We hit a new low in our home this week. On Monday, strong grace led me to a place I never wanted to go.
But First The Deer
But I’m not writing for sympathy. I’m writing to tell you that the God is good. He gives peace. He gives rest. I’m not whistling Dixie.
I had not been in a court room since jury duty 14 years ago. For love’s sake, Monday I went.
But first, the deer. I was dressing for court when I glanced out the bedroom window and saw her.
The little deer wandered through, perused the blooms, then nestled right in. She lay down. The fawn found rest in those bright white daisies.
Then The Rest
As she did, I stole over and snapped these. I heard a few short snorts. Mama was near.
Five minutes later, I was was on the way to the courthouse. That story is still unfolding. This chapter is more soul-stretching than any God’s granted me yet. I won’t sugarcoat.
But I will say, God gives rest. He is the Prince of Peace. His anxiety cure is tried and true. I lie down and sleep in peace. He provided this quiet fawn moments before my hard hour on a harder bench. I don’t think I’m in denial.
I just want you to know God’s Word is true.
5 Favorite Rest Verses
Which verse can you take for your own? Or is there another you go to? Would you drop it in the comments?
1. My soul finds rest in God alone my salvation comes from him. Psalm 62:1
2. Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden and, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
3. In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell and safety. Psalm 4:8
4. You will keep in perfect peace whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3
5. The Lord is my shepherd I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters. Psalm 23:23:1-2
Will you lean into these? With me?
Lean In, Lie Down, And Sleep
I know this water might get faster, deeper, stronger. I might sink lower. After Monday, I’d be naive to think we’re clear sailing.
Maybe this one beautiful life is a grand unpeeling, humbling, coming down. Maybe this is the gift.
The layers keep coming off. Parenting peels. I can’t count the judgmental, “My child would never do…never say…never those grades,” layers that have been stripped away.
Three years ago I couldn’t have imagined. Time froze the first time the attendance office called. It froze again last Monday the moment I realized that for the first time in months, the call office had not called. I couldn’t have imagined the hard choices we’d be forced to make, the big plans we’d have to change, the full reframing of how family life would look.
I couldn’t have imagined so many layers peeling.
It’s more than parenting. It’s seeing my part in what is, like King David saw his part in his lot. And in trusting that God is always working, freeing, peeling for good in his children’s fraught days.
Always. Which is why, if you’ve run into me lately, you might have heard me hum.
But it’s not just epic events. It’s seeing the spot on your shirt and spinach in your teeth after you were out. It’s realizing your skills aren’t as all-that as you thought and that you really do need help.
But more, it’s feeling what comes with all that—all that humbling, peeling, coming down—as a gift. It’s bowing and bending and turning without resenting. It’s seeing the ruins fall as freeing not devastating.
In C.S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader—the book that opens with the best line, “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”— I see me. And I see the gift.
Eustace is a proud, selfish boy at the start of the story. On one of the islands, he steals away to a dragon’s lair. On goes a golden bracelet and off Eustace goes off to sleep. Lewis writes, “Sleeping on a dragon’s hoard with greedy, dragonish thoughts in his heart, he had become a dragon himself.” The bracelet digs into his large dragon leg, and his dragon claws can’t get it off.
After lonely, agonizing dragon days, Aslan leads him to a large well. Eustace figures that if he could get in and bathe it would ease the pain. But Aslan tells him to undress first.
He tries. But no matter how many layers of dragon skins Eustace manages to peel off, he was still a dragon.
The Pleasure of Feeling the Stuff Peel Off
Here Eastace explains what happened next.
Then the lion said – but I don’t know if it spoke – ‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.
The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know – if you’ve ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away. … Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off … And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on – and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again…
– C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Perfectly delicious, swimming and splashing—doesn’t that sound freeing?
Oh sure, it hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.
‘Tis the gift.
‘Tis the Gift to Come Down to Where We Ought to Be
Now if you see you see me around town and hear me humming, you’ll know my story.
It’s the unfolding, ongoing story about the simple gift that can feel as painful as the undragoning of Eustace and the multi-layered peeling of an onion, but is in fact as delightful and freeing as can be. You find it in the valley.
By now you know. The gift is humility. It’s being freed from the tyranny of me.
