Today is Friday which means it’s Five Minute Friday. If you don’t know what Five Minute Friday, it’s where women from all over the world come together to write for five minutes on one word – no editing, no second-guessing. You can head on over HERE to check it out.
Today’s word is BALANCE
Balance, as we think of it, is a myth. I know because I’ve chased after it all of my adult life – this idea that if I just have things in balance, I can do all the things equally well. The truth is balance doesn’t mean that at all.
You see, I thought of balance like those people who spin plates and keep them all going at once and they keep adding more plates until finally they can’t keep up with all the spinning and the plates start to crash one by one.
My to-do list used to have – no joke – about 25 items on it for one day, and then I was confused and frustrated and annoyed with myself when I didn’t cross them all off. Crazy, right? But I did this for literally YEARS!
Part of that is because I have no concept of time. I freely admit it. I am a creative and that whole ability to estimate how long something will take? That totally doesn’t work in my brain! So, I would be overly optimistic about how much I could get done. (It’s also why I tend to be late a lot because I think I can squeeze in one more thing!).
True balance is about understanding the real parameters of your time available, your energy and the capacity of your plate.
See, balance isn’t about spinning all those plates in the air. It’s about looking at the plate you’ve been given and being realistic about how full you can fill it before things start spilling off the sides or everything is too squished to really enjoy (anyone else like to eat their food separately or is that just me?)
We can’t compare our plate to how much someone else has on theirs because each of us has a different size and shape based on a lot of things – health, responsibilities, seasons of life. Yours won’t look like mine. So, balance is as individual as we are.
Once I learned that, I spent a whole lot less time picking up broken china!
Have you ever noticed that anxiety can creep into your life and you almost don’t notice it?
Until that is, something happens that makes you aware of just how tight a stranglehold it has on you.
This summer, I got back to gardening this summer after a few years’ hiatus. I get ridiculously excited when I see little sprouts pushing through the earth. I find it miraculous every single time.
I planted tomatoes, beans, onions, radishes, strawberries, and a few herbs to round things out. Some of the plants, like the tomatoes, I bought as seedlings, but others, like the beans, I planted as seeds.
There is something very optimistic about a freshly planted garden. After I got done, I stood back and looked at my work and smiled. I do a raised square-foot garden, so instead of rows, my garden was done in neat squares.
Every morning I came out to inspect my plants and see if anything had pushed through the soil. Soon, the beans started making themselves known, pushing various shades of green shoots through the black soil.
And right on their heels, the Japanese beetles made their presence known.
About a quarter of an inch long, a Japanese beetle is actually kind of pretty with its iridescent shell. What they do to a garden is NOT pretty, however.
After frantically googling garden pests and talking to other gardeners in the areas, I found out everyone seemed to be having issues with the little things and I wasn’t alone. That didn’t really make me feel much better though when I looked at my bean plants whose leaves quickly started to resemble lace.
It turns out Japanese beetles burrow down in the soil. They come flooding out during a specific period of time and are drawn to certain kinds of plants. What’s interesting is, despite the many, many, many beetles I saw, the only plants they really attacked were my bean plants.
They had lain in wait in the soil until something new started to grow.
And isn’t that the way anxiety can be? It burrows into the soil of your life and you don’t even know it’s there – until you start trying to grow something new. Suddenly, all that anxiety pushes its way to the surface, leaving our minds and hearts shredded, just like the leaves on my bean plants.
For me, the thing that brought all that anxiety to the surface was writing my book.
I know – that’s supposed to be something good, right? And it was, is. But it was also new territory. I’ve wanted to write a book since I was about 11 years old. While I’ve written a few shorter, chapter books (not published), I’d never attempted anything like a full-length novel.
I’ve also self-published three kids’ quiz books and five devotional journals. While I knew those were different, I felt like I wasn’t a complete newbie to self-publishing either.
But I was wrong.
Self-publishing a novel is a completely different beast than self-publishing something like a devotional journal. There was a learning curve on a lot of things, and the truth is, I’m still learning. It was a bit stressful, and that’s not a bad thing. There IS stress involved when we are learning something new and it’s important to us.
The reality is publishing a book is kind of like going to a big city and not knowing anyone. Traditional publishing is like going to that big city but using all the public transportation systems. Yes, you have to learn how to utilize the subway, and yes, you have to figure out the bus schedule, but someone else is actually navigating the traffic and getting you to your destination. Self-publishing is like going to that big city and doing all the driving by yourself without a GPS.
