning.

I wanted more to show for my time. Many of us do. We want a broader influence, greater opportunities, upward mobility. Significance is the goal. Ordinary feels mediocre. The world calls us to accomplish visible, important tasks, not the day-to-day.

In contrast, the question was posed once at a conference I attended, “Do you have enough faith to live a small life?”Twitter

Do we have faith that God is just as much at work, just as glorified, just as powerful, in the small things? In us doing the ordinary? Doing less? Do we have faith that we would still be just as important?

Confession: most times, no. I do not have that kind of faith. I suspect many of us don’t.

A small life might ask more faith of me than a grand one.

I want that kind of faith.

In the eyes of the world, most of what I do is not spectacular, nor does it need to be.

So I should embrace my smallness.

I want to live every little moment fully, seeing God in every detail, experiencing His power in my weakness and my limits.

Give me faith, God, to believe that it is enough that You see what I do in secret, that You are honored by my willing sacrifice in the day-to-day.

Make me faithful with little, not that I would then gain much, but simply because it pleases Your heart.

May I be small so that others can be bigger, believing that them having more space does not diminish my worth.

I want to occupy only as much space in this world as God would have me occupy, no more, no less.

We might be small in the eyes of the world, but in those ordinary moments we can live lives that glorify Him when we do it willingly, joyfully, and with faith that it is enough.

“He must become greater, I must become less.” John 3:30

Related posts:

Redefining Success

A Willing Sacrifice

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Why I Love the Enneagram (And You Should Too)

Gina Butz growth, personal 4 Comments

Why I love the Enneagram

photo by Michael D. Beckwith

About 8 years ago, when I was coaching a leadership program for our ministry, the other coaches began pulling out these “Enneagram” books. Having a love/hate relationship with personality tests, I was intrigued. I skimmed one of the books, saw myself in half of the 9 numbers, and came to the quick conclusion that the Enneagram is a crock.

But those other coaches were wise people, so I persisted. I narrowed myself down to 1, 3, or 4. My friend, Iris, who is an Enneagram 3, suggested that I was also a 3. Secretly, I wanted to be anything other than a 3.

So I decided I was a 1. I texted Iris this news, and she texted back, “if you say so.” She was unconvinced.

A few weeks, and several conversations with close friends later, I came to the conclusion that I am, in fact, an Enneagram 3.

This was devastating to me. I called Iris, in tears, “Iris, I’m a 3!”

She said, “Oh honey, I know . . . when I realized I was a 3, I was up all night. And in the morning, I thought, ‘if I’m a 3, it’s cause God made me a 3, and that’s a good thing!'”

“Ok,” I choked.

Since that conversation, I have not only embraced my 3ness, but the Enneagram itself.

So why do I love the Enneagram?

  1. The Enneagram doesn’t just tell us what we do; it tells us why we do it.

    If we want to grow or change at all, we have to know the motivation behind our behavior. (this is also a reason why it can be challenging to figure out which type we are-it gets below the surface).

  2. The Enneagram doesn’t just tell us where we are; it tells us where we could be.

    This isn’t a static assessment. Each of the 9 numbers has levels of maturity, so although you’ll never be a different number, you have a vision for growth within your type.

  3. The Enneagram is nuanced.

    While there are 9 types on the Enneagram, there are subtypes, wings, integration and disintegration, on top of the levels of maturity, that all reveal our uniqueness. So you and I might both be 3s, but we can still be our own people. It captures our complexity.

  4. The Enneagram helps us see our depravity.

    Yes, I know that doesn’t sound like much fun, but it’s necessary. Because if we can’t see how we’re trying to save ourselves and bring it to God, then we miss redemption. You know why I didn’t want to be a 3? Because I recognized the depravity of a 3, and I didn’t want to own it (guess what-every number has depravity. We can’t escape it).

  5. The Enneagram shows us how to love the people around us.

    It’s revolutionized our marriage by helping us both see the deeper motivations behind our behavior. Recognizing our kids’ numbers helps me understand what drives them and how to speak into it. Knowing my friends and co-workers on this level helps me see life from their perspective and speak their language.