God in His wisdom means to make something of us which we have not attained yet, and is dealing with us accordingly. Perhaps he means to strengthen us in patience, good humour, compassion, humility, or meekness by giving us some extra practice in exercising these graces under specially difficult conditions. Perhaps He has new lessons in self-denial and self-distrust to teach us. Or perhaps He wishes to break us of complacency, or unreality, or undetected forms of pride and conceit.
Perhaps His purpose is simply to draw us closer to Himself...
—J.I. Packer, Knowing God
Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.
Would you rather listen than read? Great! Here’s the link to the Keep On With Abigail Wallace podcast.
I’m not good at letting go. Sometimes I hold on to dreams that aren’t God’s plan for me. For better and for worse, I am the bee—the busy bee that won’t rest until it extracts sweet nectar from every flower. I look for the good.
But I am also the frantically, futilely buzzing bee,*
That booms against the window-pane for hours
Thinking that the way to reach the laden flowers.
Yes, for better and worse, I am that bee. I hold on to dreams that aren’t God’s plan for me. I’m not good at letting go.
Triggers and Portions
This May everything triggers me. Because this spring more of my long-term, sweet parenting dreams have been dashed. Which means every graduation picture, academic award, and smiling family is a trigger. God’s good gifts to others are not guaranteed to me. They’re not my portion.
But what is a “portion” anyway?
In the Bible the term was sometimes translated “inheritance,” as in the allotment of land God gave to Israel when they entered the Promised Land. All the tribes received a physical space, land to call their own—all except one.
In Deuteronomy 10:9, we read about the priestly tribe whose portion was not land, but the LORD. “Therefore Levi has no portion or inheritance with his brothers. The Lord is his inheritance, as the Lord your God said to him.”
The Bible has a lot to say about the Lord who is our portion.
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;you hold my lot. Psalm 16:5
You are my portion, Lord; I have promised to obey your words. Psalm 119:57
I cry to you, Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Psalm 142:5
My flesh and my heart may fail,but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,“therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3:24
I want to count it joy that the LORD—not successful sons, or a famous husband or a thriving ministry— is my portion. My chosen portion. I want to believe, I do believe, what Elisabeth Elliot said, that what God does to me, he does for me.
Which means I must stop buzzing at the window and choose to hope in him to receive the lot for me.
How to Reframe Pain Points to Trigger Your Joy
This blog is for softer, stronger saints who embrace—not just survive, but embrace; not just go through, but grow through—God’s sometimes uncomfortable grace. It’s about a faith that can reframe trials as joy. It’s about using our pain points—like upbeat posts of what is not our lot—to prompt us to take joy in what is our assigned portion.
This is just another way we count loss as gain. We do feel the loss, and can grieve what is not. But then we do the 90-second reset, and reframe the pain with a truth script. It might sound something like this:
The Lord is my portion. I will sit at Jesus’ feet. I choose the good portion that can never be taken (Luke 10:42).
By grace and with effort, we can use the triggers to push us to the One who is wisely working all things (Ephesians 1:11, Romans 8:28) and who will perfect that which concerns me (Psalm 138:8). We can choose to renew our minds with truth.
I used to think letting go was weak and grasping dreams was strong.
To be sure, sometimes clinging is strong—like when Abraham “hoped against hope” that he and Sarah would bear a promised child. But Abraham had a sure and personal promise from God. These sort of dreams we must never release.
But I’m talking about my personal dreams, the ones that become nightmares as they crumble.
Mary Lowman explored the “the gift of letting go” in her podcast this month. She says letting go of these five things—our past, the small stuff, the desire for revenge or have control, and, yes, our dreams—is both freeing and peace-giving. I agree.
But there’s one more thing she said keeps looping through my head. It did when, in my garage, I heard that buzzing bee. When I let go of a dream, I realized how much of my pain was self-inflicted. Which reminds me of what Jonah prayed in the fish’s belly, Those who cling to worthless idols [read: my mama dreams] forfeit the grace that could be theirs.
This month I feel that. And I don’t want to forfeit God’s grace.
The Strength Of Letting Go
Now I see strength of character revealed in those who let go of personal dreams. They don’t cling.
These friends have freedom and peace. They refuse to allow a dream hold their joy captive. They refuse to let “the givens” and “the not givens” steal their peace. These people live like the Lord is their portion—not will be their portion, but is, right now, today.
Whether or not a husband, wife, or children, health, wealth, or house, graduation or award are given, these meek people have chosen their lot and in it, they find peace.
These quiet, strong saints know how to let go.