Depending on how you react to the above scenario, that trip to the city could be a fun adventure or a complete nightmare.
Can I confess to you that I almost quit numerous times AFTER I WROTE THE BOOK? Yep, you read that right. While navigating the busy streets of self-publishing, there were many, many times I just wanted to quit, to throw in the towel. And I had a completed manuscript.
Part of this was because of all the decisions I had to make. I kind of hate making decisions, and in self-publishing, that’s basically what you do – one decision after another. Some of them are really important too, so there is also the pressure of making the RIGHT decision. From picking an editor to deciding on a cover, there are a lot of things you have to decide that will have a big impact on the sales of your book.
The great thing about self-publishing is that a lot of decisions that you make can be changed down the road.
Find out your cover doesn’t quite work for your genre? That’s okay because you can swap it out for a new one.
Discover you need a more compelling book description to get more sales? You can change it up as many times as you want to.
The problem was, while I loved the idea of having control of all these aspects, all the weight of that control started to press down on me. I had so many options and possibilities that, instead of feeling empowered by them, I felt encumbered by them. I felt enormous pressure to not just make the decisions but to get them right on the first try.
Ironically, my life verses are found in Philippians 4:6-8.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which passes all comprehension will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
The truth was anxiety was stealing all my joy in the process. Here I was getting ready to present my book to the world, to see a dream come true, and all I felt was an oppressive dread.
I realized that anxiety had stolen the joy, not only in publishing my book but in a lot of other areas in my life, as well.
I had allowed my world to become small because of anxiety. This was driven home to me when I went to a one-day writer’s conference in a small town near Cincinnati. I realized that instead of looking forward to the event, a vague sense of dread had settled into the pit of my stomach for no apparent reason. I also realized this was the first time I had been outside my little town in over a year.
Anxiety had become my default for anything that was outside my normal routine.
Anxiety, like its big sister fear, IS a liar. It steals from you and takes what should be something joy-filled and turns it into something that feels like the emotional equivalent of a lead balloon. It makes your world small and your focus narrow.
The answer to this problem is found in the next verse in Philippians, verse 9.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
Satan likes to use our minds to keep us stuck where we are at. He doesn’t want us to grow new things. He wants to keep our lives barren of the fruit of living in the Spirit. He wants us to dwell on all the what-ifs and feel like every outcome is up to us, that we are in control.
But we both know we’re not the ones in control, and isn’t that a blessed relief?
I don’t know about you, but I’m done doing that. I’m done with allowing the enemy to steal my joy and derail me from having adventures.
It’s time to remember that I don’t have to ever navigate anything alone. Jesus promised me that He will never leave me or forsake me. All I have to do is ask.
Am I the only person who feels guilty when I tell someone no?
I really hate disappointing people. So I say yes a lot. Even when I really shouldn’t.
This was very evident this past month when I somehow ended up in charge of a homecoming party for the entire high school (we have a small Christian school so this isn’t quite as large as some of you might be imagining). I’m not even sure how it happened exactly. One minute I was asking a question about the venue, and the next, I was in charge.
It was one of those things I should NOT have said yes to. Not only did I find myself hyperventilating in the weeks leading up to the event, but my son was having his own event. This summer he made a short movie, and the weekend before the homecoming party he had his movie premiere. I thought maybe 50 people would come, but 200 ended up showing up. It was a wonderful night, but it was overshadowed by my anxiety over the coming homecoming party.
Not only did my son have a major event, but I was supposed to be launching my debut novel, Hook’s Daughter: The Untold Tale of a Pirate Princess. But of course, with two events on back to back weekends, that wasn’t happening.
Was the party a bad thing? Not at all.
Did the kids enjoy it? Yes, they did.
Did I need to be in charge? Absolutely not!
Not only did I have a lot on my plate— things that I have been called to do—but event planning is NOT something I enjoy or even particularly good at. And this party had numerous challenges, including losing all power for the entirety of the party.
By taking on this party, I ended up putting my own priorities, goals and calling at the very bottom of the list – right where it wasn’t supposed to be.
How did this happen? Too often, I let other people’s priorities become my priorities.
