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TODAY’S VERSE TO PONDER: A man’s steps are of the Lord. How then can a man understand his own way? – Proverbs 20:24 (NKJV)

One year ago this month, I moved into Hopeful Cottage.

If you had told me one year earlier that I would be living in a one-bedroom bungalow off a winding country road, surrounded by acres and acres of nothingness, I would have chuckled. I have always enjoyed being close to the modern conveniences of in-town living: a supermarket around the corner, a pharmacy just up the street, the ubiquitous big-box retailer for every other thing a person could need to make it through the week.

The pace of country living had never held much allure for me – until last December. When I discovered Hopeful Cottage, it was purely out of necessity, the need for a warm, safe place to rest my head.

My circumstances had taken a sharp turn from the path I had so carefully mapped out for my life. I found myself sleeping on my sister’s pull-out sofa bed, and I was struggling with exactly what God had planned for me next. I honestly didn’t see much hope for the next several months and prepared to live in a kind of uncomfortable limbo, trying to make the best of a tough situation.

Then, my older sister called and suggested I look into a house she had considered acquiring for herself. She was not quite ready to make a move, and so she gave me the phone number of the home’s owners. I reluctantly made the call and scheduled an appointment to view the little house off the beaten path.

Hopeful Cottage was love at first sight. I was not past the tiny living room before I had decided this was where I wanted and needed to make my home.

Flash forward one year. Here I am, sitting in the bedroom studio where I write this blog and record the Hopeful Cottage podcast. I am surrounded by my books and magazines, mementos from my adventures in community theater, photographs and handbills from my travels to the infectious energy of New York City. Hopeful Cottage has become my very comfortable and inviting home.

Sitting here today in my beloved little home a couple days before Christmas, I found myself flipping through the biblical accounts of Jesus Christ’s birth in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. As I read, I was struck by the fact that Jesus got around more than any baby I have ever personally known.

While still in His mother’s womb, Jesus traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be born, of course, in the stable while his earthly dad Joseph attended to the required census. The Book of Matthew reports that Jesus as a small child was spirited out of Judea to Egypt after an angel instructed Joseph and Mary to flee; their sudden flight spared Jesus from murder at the hands of King Herod. After a few years displaced, Jesus and family made their way slowly back home to Nazareth.

Of course, during His brief adult ministry Jesus Christ would travel up and down the Jordan River valley. Our Savior was mobile, to say the least.

In the Old Testament, God’s earthly children did their share of moving too. At several points in the Old Testament, the children of Israel had to hit the road, often on a moment’s notice. A common refrain is echoed: “A man’s steps are of the Lord. How then can a man understand his own way?” (Proverbs 20:24, NKJV) and “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9, NKJV)

Conversely, the Bible teaches that God gives human beings the free will to make choices that directly affect their lives. If we humans have the opportunity to choose freely, how then can God be directing our steps?

God directs our steps when we freely choose His will; otherwise, we are arrogantly straying off His path into someplace we really ought not go.

God, of course, already knows how the story will end. He has known long before we reach those two roads diverged in a wood what our choices will be, and He knows which direction we will go. It’s hard to wrap our heads around that truth, but we can take comfort in this: Wherever we go, God is already there waiting for us.

Not every road we travel down is going to be pleasant, and not every station along the journey will be welcoming. Yes, we are going to hit bumps in the road. We are going to choose to take some wrong turns, and we are going to end up in places and situations where we feel lost, alone, afraid, and maybe even abandoned by God. But He is always there, even if we cannot see Him in our life circumstances.

Thus, I know it is no accident, certainly no matter of chance, that I ended up here at Hopeful Cottage one year ago. The move has been an adjustment, and at times I have questioned why God led me out here to the country, without central heat and air, no cable television, sketchy internet, and a bathtub that is sometimes slow to drain.

Of course, none of that stuff really matters in the big picture. What matters is that God allowed me to choose my life here at Hopeful Cottage because it is part of His plan for my life. When life seems less-than-perfect, we human beings often forget that truth. But our lack of understanding, our questioning “Why me, God? Why this?” doesn’t make it any less true.

Whatever you’re going through now, wherever you find yourself resting your head, even if it is not exactly luxurious and perhaps seems a few steps down from the life you once enjoyed, take comfort. All your travels, all your destinations, all your displacements and all your temporary shelters – all are designed to shape you and mold you to God’s perfect plan for your life.

So, hunker down, try to stay warm and dry, pray faithfully and wait for God to guide the way home.