Not Mine To Hold
Elizabeth Elliott wrote,
I know of no greater simplifier for all of life. Whatever happens is assigned. Does the intellect balk at that? Can we say that there are things which happened to us which do not belong to our lovingly assigned portion? Are some things then, out of the control of the Almighty?
Keep A Quiet Heart
Heaven is not here, it’s there. If all my dreams were fulfilled this side of heaven, I might settle for this world rather than the next. I forfeit God’s grace if I keep buzzing at the windowpane, if I don’t let go of my dreams.
I don’t hold my lot. The Lord holds my lot. He is my portion. In him, not in my accomplishment or my sons’ success, is my portion.
The portion he gives is best. So I will let go, trust God and rest.
What rolls off your tongue when you’re in trouble? What comes out when you’re in a prison or a cave? How do you pray?
Like A Song, It Came
“Help me,” “Heal us,” and “Have mercy,” are desperate prayers my God has heard lately. There’s also been that prayer for a prodigal.
But last night, these words came. Like lyrics from songs we sang in eighth grade, they came.
Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.
That’s the last verse of Psalm 142, “Of David. When he was in the cave.” David prayed those words when he was literally in a cave, hiding from a hostile King Saul who literally sought to end his life.
I’d just texted a few friends to ask them to pray, another SOS. Please pray that God will bring peace to our family.
Then Psalm 142 verse 7 came, like ROYGBIV and All Cows Eat Grass and The Doxology.
Like a familiar, overlearned thing it came. The Spirit sent it and it came.
Because that verse was a go-to prayer during the decade of gut-wrenching infertility, a heart-wrenching church split, and marriage conflict that came along for the ride. Those felt like a prison that I couldn’t escape. I felt helpless and hemmed in.
David’s prison was a cave. He hid in a hole in the rocks to save his life from hostile King Saul. Derek Kidner explains, “the strain of being hated and hunted is almost too much, and faith is at full stretch.”
Psalm 142 teaches us how to pray when we feel trapped and out of control, when we see no way of escape from our dark cave of troubles. It is a psalm of lament, it is a psalm crying out to God.
My prison is not a cave. It was my “decade of troubles.”
But today I felt trapped and helpless again. As if there was nothing I could do to escape hostile, hateful words from someone I love, nothing I could do to help him know how much he is loved. I didn’t feel hunted but I did feel hated.
So for freedom, I prayed.
That I May Praise Your Name
During that decade of troubles, I loved to pray this phrase of Psalm 142. Because it grounded my prayer. It turned it from being just about me and my pain to the Lord and his praise.
Bible commentator Albert Barnes, explains, “Not merely for my own sake, but that I may have occasion more abundantly to praise thee; that thus [you] may be honored; an object at all times much more important than our own welfare.”
In other words, we ground our cries for help in the glory and praise of God that will come when he frees us from our prisons. Bring my soul out of prison, not that I may live more comfortably, or insure my physical safety and financial security, but that I may praise your name.
The Righteous Will Gather Around Me Because of Your Goodness to Me
The Hebrew verb for “praise” means to confess or acknowledge. David wants to extol God’s power, goodness and mercy in the company of the saints. In other words, he wants God to answer his prayer so that he can glorify God publicly.
Here, Derek Kidner notes, David “dares to visualize the day when he is no longer shunned or hunted, but thronged, or even crowned.” David visualized a good end. In Christ, with him as our refuge and portion (verse 5), we can be sure of a good end (Romans 8:28). But we can’t be sure when.
I believe we have biblical warrant to take our cues from David and visualize a good end.
Do you visualize how answered prayer would look? Because it does seem like that’s what David is doing. He’s picturing his faithful friends, like the friends I texted who pray, coming around him and rejoicing at God’s goodness to him in freeing him from prison.
David’s visualizing is hoping.
So in hope, I pray.
Faith Joined By Hope
David’s faith was tested in the cave. It was “at full stretch,” as Kidner said. But it was “undefeated, and in the final words it is at last joined by hope.”
Sixteen years ago, God broke me free from a childless prison. Six years ago, he brought me out of an estranged prison. Today, God is building our marriage. I am a prisoner of hope.
Now I am visualizing deliverance. It’s hard, but I picture a day when the relationship filled with hurt and hate is marked by love and laughter. Then the righteous will gather around us and celebrate because of God’s goodness to us.
Friend, tell me if I can pray for you. Because I’d like to get in on the party. Because there will be a party.
We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.