While it can feel super spiritual to always say yes to people when they ask you for something, the problem is by saying yes to one thing, you are automatically saying no to something else – whether you mean to or not.
Even Jesus – who came to bring salvation to people by dying for them – sometimes told people no. When people found out that He could heal the sick, there were times that the people pressed in so closely He could barely move. He would often leave to give Himself some space. There were times when the people begged Him to stay, but He said no and moved on.
Why? Because Jesus wasn’t just about saying yes to people. He was about saying yes to the Father.
I think this is where the boundary line comes in. If we say yes to every single thing people ask of us, we could ultimately be saying no to what God is asking of us – even if we don’t mean to be.
Jesus had a very short time from the time He started His ministry to the time He died on the cross, yet He never seemed rushed or hurried.
He put God the Father’s priorities over people’s priorities, even when some of the things people were asking seemed important or were legitimate needs.
I know I often let false guilt sway me even when I know God has asked me to do certain things, and by saying yes, I am pushing those things onto the back burner.
This problem is especially true for women, and I believe it all has to do with our definition of the word selfish.
The actual definition from Webster’s dictionary is “lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure,”
Unfortunately, for many of us (me included) selfish has come to mean telling anyone the word no.
Just because someone else doesn’t think what you are doing is important doesn’t mean you can’t tell them no. As a creative, I need downtime and space to create. Before I ever sat down to write one word of my current novel, there was a lot of what looked like me doing nothing to an outsider. But it wasn’t really free time. Working out a plot or developing characters takes a lot of thinking and mulling over.
I often felt bad for telling people no when it looked like I was just sitting around staring into space, but without that empty space, my imaginary people and places couldn’t come into existence.
When you have a baby, the entire experience doesn’t happen in the labor and delivery room. You spend nine months where all the important stuff happens beneath the surface, invisible to the human eye. You would never tell a pregnant woman she needed to skip that nine months and get right into the labor room.
But we do this all the time to creatives. I had to learn to be “selfish” about the time I needed to create because that is what God has called me to do. If I say yes to everybody else’s stuff, I can’t do what God has called me to do.
Here are five questions I’ve learned to ask before saying yes. It goes without saying, you should always pray about whether you should say yes or no to requests for your time and energy, but these questions can help.
Is this something only YOU can do? For example, you are your child’s only mother, your husband’s only wife, and your parent’s only child. Will saying yes improve those key relationships or fulfill one of your key roles like mom or wife? By saying yes, will you NOT be able to serve/care for the people only YOU can serve/care for?
Is this something the person can do for themselves? Some people have learned to be helpless, or we have taught them to be. If you are a parent, it is all too easy to fall into the pattern of doing every little thing for your child. Sometimes, this is because we just have a natural bent to serve, and other times, it is because our expectations of our children haven’t grown with them. While we want to be caring and helpful, don’t enable helplessness, especially out of false guilt!
Will saying yes create an unhealthy lack of margin in your life? We weren’t made to fill our lives to the very edges. It is very difficult to “live by the Spirit,” when every moment of every day is filled to the absolute limit. We create stress for ourselves and short circuit those unique God-encounters when we have packed our schedules so full that any tiny interruption becomes a catastrophe.
Does this request fit with your gifts, your calling, or brings joy; or is it something that will drain you and feel like a burden? This is a somewhat tricky one because there are times when God asks us to do things that step out of our comfort zone and might cause us stress. However, this is probably not going to be the norm unless He is moving you in a new direction (another reason why prayer is so important before we say yes). When we say yes to too many things that drain us or stress us out because they are not things we are gifted in, this effects everything else in our lives too. Case in point, I felt like my life was on hold until this homecoming party was over. I’m glad the kids had fun, but there were other people whose gifts DO include organizing events that would have probably stepped up, if I hadn’t taken it on.
When you say yes, what will you have to say no to? The hard truth is we all have the same number of hours in our days. We can’t buy more time. Saying yes to one thing means we will have less time for something else. Only you can determine if the trade-off is worth it.
While I type this post, I can see a little printable I made with a quote from one my favorite Christian bloggers, Arabah Joy (you can find her at http://www.arabahjoy.com).
“You can’t do all the good things people ask you to do…if you want to do the one thing God is calling you to do.”
