Unforced Rhythms of Grace

My sister Judi in 2001

“Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” – Jesus, as quoted in Matthew 11:29 (The Message)

I’d been teaching full time and writing part time for a local newspaper for years. With the youngest in college and the older two on their own, now was the time to pursue my dreams.

While teaching was my passion, I wasn’t finding fulfillment in covering school board and county commissioners meetings and election results. And while I loved the camaraderie of the newsroom staff, getting up early Saturday mornings to drive 45 minutes in all kinds of weather to type obituaries wasn’t getting me any closer to my writing goals.

Of course I ignored the signs of dissatisfaction and pushed on. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?

Then a post-operative blood clot took the life of my only sister just when we were getting close again. I didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye. She was only 55.

I shivered on the love seat for days, in shock.

These things change you. Change the way you think about things. Change the way you live.

Change—it’s foisted on all of us. Whether we welcome it or not.

The key to surviving it is to look to God, knowing He has a plan and purpose for us (Jeremiah 29:11, Psalm 139:16), knowing He takes the rough draft of the chapters of our lives and revises them so they shine (Romans 8:28) and lead to the ending He has planned. And knowing that if we follow our Shepherd, we will arrive at that ending without burning ourselves out.

But I hadn’t been stopping long enough to listen to God.

My sister’s death was a wakeup call—to pause in my headlong rush to fulfill my dreams and be all things to all people, and determine where I was truly headed.

Davis Bunn, in his 40-day devotional The Turning, writes, “When we read, we give no notice to the spaces between the words. And yet those pauses are vital. Without them, there is nothing but a senseless jumble. With them, thoughts are unique, words are clear, ideas fashioned, lives transformed. So it is with the brief pauses we make to stop and listen. Our thoughts and actions take on new clarity.”

And so it was for me. If I were to die suddenly in my mid-fifties, I thought, would I have realized my dreams? Within a week, I resigned from the newspaper job.

I still get too busy, lose focus, and drift away from God’s path for me. It’s refreshing to pause, still the clamor of life, rest and recharge spent batteries.

“Are you tired? Worn out?” Jesus says. “Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace” (Matthew 11:28–29, The Message).

I’m a slow learner, Lord. I have to force myself to slow down. Sometimes my body, mind, and spirit are just too exhausted to push on. Remind me often to pause to reflect, rest, and recharge. Amen.

Read and reflect on Psalm 23.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Finding Joy Again



For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8–9 NIV

I’d been feeling poorly for nearly a year—stressed, down, tense—living in a gray world. I’d lost my joy and didn’t know how to get it back. I wanted it back. Oh, how I wanted it back.

One day, feeling particularly overwhelmed, I told God, “Everything I’m doing—writing, preaching, teaching the women’s Bible study, the two boards on which I serve—I give it all back to You. I’m taking everything off my plate. You put back what You want on there.”

Now, I’m a believer in open and closed doors. That’s how God directs me. I figured He’d close the doors to what I’m not supposed to be doing. So I kept on keeping on and forgot all about that prayer. Until Monday.

I was canning tomato juice when I remembered.

Perhaps it was because, despite the exhaustion and body aches, I had such joy as I gazed at those filled jars lining the countertop and heard the pop of the lids as they sealed. I hadn’t experienced such a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment in a long time.

I made the connection. And I was aghast.

“Lord, is that why I have no desire to write fiction? Why the joy has gone out of it? Why the passion for it is missing? This is the one thing You didn’t put back on my plate.”

I didn’t expect this! Writing fiction was something I did for me. It was such fun running with the muse. Yet the muse had been AWOL for quite some time.

“Lord,” I prayed, “if this is what You want, help me. Make me willing to be willing.”

I thought of my readers who have told me how much they love my books and all who have encouraged me. And I thought: Am I writing fiction to please them or to please God? And I realized the answer was “them.”

The next day I had peace about it. I sensed the Spirit telling me it’s just for a season. I’m taking a hiatus, not hanging up my fiction writing spurs.

Remember how God led the Israelites through the wilderness to the Promised Land? The cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night—when the cloud/pillar moved, they moved. When it stopped, they stopped.

Perhaps I need a season to heal emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically. They’re all connected. When you’re hurting in one of those areas, the rest are affected.

I’m taking this hiatus one day at a time. I still have the desire to learn the craft of writing fiction and to hone my writing skills. But I’m okay with not writing fiction until the cloud/pillar moves.

When I shared this story with a friend this past week, she asked me, “How did you get peace?”

“God poured it in me,” I said, “at the point of submission.”

God has a plan, and I need to follow His and not mine. His way. His time. That’s the only way to peace and joy.

“Not my will, Lord, but thine be done.”

One day God’s going to nudge me back to that novel I didn’t finish. It will be fun. I will be exhilarating as I joyfully run with the muse again.

Thank You, Lord, for reminding me that Your way is the only way to peace and joy. Amen.

Extra Tea: Read and meditate on Isaiah 55:8–13