When my daughter was in kindergarten, I volunteered as classroom mom on a field trip to the pumpkin farm. Students rode trudging ponies around a muddy circle, patted bleating goats in a pen, and chased kittens and piglets around hay bales in the barn.

And I learned a few lessons from herding 40 kindergarteners around the barnyard that day.

Pack a lunch, wear good shoes, and always have an extra pair of glasses. Straw dust and grit invaded my contact lenses, and because I had no mirror or means to wash my hands, I had to make a staggering, half-blind hike to the farmhouse to find a bathroom. If we don’t plan ahead and take care of ourselves, we are not able to take care of anyone else. Anticipating circumstances and giving ourselves what we need frees us to be available and present for others.

Don’t be afraid of the dark. Inside the musty and cavernous barn lurked amazing discoveries: strange old tools, elusive farm cats, secreted hiding places. When we brave uncertainty and explore the unknown, prizes are captured and answers are revealed. Always be willing to step inside and investigate the mysterious, unseen places.

Help someone else carry their burden. Little people who chose a too-large pumpkin to take home, staggered under the weight, often dropping and shattering their prize. We are not meant to struggle with heavy burdens by ourselves. When we work together and help others, we find we can accomplish much more than we can carry on our own.

Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).

Travel where the driver takes you. The day of the kindergarten field trip, we had planned to ride a hay truck into the meadow for a lunchtime picnic, but a sudden rainstorm sent us running for the bus and returning early to school. Instead of lunch in the meadow, we ate on the warm and dry classroom floor. Sometimes our plans change and we encounter circumstances we didn’t expect, but the best memories are made when we are grateful and appreciate every moment together. Sometimes we discover that the surprises of our lives are more fun and interesting than the events we had planned.

This fall I pray you explore the mysteries of the season. Know God is with you every day of the year.

What are you learning about life today? Where is God taking you?

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My daughter and I created our own “On the Edge” masterpieces at one of those “paint your own” places, where a young instructor in paint-spattered sneakers patiently prompted us through the steps. I dried the surface with a hairdryer, then carefully carried the canvas home and hung it on my office wall. It reminds me that when darkness looms and storm winds blow, God remains unmoved. It is by faith that we cling to him and his promises.

When tempests howl and threaten to throw us down from our foundations, there are a few things we can do to stand strong on our faith in God.

Pray. Sometimes it is difficult to praise God in the midst of our troubles, but the Bible says we should thank God for our challenges because hard times increase our strength. Trials produce patience and prepare us for greater work to come.

“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thessalonians 5:18).

Help others. When it seems hardest for us to move forward, it is time to reach out and lift up another person who is struggling. When we know we have people counting on our help, we are given new purpose and reason to forge ahead.

“Through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).

Trust God. When we feel burdened with worry and uncertainty, we can know that God holds every outcome in his hands. We can choose to believe that everything happens for a reason and every circumstance offers us a lesson to be learned.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Believe we are loved. Despite the concerns and struggles of our lives, God’s word declares his unending love and compassion for all people. No matter the depth of the problems we face, we know we cannot be separated from the love of God.

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8:38-39).

Throughout the storms that batter our lives; through death, divorce, disaster, or crushing disappointment; through every time and season of tempest or turmoil, God is ever-present. His love is always promised, and his faithfulness never fails.

Today I pray you hold tightly to the faith that holds us in return.

What helps you hold onto your faith in God? How do you know you have a firm foundation in him?

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“I got one!”

The fish splashed, flipping on the end of the line. I pulled him in slowly, through grasping weeds and past jutting rocks, then held him at arm’s length in an awkward photo pose. Tom carefully removed the hook and returned the tiny, spiny sunfish to the water’s edge. The fish quivered a moment in the shallows before disappearing into the depths.

All afternoon we cast and reeled, celebrating when we got a bite, quietly watching the water when nothing stirred. Hours of waiting left me plenty of time to contemplate how fishing is the perfect metaphor for living a life of faith.

Fishing teaches patience. To fish, we stand for long hours beside a dark and mysterious pool, endure lashing rain or blistering sun, all for the chance to capture a prize. Faith requires willingness to wait through times of storm and shadow, all to receive the promise of our future reward.

Fishing requires courage. To fish, we board tiny boats and brave towering waves, knowing monsters lurk beneath the murky depths. Faith requires fortitude to step onto the water and face roaring storms and churning seas, knowing God quiets the tempest, and the wind and waves obey him.

Fishing demands wisdom. When we fish, we have to know which catch is big enough to keep and which must be returned to swim another day. Faith understands there is a time to gather and a time to release; and when life becomes hopelessly tangled in strangling weeds and debris, we may have to cut bait and start again with a different lure.

Fishing builds hope. When we cast that fishing line, we know that some days the big ones get away and we turn for home with an empty bucket, planning to try again tomorrow. Faith believes that we will always catch enough to fill our needs, and when we push off from shore and row to the middle of the stream, the blessings often leap into the boat and land, wriggling, at our feet.

“Simon said to him, ‘Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless, at your word, I will let down the net.’ And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking” (Luke 5:5-6).

When we listen to God’s command, trust, obey, and act in faith, we discover that we capture more good things than we ask or expect. When we cast out and accept the gifts that swim our way, we often find our nets filled to overflowing.

How do you stay patient while living in faith? How do you build courage, wisdom, and hope?

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