Even though I believe that wholeheartedly, in recent weeks I have found myself sucked into a lot of busy. Some of it, like my son’s movie premiere (you can find his movie Spider-man: Origins here), was something that was a good yes, but others – like getting sucked into organizing a homecoming party – were drains on my time and energy that I should have said no to.
I am still learning that saying no to someone’s request or need isn’t necessarily selfish. Sometimes, saying no is the most selfless thing I can do because it frees me up to fulfill the call God has on my life.
How about you? I’d love to hear about what you’ve learned about when to say yes.
It was on this day, last year, that my dad took his last breath on earth and his first one in heaven.
He hadn’t been doing well, but none of us expected him to deteriorate so fast. Certainly, none of us, including his oncologist, expected him to be gone less than a week after his last trip to Columbus.
He went into the hospital in the wee hours of Saturday morning, and by Sunday he had slipped into a deep sleep all on his own. We sat around him that day, periodically going over to check on him, to tell him we loved him, to keep vigil, to chuckle just a little at the half snore.
The next time my dad opened his eyes was to see the face of Jesus.
I’m not sure what it is about the year anniversary of a loved one’s death. They are no more gone that day than any other, but suddenly, you find yourself back there where you were a year ago, walking a familiar path of loss all over again.
There is a sort of shock and numbness that cushions you when a loved one dies, but certain things remain clear memories.
I can close my eyes and see and feel the dim hush of that hospital room. I can still feel the wispiness of my dad’s hair and the clamminess of his skin.
I remember my mom’s call that time was short, and the horrible disbelief that even though I had hit every single green light, I had still missed his moment of passing by only a few minutes.
When I entered that room, I knew immediately and unequivocally that my dad was gone, that his body was just an empty shell. The spirit that had animated it was gone.
I remember the befuddled busyness of going over funeral details. I can still feel the dread in my belly of having to smile and nod and hug all the people, but at the same time taking comfort that so many people loved him and cared.
I remember how desperately I wanted to get across who my dad was and what his life meant in the eulogy I was giving, and how inadequate I felt as words seemed just out of my grasp.
I remember Brody leaning on the podium singing.
I remember Brock – my most stoic of children – breaking down when sharing about his grandpa.
I remember my mom, the first time we came into the funeral home, how she had to brace herself before going to the casket.
I remember the day after the funeral. I spent the night with my mom. The next morning we went to Panera where we picked at a bagel and drank coffee, not sure what to do.
How do you do life without the person who has always been there?
Just recently, I wrote in my prayer journal and asked God how you can both miss someone deeply and yet not wish them back here.
The truth is, it was my dad’s time to go. If he had stayed longer, he would have suffered and none of us wanted that.
At the same time, life continues to roll on, and I miss him experiencing it all. My younger son filmed a short movie this summer. The premier is in a few weeks (just a screening at our local church – nothing huge), and I can envision my dad telling everyone about it, proud of his grandson. “My grandson, the filmmaker.”
But he’s not here.
Life will move on and all the important milestones will happen and he won’t be here. And some days, that’s just hard.
And yet, our lives have also moved on. Our days and weeks have slowly rearranged themselves into a new normal, one that doesn’t include my dad in its daily fabric.
There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss him. But I know while we have been grieving and fumbling around trying to figure out life without him, he’s had the best year ever.
Appropriately, someone sang No More Night at church this week. It’s why I can be sad and glad all at the same time.
No More Night by David Phelps from the album Heaven
The timeless theme, Earth and Heaven will pass away
It’s not a dream, God will make all things new that day
Gone is the curse from which I stumbled and fell
Evil is banished to eternal hell
No more night, no more pain
No more tears, never crying again
And praises to the great, “I AM”
We will live in the light of the risen Lamb
See all around, now the nations bow down to sing
The only sound is the praises to Christ, our King
Slowly the names from the book are read
I know the King, so there? s no need to dread
No more night, no more pain
No more tears, never crying again
And praises to the great, “I AM”
We will live in the light of the risen Lamb
See over there, there? s a mansion
Oh, that’s prepared just for me
Where I will live with my Savior eternally
No more night, no more pain
No more tears, never crying again
And praises to the great, “I AM”
We will live in the light of the risen Lamb
All praises to the great, “I AM”
We’re gonna live in the light of the risen Lamb
It’s the last first week of school for my baby who is a senior this year. I’m not as sad about that as I could be, but still.
