new year. new prayer.

I didn’t start 2017 in a particularly good mood.

I usually like to think about fresh, white canvases and blank pages to write a new chapter of our story into on the first of the year.

Instead, I woke up in the thick of post-vacation chaos: suitcases and miscellaneous bags of things strewn all over the living room, piles of mail that needed attention, and kitchen countertops that I think were under the clutter somewhere.

And that’s not to mention the three tiny people in our house who were equally struggling to get back on rhythm.

I had a headache by 9 a.m.

And yet, headache or not (Oh, you thought it would have gone away by now?), the blank page remains. And, it’s not in my nature to ignore it.

It’s so easy for me to get bogged down and frustrated about this phase in my life. And lately, I’ve found myself praying things like, “Please help him sleep,” or “Please calm her down,” or “Please cancel the rest of residency for the year, so Jake can be home all the time to help me.”

And then, this week I was reminded of something I wrote a few months ago about finding value in the hard things.

So, I’ve decided this year, my resolution is to seek change for myself rather than from other people.

When it comes to the sleepless days and sleepless nights (all the coffee over here, people), I’ve decided to start praying for patience and strength and gratefulness that God chose me for these kids.

When it comes to said screaming kids, I’ve decided to start praying for wisdom and that God would help me know our kids, so I can love them well.

When it comes to residency, I’ve decided to keep praying that it would be cancelled because that, at least, seems pretty reasonable.

Solomon asked for wisdom, too. And, as we enter the new year, God’s response to his request gives me hope:

Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind.

in-paradise-1

So that’s where I’m at. Standing on the blank page of 2017 and knowing that when I look back on this chapter in a year, I’ll be a wiser, more patient, and better rested version of myself.

(I can still pray for sleep, right?)

Here’s to another year of choosing to live each day well. Who’s with me?

finding value in the hard things.

If you’re like me, you can pinpoint all the hardest moments of your life. These are the moments that strip us down and force the raw pieces of ourselves to rise to the surface. In my life, these times are marked by seasons of change. Seasons when the dependent variable vanishes, and I’m left with new, uncharted territory.

The beginning of college. My first years of teaching. The journey through medical school. The birth of babies. A move across the country. Residency. The unpredictability of toddlers. Mornings when you realize you’re out of coffee.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my responses to these moments when life strips me down to the nitty-gritty. I’m certainly not trying to make a case that my life is harder than anyone else’s (We’ve got a lot of good things going for us here. My espresso machine, for instance, came through with the win on this coffee-less morning.). But, it seems an unavoidable fact that each season of life comes with its own various challenges. And, the more of them I come up against, the more resolved I am to face them well.norah sandA few months ago, I was dialoguing with a friend about prayer, and she sent me this clip of a Francis Chan sermon from like 8 years ago. It starts with a song, but Chan’s commentary at the end is what has been on repeat in my brain for the last month. Here’s what he had to say:

When we pray, we’re always praying, “God change things” rather than, “God change me.” We want God to change the circumstances and take away all this pain, all these trials, all these hardships rather than God’s plan which is, “No, I want to put some of these things in your life and you need to be praying for yourself that you would grow through these things.”

You see, whenever we have decisions to make, we want God to make it easy, [so we] say, “God why don’t you close all the doors and just leave one open?” [Instead we should say], “God, why don’t you make me incredibly wise, so I know how to make a good decision?”

When trials come, we say, “God, why don’t you change them? Why don’t you fix the situation and take away all the pain? [Instead we should say], “God why don’t you use this time to grow perseverance in me?” […]

Yes, there are times when God changes the situation, but so often, more than anything, God wants us to change and we should be praying for these circumstances that God allows in our lives as opportunities for us to grow in our character and our person.

I can’t get this tiny shift in perspective out of my head.

I know my tendency is to pray for the hard things to end. For ease and consistency and predictability. That bedtime battles will be replaced by compliance or that sibling fights will turn into happy conversations. But what if instead I prayed for patience? Or compassion? Or wisdom to parent my kids the best that I can?

I can’t always change my situation, but I can always change the way I respond to it.lily sand2 This, I am finding, is making all the difference. The realization that I was never promised ease or comfort and the reminder that, if I will let Him, God will use the hard things I face to sharpen me into a better version of myself. It’s not easy to shift perspective in the moment, but it is always worth it when I do.

Now, excuse me while I go attend to the screaming toddlers in the other room. Please send coffee.