Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Live Your Own Dream

In the movie The Italian Job, a group of thieves pull off the heist of a lifetime. Then, one of them turns on the team and ends up with all the loot. When the others catch up with him later, they find that he’s been spending the money on exactly all the things they had expressed wanting. He got all the money, but he had no imagination, so he copied the ideas of others instead of buying something he uniquely wanted.

I confess, I’ve done something similar in writing. Actually, I’ve even done it in the area of fitness and, I’m sure, on the level of finances and on and on. In all these different areas, I’ve seen friends’ preferences for this or that kind of accomplishment, and I’ve set those same goals for myself.

My friend runs three miles in half an hour? Oh, yeah, that sounds like a good goal. I’ll go for that.

I’ve created my loose vision for myself based on what I see others doing and striving for, but it’s time to go back to Jesus. Time to ask him what my vision for my writing needs to be—what His vision for my life and each area therein is.

Because when it comes down to it, my friends don’t have to answer for how I used the gifts God has given me. He’s calling me on a journey that is different from anyone else’s, and the way to discover that journey is by spending time with him and in his Word. Prayer is key. We’re invited to ask for wisdom, and he promises to give it when we ask for it in faith.

So, I’m asking. And I’m telling you so you’ll ask, too.

God has something special planned for you that no one else is in a position to accomplish.

No one else has your history, your family, your friends, your hurts, your successes, your faith, or your platform. No one else walks in your shoes.

No one dreams quite like you do, if you’ll only take your eyes off others and put them on God.

No one dreams quite like you do, if you’ll only take your eyes off others and put them on God via @novelwritergirl

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Links to Restful and Encouraging Things

This week has been on the rough side as I care for our dog who was attacked on Saturday, so instead of posting much today, I simply wanted to share with you some discoveries I've enjoyed lately.

1. Emily P. Freeman's 7 Days of Still Moments. Each day, she emails a link to an audio Scripture reading and devotion. I've enjoyed each one. You can subscribe on her website, here.

2. "First Lesson" and "How to See Deer", poems by Philip Booth.

3. "The Miracle Is Worth the Mess" by Stephanie Bryant on (in)courage. The title sums it up well, but I enjoyed the application of farm life to the universal struggle of having to confront less-than-pretty (and sometimes downright ugly) situations to get to the "good stuff." On that note, I also enjoyed an earlier post of Bryant's, "Fancy's Feathers".

I hope these are to you the same kind of encouragement and breath of fresh air they were to me!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

How Gratitude Helps in Trials

The weekend started with fun: I got to visit a friend who just brought home a new puppy. I brought my camera along and snapped 90 pictures, knowing many would be slightly off but that with those quantities, we were guaranteed some good ones. It was an ideal Friday afternoon.

But on Saturday evening, events took a turn. My husband and I were three blocks from home, walking our two dogs, when a loose dog charged up and bit one of our dogs, wounding her worse than we knew. Adding to the trauma, the emergency vet service we called said we could wait until Monday to have her seen. The next day, Sunday, it became clear this was bad advice, and we drove her half an hour to the closest place that could care for her.

I wish things had been different. That we hadn't crossed the street within half a block of the house where that dog lives. That the dog had been restrained. That the emergency line had given the right recommendation.

This dog is part of the family. She puts up with posing with flowers and books and Santa hats. 

Other than the fact that we live in a sinful world, I don't understand why she and I and my husband are facing this situation in its compounded complications. But I do know that God is still God. He is still good and he's promised to work out everything for the good of those who love him.

And though I don't know the bigger picture, I can see one way in which he prepared us for this: I've been lax about cooking anything that requires prep this summer, but on Saturday afternoon, I followed through on making a few dishes I'd been meaning to. So now, though I'm tired from waking up with my dog and don't particularly want to cook anything, I have a big pot of chili, roasted butternut squash, and some delicious bacon-wrapped dates.