The last few weeks have been somewhat crazy as the whirl of last minute things need to be done – lessons plans and school supply shopping and practices and scrimmages and games and, and, and…
The school year hasn’t even really started, and I’m just not ready for the hustle and bustle. My heart and my mind haven’t quite snapped out of the still and quiet that was this summer.
And yet, it’s here whether I’m ready or not.
God’s Strength – Not Mine
Today, in the mail came a letter from Ransomed Heart ministries. And it was just what I needed to read, and maybe it’s what you need to read, too.
It’s St. Patrick’s Breastplate – which to be completely honest I’d never heard of before today. But when I looked it up, I found that it is a prayer attributed to the Irish saint. It’s a powerful hymn of hope for God’s help, especially when you are feeling weak.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity
Through belief in the Threeness
Through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation
I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with His baptism
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom
I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak to me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me,
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
Frome everyone who shall wish me ill, afar or near
I arise today:
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.
My friend, may you rise up today, not in your own strength, but in the strength of the Creator of the universe.
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9,10
Because while it has been a quiet summer, it’s also been a creative one.
I’m currently in the process of revising Hook’s Daughter, my middle-grade fantasy novel, and I’m starting to plan the next two books in what will ultimately be a trilogy. So having some space has been a good thing.
I find the silence and the solitude has allowed creativity to flourish. When things are busy and noisy, it’s hard for me to find the head and heart space to create.
In the quiet, I find my trust in God grows too.
An interesting thing happened in the late spring, early summer. Not only was my life quiet, so was God. I’m used to hearing His still small voice, to feeling His presence in tangible ways and being guided by His Spirit.
But there was just silence.
One thing I had been really thinking and praying about this past spring was feelings versus truth. As humans, we tend to swing from one extreme to another. When I was growing up, emotions were kind of, if not taboo, certainly not encouraged – especially in excess – in church.
Now though, it’s like we’ve swung to the opposite extreme where an emotional experience with God is seen as equal to growth. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve had some wonderful times with God where worship has made my emotions overflow, when His presence has reduced me to tears, when I’ve been moved beyond speech by something I’ve heard or read from His Word.
Those are all good things.
But they aren’t the only things.
They aren’t the things that help us to grow in our character and our obedience necessarily.
It’s like the emotional high has replaced the faithful following.
So, when God became silent, suddenly I was left in this place where all I had was what I knew to be true, not what I felt to be true.
And yet, the Bible says, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalms 46:10)
About this same time, I was working on my summer goals and plans, and I realized I couldn’t remember my word for the year.
Yeah – I know right? Welcome to middle age!
So, I went and opened up my PowerSheets where I had written it down.
My word for the year is TRUST.
And that’s when it hit me and I got what God had been trying to teach me through His silence.
Did I trust Him or did I trust my experience of Him?
Did I trust truth or did I trust my emotions about those truths?
Did I trust His promise to never leave me even when I couldn’t hear Him?
I never really knew that silence and solitude are actually considered spiritual disciplines.
Now I know why they are powerful.
I think getting quiet with God is going to be a regular part of my life in coming days. It’s in those quiet places that the best stuff grows.
I’d love to know what God has been teaching you this summer.
In my defense, we had an unseasonably cold spring. Case in point, I was toweling snow off my dog mid-April.
Then we had rain. A lot of rain.
And it was the end of school which is always busy for me both as a mom and a teacher.
And then I was finishing up revisions on my novel.
The truth is, I haven’t planted my garden for about three years, so the grass it displaced had decided to reclaim its space. Instead of just digging up lightly rooted weeds from one season, I had to dig a lot deeper to clear out grass and weeds that had rooted deeply. (there’s probably a lesson there and maybe I’ll blog about that later).
I kind of put it off much of the morning.
Lingering over my coffee. Reading another chapter in the current good-for-me book I’m reading. But finally, I put on my work clothes, popped in my earbuds, and went outside.
The first obstacle I faced was finding my shovel and unearthing my wheelbarrow. In fact, I had to call my husband because even though I went into our shed TWICE, I couldn’t find it. I had to move A LOT of stuff out of the way and wrestle that wheelbarrow from underneath all the stuff (on a side note, I do wonder why we have so many empty boxes in our shed).
Finally, I had the wheelbarrow and my shovel. My gardening gloves had long since disappeared, so I decided to wing it.
