When You Need a Moment

I had braced myself for “no.” Or so I thought. I had stepped out in faith and taken a huge leap. I had prayed and prepared and felt God beckoning me beyond what was possible with my own eyes. He had opened doors, I thought. He had given me vision, I thought.

But when the “no” came it was so much bigger than any of the contingencies I had worked out in my mind. My heart was crushed. My soul felt wounded. I wept. I felt the numb of shock. I felt the death of a dream.

Deep down, I wrestled with this feeling. What kind of faith do you have if one little “no” turns you into a weepy mess? You said God was the God of Impossible Things and yet here you lay on your couch crying because the steps outlined to make the “no” a “yes” are completely impossible. Some faith. These words mocked me even as I could not deny the sorrow that swept over me.

And then I realized, I was grieving. Not grief like when my husband died, but grief none-the-less. I was grieving the loss of this dream. Not forever but for right now, this second in time, what I had dreamt of happening would not be happening. I remembered words I had written and shared with others: Grief does not equal doubt. Weeping for what was lost, what was dreamed of, what was anticipated, does not make your trust in His will diminished. It simply means you need a moment to feel sad before you step into whatever He has in mind instead.take a moment

Too often we imply to Christians dealing with sorrow that this feeling is wrong. Too often we say they should rely on the joy of the Lord for their strength and that we should shake off a spirit of heaviness for the joy of gladness. Too often we equate sorrow with faithlessness.

But Jesus wept.

It’s one of my favorite verses in the Bible. Jesus wept. He knew their sorrow was temporary. He knew he was about to raise Lazarus—dead for many days and already in a tomb—back to life and yet he wept. He shared their sorrow at their deep, real, tangible loss.

I’ve heard it preached he wept because they had no faith. I think that’s bunk. I think the compassionate Son of God wept with them because grief often needs to be experienced before healing can come. I think he took a moment with them to let sorrow do its work. Oh but then he did something amazing.

Sometimes we need a moment to mourn our loss before we can dry the tears, pick ourselves up off the dirt, shake the dust from our garments, and ask God, “Ok, then, what now?” Taking that moment does not lessen who God is or our trust that He is faithful. Taking that moment can mean letting go of our ideas so that we are open to what He has in mind.

Even Paul wrote, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NIV emphasis mine) We will get knocked down but it does not need to destroy us.

So today if you are mourning a loss—no matter the size—feel it. Don’t get stuck there forever, but let grief do its work so you can shake off the dust and get back up. Let yourself feel sad for a moment in time. Then dry those tears and give the broken pieces of what was hoped for, dreamed of, anticipated, to the God who has something better in mind.

(You’ll notice the graphic has my new website on it. Stay tuned for it’s release date. I’m still working out the design bugs. You, my faithful followers will be the first to know when it goes live.)

Writers, You Can Do It!

The journey to become a real, live, bonafide author is anything but uncomplicated. Last year I had the incredible privilege of attending She Speaks conference in North Carolina with 699 other excited women of faith ready to offer God their talents in the areas of speaking and writing. Though the conference organizers and speakers did an amazing job of encouraging us with wisdom about trusting God and letting him direct our paths, they also informed us.

shespeaks

Check them out on Facebook at She Speaks

They taught us things about the necessity of public platform and the process a book takes to be published. They taught us about all a potential publisher wrestles with in her/his mind before they even take your proposal to look at. Things like what audience you’ll reach and how well this could sell. Things like all the books they have sitting in a warehouse that didn’t sell and whether your book is going to join those.

I can tell you my friends it is an overwhelmingly terrifying abundance of details! It can suck the creative life right out of you.

I made friends there with amazing women—gifted women from Texas, Minnesota, Iowa, Colorado, and so many more places. Several of us have been wrestling together with the overwhelming realities of publishing in this social networking age. How do I create a public platform? How do I pitch my idea for a book sufficiently to convince a publisher I’m a risk worth taking? How do I get enough followers on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and a blog so that they see I have a persona resonating with the public?

The process of becoming a published writer is not simply about being a good writer anymore. It is so much more and can be so overwhelming.

As my friends and I have tried to build this thing called platform and figure out how to balance that with our everyday, time-consuming, budget-strapped lives, we’ve shared our journey. We’ve asked for prayer for God’s direction. We’ve encouraged one another with reminders of things we learned. We’ve experienced the power that comes in taking leaps of faith and learning to trust God for next steps.

Ah. Therein lies the answer.

Time and again we’ve returned to the encouragement we received at the conference from amazing authors and speakers. These quotes are from my notes:

“God’s trust in me will take me further than anything.” – Christine Caine

“God chooses. You don’t have to strive when you’re being led by the Shepherd. All I have to do is prepare.” – Christine Caine

“I have already got what it takes to be who he created me to be and do what he has called me to do.” –Renee Swope

“Never underestimate the power of how God wants to use the offering I bring.” –Renee Swope

“Share universal faith with the lens of your own life.” –Kathleen Kerr

“Provision follows God’s plan.” –Lysa Terkeurst

“You aren’t seeking the spotlight on yourself. You are seeking to be a vessel that shines the amazing light of who God is through you.” –me encouraging an introvert writer

I’ve taken a few leaps of faith lately. They simultaneously are terrifying and exhilarating. A few times I’ve gotten answers beyond what I expected; answers that made me cry and thank the God who will open doors I couldn’t possibly imagine.