Come to think of it, there are other blessings here, too. We only recently furnished the first-floor living room, where I have now been spending time with my dog who is struggling with the stairs to the bedroom. And though she started getting care later than I would've wanted, we had the sense to question the advice before the situation became life-threatening. Also, my background as a call center manager should help me handle the call with the manager of the emergency vet service as we figure out how to resolve the situation that's resulted from the mishandled call we made on Saturday.

So, this isn't what I'd choose, but I can see we have been provided for.

Though I didn't expect I'd be able to deliver a full blog post to you today, both of my dogs are peacefully sleeping right now. I am comforted by the fact that they're comfortable after hours of listening to the injured dog quietly whine. I, too, feel a sense of peace as I recount the ways God has provided in this.

The key to trusting God in the midst of this trial is to count these blessings.

It's not intuitive for me, so perhaps that my mind took this turn as I typed this morning is yet another blessing for which to be grateful.

My prayer for you is that even in the midst of undesirable situations, you also would see the ways in which your heavenly Father is providing for you. That you would see with fresh eyes new reasons to praise his name. And, of course, that he would comfort you as you cast your cares on him.

P.S. After writing this post, I took Sadie to an appointment at our local vet and he came up with a plan that should help her heal more quickly than expected, with less stress on her! She's improving already, and we're hopeful that the process will be smooth from here on out.

The key to trusting in the midst of trials: count the blessings. Via @novelwritergirl

Thursday, September 15, 2016

When the light grows dim

I spent a fair amount of my afternoon swapping around the light bulbs in my house. The goal was to get brighter bulbs in my dining room. The problem was that my light fixture displays the bulbs, so I didn't want to put in normal ones. Nothing bright enough looked right.

After all my swapping and switching,I called it good enough for the day. The true test would be how the bulbs looked after dark.

As I was preparing dinner, I glanced through the dining room and onto the porch. That looks like light, I thought. Could it be that the bulbs I installed were bright enough to light the porch as well as the dining room?

It took a moment, but then I saw it. The light source was the setting sun.

Sometimes the light of my faith seems to dim to the level of my dining room lights.

There’s enough glow to get the job done if I strain my eyes, but fear and worry lurk in the darkened corners.

Jesus claimed to be the light of the world. He did so publicly, confidently. He was serious. As if he was ever anything else.

The light of the world ought to be brighter than this, I say, eyeing the dark corners my faith doesn’t illuminate.

So I tinker like Edison, but my effort dims the bulb further.

Anytime effort comes before trust, burnout is inevitable.

Because if we’re focusing on light bulbs, we’ve missed it. Our faith isn’t a light bulb at all. We, in faith, are windows that allow the Light of the World to shine in--into our lives and on those around us.

To pull back the curtains and to let that life-giving brilliance in, light to complete the work assigned to us without fear or worry, we must simply do what we did to receive the light in the first place: receive, believe, trust.

In this, the shadows of doubt and fear are obliterated. This brilliance is a gift of God, the Light of the World, calling me out of what I’ve installed myself into the glow of something brighter, into light from the True Source.

And when people catch a glimpse of me, may they think to themselves, that looks like light. Not something I installed, but rather light of the Son, risen and shining.

The Light of the World calls us out of what we’ve installed into the glow of something brighter via @novelwritergirl

Monday, September 12, 2016

Not What I Had in Mind

Scrolling through social media, I came across two friends’ posts in a row that both said something was not what she had in mind. The repetition so close together caught my attention.

Not what I had in mind.

So many things have gone that way. Fifteen years to find a home for one of my novels. Falling and breaking my wrist. Leaving a job I enjoyed and finding myself in a difficult situation at the next.

None of it was what I had in mind when I set off.

Looking back now, I can see how those experiences grew me. I would not be the same if things had gone the way I had in mind.

God gifted me with “not what I had in mind” so I could reach exactly what he had in mind. None of those situations surprised him. None of them threw him for a loop.

It’s harder to apply these words to situations that I can’t look back on and see the gain from. Time doesn’t heal all wounds. It doesn’t wrap up pain in a neat little bow and a card that explains what only God knows.