The original wood that enclosed my single raised bed garden was rotted and old. I had bought a raised bed kit, so I broke down that old wood. Left was a patch of raised weeds and grass, their roots tightly woven together into one big matted square.
I started to try to dig up this grass.
I’m not in the best physical shape (one of my goals this summer is to change that). Walking my dog for 20-30 minutes every day just doesn’t prepare you for manual labor – at least not this woman!
Digging up that 4 by 4-foot patch was A LOT harder than it looked. Some areas were looser and came free with a minimum of effort, but other areas seemed determined not to be moved.
After several sessions of digging and chopping at this mess, I started thinking that maybe I’d have to give up. After all, I didn’t want to have a heart attack or something and just keel over in the backyard!
I came back into the house to take a break. As I sat there trying to catch my breath and figure out what to do – try again or call it quits – it occurred to me that maybe what I needed was not more muscle, but a sharper edge to get the job done.
It was amazing the difference it made. Don’t get me wrong – it was still hard work. Even using that hoe, I was still working up a good sweat, but it was SO much more effective.
After clearing the second half of that space in literally half the time, I came back into hydrate and take a breather. As I sat down to drink my water bottle and do a little Facebook scrolling (hey, I earned it!), it hit me.
So many times when we are stuck, it’s not that we are doing the wrong thing. It’s that we are using the wrong tools.
When we are frustrated or discouraged because something seems way harder than it should be, it’s so easy to want to give up. Whether that thing is a job or a relationship or a dream.
It’s so easy to keep doing what we’ve always been doing, trying harder and harder until we just can’t anymore.
But maybe what we need isn’t a new path or person or situation. Maybe what we need to do is back up and see if we are using the most effective tools for the job.
My dad’s gifts for Father’s Day evolved over my adult years. I went from buying him clothes to books to finally, gift cards.
This year I bought flowers to put on his grave.
When my dad first died over nine months ago, I had a deep peace. God clearly showed me it was his time to go, that his story had ended, at least on earth. It was time for him to go home.
It was also clear to me that God had graciously given us one more year together. It was equally clear that if my dad had lived longer his suffering would have increased, and it was a distinct possibility that he wouldn’t have been able to stay home since his mobility was rapidly deteriorating. That would have crushed both of my parents who were constant companions.
Of course, I’ve had sad days and days when I cried a bit, but the grief I thought I’d feel didn’t really hit me. It waited patiently in the wings while I focused on supporting my mother through the toughest transition – from wife to widow. It marked time while the hectic schedule of the school year made the weeks blur together.
I felt an inkling of it on my birthday. The first time in my adult life when my father’s slightly off-key voice didn’t sing “Happy Birthday” to me.
It nipped at me when I typed “The End” on the rough draft of my first novel when I realized my dad would never hold my book in his hands.
But it came out of the shadows for Father’s Day.
Maybe it’s just that I have finally slowed down, or maybe it is because my mom is getting used to life alone, or as used to it as you can ever get.
Or maybe it’s just that the day meant to celebrate fathers and all they mean to us drives home to me like nothing else does that I don’t have mine anymore.
Whatever the reason, I’ve found myself in tears multiple times this week. A deep ache seems to have settled in my chest, and the weight of my father’s absence weighs heavy in my heart.
And in the middle of my tears and sadness, I find myself thankful. Thankful I had a dad I can truly mourn. Thankful that I had that last extra year to spend intentional time with him. Thankful that my dad’s absence left a hole that nobody can fill.
When I was little, I thought my dad hung the moon. He was my superhero, and I had him squarely on a pedestal. There was nothing he couldn’t do or fix.
As I grew up, I realized he wasn’t perfect, but I never really took him off that pedestal. He was still a man I could admire and respect, not just love. He was a man my children could look up to and emulate.
And I’m thankful because I know that’s not the case for everyone.
So, as I walk in this new season of grief, I walk with not just a sad heart but a full heart. Even though my dad is no longer here, I’m keenly aware that I’m one of the lucky ones, and Father’s Day is still a day to celebrate that man.
I’m sitting here looking at the first draft of my novel.
What I really need to do is start revisions, but I’ve been letting everything else push this work to the bottom of the pile
I’ve been wondering why revising my work seems so hard to get to. When I was banging out my first draft, I didn’t have trouble saying no to other things, but revising – well, that’s been a totally different story (no pun intended).