  6. The Enneagram can lead us back to God.

    Each number has a root fear that drives it. The more we let God speak to our root fear, the more rested and free we are to live our true selves. When I see myself acting out very typical 3 behaviors, it gives pause to say, “What am I trying to get from others that I should be looking to God for instead?” It opens our eyes to our self-saving strategies.

They say our Enneagram type is the lens through which we see the world. Our lens will never change, but the more we understand our own lenses, the more we will recognize how we are trying to do life on our own, and how God is calling us to live more freely and expansively. And, we can develop compassion and grace for others who see the world through a different lens.

So that’s why I love the Enneagram. If you’re interested in learning more about it, I encourage you to check out The Road Back to You, by Cron and Stabile, or The Wisdom of the Enneagram, by Riso and Hudson. Or check out The Enneagram Institute.

Or just talk to me. Give me a little time, and I’ll have you loving the Enneagram too.

Related posts:

Drop the Hot Dog-Learning to Feed on What Truly Satisfies

A Story of Two Houses

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On Waiting Well

Gina Butz dependence on God, faith, hope, prayer 0 Comments

waiting on God

photo by Ales Krivec

I might be the most impatient person in the world. I hate waiting for anything. This video’s going to take a minute to load? Not worth it. I have to wait how long for this to cook? Not if I turn the temperature higher.

Don’t even get me started on the big stuff.

Like waiting to see my book published. It seemed like the process was going quickly, like, “other authors might hate me if it’s this easy” quickly. And then it wasn’t. The process is still moving, but oh so slowly. I’m still waiting to see what God will do.

Or this decision we have to make. Our family has prayed about it for months. It’s door 1 or 2. That seems simple. Waiting for an answer is agonizing. We want to know now.

Unfortunately, God seems uninterested in our timelines. He doesn’t usually do fast, especially when it comes to spiritual growth, character change, answering the big prayers, or making the dreams happen.

But Psalm 130:6 says, “I will wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.”

A night of watching and waiting sounds like drudgery. Unproductive. Frustrating. It flies in the face of my impatience.

Waiting like this means we are helpless. We can’t make that sun come up one minute faster.

It begs humility from us. It requires us to relinquish control. It asks us to trust. It asks us to hope.

I’ve heard the word “wait” in scripture is often interchangeable with “hope.” This verse is asking us to put all our chips on God, all our hope in His goodness.

But hope is scary. Hope opens up our hearts to disappointment.

Yet this is the stance I want to take towards God. I want to be someone who waits well. Twitter I want to be a woman who hopes.

When I read this verse, I think of the watchtowers on the Great Wall of China. I imagine those watchmen putting all their hope in the dawn. Sunrise meant relief – the end of their watch. It meant rest, and rescue. It was a sure bet, that sun coming up. It was hope well placed.

Waiting keeps us dependent on God.Twitter

These months of waiting have tethered us to God. It has been a long night, but it has been a night spent watching and hoping, expecting that He will answer. The night is when we are tempted to doubt, to become anxious, to wonder if He really is paying attention, if He cares. We’re tempted to take matters into our own hands (as if we can rush the morning).

But the night is when our souls learn to trust.

Because morning is coming. Whether it’s the answer to prayer, or the heart change, or the character growth, or the dream fulfilled, He will come. As surely as the sun rises, He comes. 

No, not always the way we want. Often not the way we want. But the way we need, yes. He is worthy of our hope.

And, I’m learning, God seems more concerned with the process than the product. He’s more intent on our dependence than our destination. The night is not wasted. That’s where He causes hope to grow and trust to take root, where He wants to quiet our souls and fix our eyes on Him.

So let’s be people who wait well. The sun will come.

waiting on God

Me practicing watchtower waiting on the Great Wall

Related posts:

What I’ve Learned about Seeking God

Having Hope in a New Season

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