I don’t know who you are, what losses you’ve faced, what the next days, weeks, or months hold for either of us. I do know we’ll face trials of all kinds.

In the midst of that, I also know that our God is bigger.

He is our redeemer, a God of hope and love and life abundant.

His name is the only name we’ll ever need, the only answer we must give, the only hope for the nations.

Through him, we are more than conquerors and nothing on this earth, no trials or sorrow or persecution or abuse or location or any battle of any kind, can separate Him from us, whom he’s inscribed on the palms of his hands.

He sings over us, rejoices when we come home to him, and bears our sorrows.

He prays for us, sustains us, and is our fountain of life in the desert.

He is our rock and our salvation.

He is our eternal abundance, our forevermore, our hope in the valley of dry bones, and all he asks is that we come, that we trust him in the midst of “not what I had in mind.”

Because even when “not what I had in mind” includes death, death does not hold or limit our God. Death is not the end for his children. It is the beginning of life like we’ve never known it, and when we mourn, we mourn as those who have hope.

And hope, sisters, hope does not disappoint us.

May the God of peace bless you and keep you as you hope in him.

We can hope in God in the midst of "not what I had in mind" -via@novelwritergirl

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Comparison and False Beatitudes

At the very end of the Gospel of John, Jesus tells Peter he’ll eventually be killed in the course of following the Lord. This difficult future must seem like more of a curse than a blessing, and on hearing it, Peter looks around, sees another disciple, and asks:
“Lord, what about him?”
Jesus replied, “If I want him to live until I come back, what concern is that of yours? You follow me!” (John 21:21b-2, NET)

I’m so much like Peter, always looking around to see who else is out there, how they’ve been blessed, and how our lives compare.

Regardless of my circumstances, I can always find plenty of people who seem better off than me.

But Jesus, who never changes, repeats to my heart the same line he spoke to Peter: What concern is that of yours?

Comparisons are hard to conquer, but I’ve recently realized that when I’m in the midst of comparing myself to others, I’m living by a false set of Beatitudes. They go something like this:

Blessed are the multi-published authors.
Blessed are the rich.
Blessed are the celebrities.
Blessed are those whose ministries don’t face roadblocks or conflict. 

But a glance at the real Beatitudes shows me that I stopped too soon with each of those. When Jesus gave the Beatitudes, he explained why each group of people was so blessed. So, I pushed myself to complete those thoughts. Why did I think those groups of people had it so good? Well, the completed thoughts were pretty eye-opening… and embarrassing. But, we’ve come this far, so here’s draft 2 of the fake Beatitudes:

Blessed are the multi-published authors, for lots of people love their work and they earn more.
Blessed are the rich, for they can buy the lavish lifestyle I wish I had.
Blessed are the celebrities, for they get recognition and interest from the masses.
Blessed are those whose ministries don’t face roadblocks or conflict, for their lives will be happy and easy as they serve God.

With all that spelled out, I could see the shallow joy I was longing for. When it comes down to it, those things are so much less fulfilling than the promises that accompany the real Beatitudes:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you falsely on account of me. Rejoice and be glad because your reward is great in heaven, for they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way.” (Matthew 5:3-12, NET)

Many of those Jesus declared blessed aren’t those we’d look at and call blessed by human standards. We’re not likely to be jealous of them. They’ve seen hardship. Their work is difficult. They are persecuted.

And yet, they are blessed beyond belief.

Do I want riches on earth or to see God? I’ll take God, thanks. Do I want to be liked by the masses or comforted? I’ll take comfort, please. Would I choose an easy earthly ministry over gaining the kingdom of heaven? Kingdom of heaven any day!

So I can’t live by false Beatitudes based on earthly comparisons. Living by the real ones, another person’s earthly success shouldn’t cause me a moment’s doubt or envy or hesitation because that’s no longer the kind of success I’m after.

To get beauty for ashes, we must start with ashes. To be perfected in trials, we first must face trials.