So to any Christian writers out there, don’t lose heart. To my fellow She Speaks alum and those planning to take that leap of faith and go this year, take heart! If you are praying about going this year, ask the God of all Provision to make a way. It’s worth it.

When we surrender what’s in our hands to the God of the impossible, he does amazing things. When we let him take the lead, he will direct our steps to places we couldn’t have anticipated. God can be trusted. His view of the journey we are on is so much better than ours. Trust him and take that next step.

February Reflections

As I sit here on a chilly Saturday morning trying to figure out how to be productive with my writing and motherhood, I find myself visiting a favorite blog—Chatting at the Sky. Emily Freeman has come to be one of my favorite authors. I’m getting lost in her book A Million Little Ways. I don’t want to finish it because then it will be over. So as I visit her blog, I see her encouragement to reflect on this month and share things I’ve learned. She’s even fostering community by allowing writers to post their links. See why I adore her?

Reflecting sounds like a productive use of my writing today while I listen to my children creating: the girls make brownies, Ryan makes gluten-free brownies, and Jarod makes a movie. So what did I learn in February? Hmmm.

  1. Community is essential to my sanity. Whether with my writing friends online, my new acquaintances in my exercise classes, or dear friends (see #2), I need my tribe. When life is battering, God uses my various communities to help me keep going. They encourage me and embrace who I am – warts and all.
  2. A night out with my closest girlfriends is essential for the sake of my mental stability. When the majority of us found a way to escape kids and homes to meet up for dinner and laughter and conversation at Applebee’s, it was salve for my soul. Plus that was the best steak I’ve had in a long time. I keep ruining them at home. See #3.
  3. I hate making dinner. Oh, wait. That wasn’t news. That was just confirmed again and again. Now that my six-year-old has been inspired by Master Chef Junior, she wants to learn to do this. I can’t teach her fast enough. Does that count as child labor?
  4. My eldest daughter is a closet writer. She just didn’t want to share her writing with anyone. When I told her one of my fav authors never let anyone see her writing journal until college, her face lit up. She found a notebook and spent the next hour using writing prompts to launch ideas. She found a hiding place for her work that I will respect.
  5. There is such freedom in having a teen son with a license. Can I get an amen from any moms who’ve passed this milestone? And yet the first time he drove off alone, I almost tossed my cookies. That’ll drive you to prayer right there.
  6. Taking leaps of faith are terrifying what ifand rewarding. This month I took risks with the future of my books. I have two done and one halfway there. I submitted the future of my writing to God a long time ago and as ideas for where to take a chance arose, I lept. Each time it was with white knuckles and held breath. And three of them turned into amazing answers. Stay tuned for more updates as God opens doors.
  7. I can only get three out of four of my kids to pause eating brinner (breakfast for dinner) to do The Twist with me when Elvis sings Jailhouse Rock on Pandora. Ryan thought we were all a little odd. So did the dog.

So there ya go. I learned quite a variety of things in February. I kind of like this idea of an end of month reflection blog. It reminded me that some really cool things happened this month in the midst of some not so cool ones. God is good even when life is hard; maybe especially when life is hard. I can’t wait to see what He does in March!

Enough

Monday: It’s late. Sleep whispers to me, beckoning me to head to bed, the place I’ve been wishing for most of the day. And yet words rattle around inside my head, keeping me up. Sleep isn’t shouting yet, so perhaps I should put pen to paper and try to make sense of the jumble of the day.

It was a long day, but a good day. I exercised though not as well as the others in boot camp. I kept moving. I keep trying. That’s the important part.

Then off I went to my Bible Study/book club where God keeps beckoning me to places of vulnerability with women I admire. Today we wrestled with wounds on our hearts and how they affect our perceptions of ourselves. Women carry around our wounds. They affect the filter through which we judge ourselves. My group is reading the book, “Captivating” together. It’s a good book. Our group has been together long enough we can share our scars without shame. Today we shared and a thoughtful attitude followed me into the rest of the day.

Today I was blessed, again, by a church family who wants to care for this widow. They sent an exterminator to take care of whatever was clawing inside my walls. Deer mice, it turns out. Common to this area, he said. The fix was easy. The cost would have meant a huge strain for me. And yet again, God’s people cared for us. I am humbled by this.

The day continued with tasks most moms deal with—school pick-ups and errands, dinner prep and homework, listening and snuggling and trying to help kids finish their responsibilities. I helped Lucy make cornbread muffins for dinner—a bright spot in my evening drudgery.