Sure, you should let the manuscript “rest” (which always reminds me of the directions for cooking a roast), but I really should have started last week.
Instead, I wandered around in a discombobulated fog. And a whole week slipped by, and I didn’t even look at my manuscript. Revising should be easier than getting that first draft down right? So why was I having so much trouble?
The simple answer is I’m afraid. Well, actually, I’m kind of terrified.
While I wrote, I just concentrated on the next scene. When I was stuck or wanted to quit, I just told myself that it didn’t have to be any good. I just had to get it down.
I haven’t actually read the whole story, and I’m terrified it’s awful – unsalvageable. That this dream I’ve carried with me since I was 12 years old, of being an author, isn’t actually possible.
Because I’m not good enough.
Let’s be really honest here. It’s the first draft. Of my first novel. Saying that it isn’t best seller material is probably a vast understatement. It’s going to take work to get it into the best possible shape for my readers.
But that isn’t the type of fear I’m talking about. I’m talking about the fear that I just don’t have the ability to write stories – at all.
So, the question becomes how do you move forward when you are terrified?
Here’s what I’ve found. There is no magical formula that will ever make you feel ready when you are terrified. So, you have to move forward scared.
You take a deep breath.
You pray for courage.
And you start.
I’m reminded of the children of Israel, poised on the banks of the Jordan River. The Promised Land is just on the other side. But between them and their dream is the water, frothing and overspilling its banks.
The priests stare at the raging water. All they have to do is take the first step and God promised He will do the rest. But oh the terror in that first step.
But they did it – and you and I can, too.
So, I’m going to wrap up now because I have some revision to do.
Have you ever done something for someone and they just didn’t appreciate it?
I remember back when my kids were little, every time one of their birthdays rolled around, I would make their cake. They got to request a specific theme, and then I tried to come up with something that worked. Some years were more challenging than others!
The year Brody turned 11, he wanted a cake that kind of represented all the things he was interested in: sports, art, his spiritual life.
I spent a lot of time on that cake, dividing it into four equal parts and drawing miniature representations of each thing in each section. I made each of the four section different colors.
It was definitely a labor of love.
When it was time to bring out his cake, I was really excited for him to see it. Smiling, I brought it out from a back room and set it down in front of him.
Instead of the delight I had envisioned, he wrinkled his nose. Then, he pointed to one of the paint brushes I had carefully drawn with icing. “What’s that?” The disdain was clear in his voice. “It looks like a straw or something.” He continued to point out things that weren’t quite right.
I’ll be honest. I was hurt, and more than a little angry.
It hurts when we do something out of love, and the recipient doesn’t love it – or worse is critical. Even if it is just a birthday cake.
Imagine how God feels, then, when we snub His gift of salvation?
As I sat in the Good Friday service this year, the one phrase that kept coming to me over and over again was Romans 2:4
“Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”
That verse wasn’t even part of the service that night, but this phrase from this verse just kept washing over me, and I was moved to tears by it.
God gave His Son to die, not just a painful death but a humiliating death for us.
And people ignore that gift.
Worse, they often outright reject that gift, mocking it or calling it a crutch for weak and stupid people.
I can’t even imagine how that hurts God’s heart.
And God’s response?
It isn’t anger.
It isn’t instant retaliation.
No, His response is kindness. It’s love. It’s a gentle wooing of the lost.
If I was God (we can all be very thankful I am not – am I right?) I would want to FORCE people to accept my sacrifice and my gift. I would want to make them see how awesome it really was for me to do that for them. Even though they didn’t deserve it. Even though they were vile and sinners.
But God doesn’t do that.
He loves us so much that He gives us free will – even when rejecting His gift breaks His heart.
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. I Peter 3:9
It hurts His heart to send people to hell. He doesn’t want to do it – even when those people mock Him and reject Him and make fun of His great sacrifice for them.
I don’t know about you, but that completely undoes me. My mind can’t wrap around a love that great.
But I can be thankful that that same love is directed toward me.
Because the truth is, while I don’t mock or reject God’s gift, I can take it for granted. It can start to feel so familiar, I lose my wonder of the great thing Jesus did – not just for the world – but for me!
And while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me.
Oh Lord, never let me become used to your sacrifice or take it for granted. Let me continually be overwhelmed and in awe of your great love for me!