God truly does have good plans for each of his followers, plans to give us a future and a hope. When we’re secure in that knowledge, comparison falls by the wayside. Regardless of anyone else’s journey, a beautiful inheritance awaits. The boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places, encompassing the only things that really matter: mercy, grace, peace with God, love, adoption as sons and daughters.

Is there a false beatitude that seeps into your thinking sometimes?

To get beauty for ashes, we must start with ashes -via@novelwritergirl

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

When dreams do come true

This is a story with a happy ending, but before that, like any good story, there was conflict. And, of course, the lesson is in the conflict, so I’ll start there.

On July 7th, 2016, my agent called and said all our possibilities for selling my book had been exhausted. Despite some interest, there were no takers. It was time to move on to the next thing. Did I have another manuscript?

I’d been writing and rewriting that first manuscript on and off for fifteen years (though admittedly more off than on). I had also written a second book to follow it in a series. If that first manuscript wouldn’t sell, the second would either have to be reworked to stand alone or I would have to shelve it alongside its predecessor. So, the fact that the first manuscript hadn’t sold felt like shooting down two manuscripts. Though I did have yet another manuscript ready to go, this one a stand-alone title, I moved on to it with mixed feelings.

It was a setback.

The road to publication is littered with those, just like the road to any other dream. In one way or another, everyone faces and must learn from rejection. Everyone must build relationships and reach people with messages. Dreamers of every kind put in hours and hours and hours. Years’ worth of hours.

Along the way, I’ve sometimes struggled with questions about why all that work isn’t enough. Haven’t I put in enough hours yet? Haven’t I studied the craft enough? Haven’t I gotten my fair share of rejections?

The Bible is full of times of waiting, trial, and faith in things promised but unseen. But then, one day, God acts on his word, and suddenly, well…

“The former things I declared of old; they went out from my mouth, and I announced them; then suddenly I did them, and they came to pass.” Isaiah 48:3, ESV

So, despite the setbacks, we keep going, believing we’ll arrive at milestones we can’t even see clearly most of the time. Still, we believe those milestones aren’t just mirages because we believe God created them for us, planted the desire to reach them in our hearts, and is guiding us to them.

Or wait. Is that reeeeaaally what we think?

I can tell you that at times along the way, I have tried to put that milestone in my own path with my own efforts. On one sand dune or another in the waiting wilderness, I’ve wandered from the Guide and relied on my own effort, finances, and tactics.

When this mentality takes over, the signs are all too obvious. The attitude manifests in questions I’ve asked myself many times, questions I’m betting most dreamers ask. Haven’t I worked hard enough? Why isn’t this effort enough? How much longer is this going to take? Don’t I deserve this?

In those times, when we ask those questions, we’re expecting something other than God to do what only God can do. That? That’s an idol. God doesn’t share glory with the idols we make of our effort and work and all-around awesomeness.

“I declared them to you from of old, before they came to pass, I announced them to you, lest you should say, ‘My idol did them, my carved image and my metal image commanded them.’” Isaiah 48:5, ESV

God puts dreams in our hearts. He guides us to milestones he’s prepared for us. This journey is never about our work.

It’s about God. It’s about good gifts from his holy hands. It’s not about what we deserve or have earned.

On July 14th, 2016, one week after that first phone call, my agent called again. A publisher had gotten in touch. They wanted that first manuscript.

This isn’t because of me or my work. This is because of my God. Isn’t it just like him to let men declare something dead so he can bring it to vibrant life?

This milestone? It’s not about my efforts, my writing, or my perseverance. It’s about my God, who is good. Who keeps promises and acts with mercy and grace toward his children. Who holds the next milestone in his hand and invites me on a journey with him to discover it.

Though your journey is different from mine, your milestones are also safely in his hands. And Jesus is calling you to come, to discover them with him.

God puts dreams in our hearts & guides us to milestones he’s prepared for us. via @novelwritergirl

Follow by Email