I hid from much on my to-do list today. I know that. I accomplished quite a bit but my house isn’t clean enough nor the laundry finished enough. All the “should haves” mock me as I try to shut my mind off for the night. I reach for Emily Freeman’s book A Million Little Ways and find solace in some of her encouragement to take time to explore wonder. I’m pretty sure catching up on my TiVo is not what she’s suggesting.

Maybe that’s why my mind is racing. I need to create my art tonight, my writing. I need to ignore the things that went undone; things telling me I didn’t do enough today. Telling me I am not enough.

Today I wrestled with deep things. I conquered mice (or at least found a guy to conquer them for me). And I took care of four kids, each needing something different from me. Perhaps today didn’t contain enough time for wonder. And that is OK.

Or maybe I need to realize I experienced wonder today. It was in the pushing past my hatred of exercise to do it anyway and take care of myself. It was in vulnerable conversations with women I care about. It was in helping a six-year-old proudly make corn muffins.

Wednesday: I set aside the morning to write. I have five whole hours until children burst back into my home after school. It’s early release Wednesday. But I remember this blog, started the other night and I take time for a different kind of wonder. I take time to read my Bible and watch the swirling snow fall outside. I marvel at beauty; that God is painting the world in white, a stark contrast to deep green pines and grey mourning doves huddled for warmth outside my window.

Today God is beckoning me to hone my craft, to polish my gifts, and to find words to place on a page. Today he is stilling the voices of doubt that whisper that I am not a big enough blogger, don’t have a big enough following, don’t have what it takes. He is stilling the voices of doubt that tell me I am not enough and reminding me to trust. Just do what he has called me to do and he will care for the rest.

So today I encourage you to silence the voices telling you that you are not enough. You are enough because God created you. You are enough because Jesus loves you. You are enough when you surrender what’s in your hands to the God who creates abundance out of lack, who creates wonder out of the ordinary, who creates new beginnings out of broken endings.

Take time today to embrace the wonder in your universe—whether it’s helping a child learn a new task, enjoying the beauty around you, or embracing the gifts you were given. Today, perhaps, that is enough.

The Beauty of Art

Art. Poetry. Music. Dance. Film. Food done well. Literature.

Art is something essential to the human soul. There is something about a moving piece of music or a beautiful painting that resonates in the deepest parts of who we are. We can get lost in an amazing book or swept away with a beautiful movie so easily. Even if we are not artsy-types we still appreciate it in varying forms.

This weekend I enjoyed watching my daughter be moved by a piece of art in Hobby Lobby. It spoke to her. She stood, enraptured by the painting of a fall road with a scripture that gave her comfort. “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 47:10. For fifteen minutes she stood, transfixed, contemplating if she wanted to spend every last cent she had saved to buy this framed painting. It was on sale. But $40 is a lot of money when you are 12.

IMG_1767I didn’t know which way to encourage her, to be honest. It would take every cent she had. But if it was art that would inspire her, bring beauty to her room, and make her smile, wasn’t that a worthwhile way to spend her babysitting money? However, it didn’t match any colors she desires to paint her room. It didn’t match anything, really. But did that matter?

Lately I’ve been dealing with the concept of art thanks to an amazing book—A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You were Made to Live by Emily P. Freeman. This book has been refreshing inspiration, breathing life into my dream of becoming a writer.

IMG_1684From the very start this book captivated me. One of the points she makes is so eloquent. She talks about Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” That verse spoke to me at my conference last summer. God has plans for me—amazing works he already knows about. But then Emily kindly goes on to give us a language lesson:

These English words used in this text—masterpiece, sometimes translated workmanship—these are translations of the original word used in the letter to the church at Ephesus, the Greek word poiema. Our English word poem comes from this same Greek word. (A Million Little Ways, page 25)

We are a poem written by The Great Artist. What an amazing image. Whenever I hear it translated workmanship, it feels like something functional, something solid like a chair or a house. There is artistic freedom in thinking of myself as a poem. There is unique beauty in that word. Yes, houses and chairs can be beautiful too. But a poem is beauty without needing to be functional. It is beautiful because it is.

I’ve had a hard week, an emotional week. God has spoken with such gentleness into my heart about the kind of writer I should be. He’s spoken to me about being careful with my words and the stories I choose to tell. There has been correction and guidance and redirection as he’s continued to write the poetry of me.

Seeing my daughter captivated by a piece of art today made my heart calm from the turmoil of the week. God is captivated by us. Sometimes he needs to redirect the art that we are living. He needs to paint over the mistakes we make or erase a line or two of the poem to make room for rewrites. But when we submit to his direction, the art becomes more complete each day.

What kind of art has God called you to create? If you aren’t sure, let me recommend Emily’s amazing book. Whether it is the art of baking or raising amazing kids, the art of making numbers move like a symphony across a spreadsheet or the art of painting a sunset, God has created us in his image. And God is an artist.