Lessons in the Silence

It’s been a quiet summer.

We haven’t traveled.

We haven’t entertained much.

Each day has slipped by like beads on a string.

And I’m okay with that.

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 put out three new devotional journals: 30 Days of Overcoming Fear; 30 Days of Knowing God; and 30 Days of Your Identity in Christ. (They are all available on Amazon, if you are interested.)

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Blessings, Rosanne

 

Stuck? Maybe You’re Not Using the Right Tool

It’s mid-June and my garden is still not planted.

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.

Blessings, Rosanne

 

 

Father’s Day – A Grief Delayed

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.

Blessings, Rosanne

 

 

How to Move Forward When You’re Terrified

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.

And I better get started.

Blessings, Rosanne

Easter Is a Reminder of God’s Kindness

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!

Blessing, Rosanne

An Open Letter to Christian Wives or When It’s Time to Get Help

Over the past several months, I’ve listened to various women in various places talk about something disturbing. Usually, it is said in a hushed, shamed voice. Or it is put out in a private social media group, always apologetically, always with a lot of self-blame always with a lot of excuses for the offender. 

In these posts or exchanges, the thing these women are describing is verbal and/or emotional abuse. 

The language that these women use usually places all the blame squarely on their own shoulders. There is a deeper shame that is written between the lines that goes something like, “If only I was more spiritual or a better Christian, this wouldn’t bother me, or this must be my fault or my husband wouldn’t treat me this way.”

This bothers me on so many levels, and I want to say something.

First, let me just say that everyone says mean things to their spouses at times. We all mess up and do things that aren’t kind or in our spouse’s best interests. We are all selfish or discontent at times.

I am not talking about the normal interactions that reveal our broken humanness. I am not talking about the little hurts or upsets that pepper a long marriage.

What I am talking about are words and actions that consistently put down a woman’s mind, body, spirit or emotions.

I am talking about words and actions that consistently, daily grind away at who a woman is and manipulate her view of herself.

I am talking about a husband who regularly hurts his wife with his words, and then blames her for feeling hurt.

Wives, that isn’t okay. It is NOT what God has called men to in marriage, and it isn’t what He has called you to either.

It doesn’t make you more spiritual by NOT holding your husband accountable for his words and actions towards you. 

It’s often difficult when you are in the middle of a situation to realize that what you are experiencing is actually a form of abuse. No, your husband isn’t hitting you or pushing you or physically hurting you, but he is hurting you nonetheless.

And it’s okay – healthy even – to not allow it to continue. Enabling someone to sin against you isn’t loving and it isn’t godly. 

One definition of emotional abuse explains it as, “any act including confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation, infantilization, or any other treatment which may diminish the sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth.”1

Signs of Emotional Abuse

What are the signs of emotional abuse? Any of the following can be signs if they happen frequently.

  • Yelling or swearing
  • Name calling or insults; mocking
  • Threats and intimidation
  • Ignoring and/or excluding
  • Isolating
  • Humiliating
  • Denial of the abuse and blaming the viction

I hope you caught that last one – blaming the victim. This is especially prevalent in Christian circles because men will use Scripture to try to make what they are doing seem okay and then blame their wives for their response to the abuse. After all, the wife is supposed to submit, right?

Here’s the thing, submission has nothing to do with the husband being superior to or acting in a parental fashion. The word submission in the Bible indicates one leader submitting to another. These are two equals with one voluntarily putting themselves under another’s leadership.

I am all about working at your marriage. I am not a proponent of divorce by any means, but I AM a proponent of separation with reconciliation as a goal. I am a fan of speaking to a Christian counselor or pastor with counseling experience to get some perspective on what’s happening. I am a proponent of holding your spouse accountable for destructive behavior towards you or your marriage.

Husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Obviously, nobody is going to do that perfectly, and we all need to extend grace to a spouse that messes up as we’d want him to extend that same grace to us.

But if you recognize your husband in the behavior listed above and it is an ongoing, consistent thing, may I encourage you to seek Godly counsel? There’s nothing extra spiritual about being a victim.

 

 

My Favorite Books from 2017

I’ve always loved to read. From the time I was a young child, books have been a way to meet new people, explore new places and go on grand adventures.

In 2017, I was lucky enough to find some great books, both fiction and non-fiction. In the non-fiction categories, several of these books made a life-altering impact on me. Under the fiction category, I found several series that were wonderful and had me staying up way too late because I had a hard time putting them down (what every author wants to hear!). Keep in mind, I read a lot of young adult and middle grade novels because that is what I am currently writing. These series might be a great fit if you have tweens or teens in the house. 🙂

 

Non-fiction

The Real God by Chip Ingram

In this book, Ingram starts with several chapters on how important it is to truly know God. He then takes a deep look at seven attributes of God: sovereignty, goodness, holiness, wisdom, justice, love and faithfulness. While most of this information won’t be new for those who have been believers for any length of time, it was a great way to start my year in 2017. I actually spent quite a bit of time on each chapter, devoting an entire week to each one. I know not everyone will want to do that, but this book is such a great way to remind ourselves about who God really is and how He wants us to see Him. I wrote a longer review that you can find HERE.

All Things New by Jon Eldridge

I started the year with The Real God, and All Things New is one of the last non-fiction books I read in 2017. It was like a breath of fresh air. The whole idea of the book is that eternity is not some boring, eternal church service, but life as it was meant to be lived before the Fall. He backs up his thoughts with a lot of Scripture, and it is hard not to find his vision refreshing and invigorating. This is a great read if you are feeling a bit hopeless. I wrote a longer review that you can read HERE.

Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard by Jennie Allen

I had heard a lot about this book from various bloggers. To be honest, I kind of resisted reading it at first because sometimes popularity doesn’t really translate into depth. When I found it on my library book shelf though, I decided to give it a try, and I am so glad I did. Her book points us from the exhausting and often discouraging efforts of striving to do more and be more, to resting in the life-giving reality of resting in Jesus. I wrote down pages of quotes from this book because it has so much truth on each page.

Reading People by Anne Bogel

I am a personality nerd. I have taken just about every personality test given, and I find it endlessly fascinating. I love to know why people do the things they do and why they are the way they are. Bogel goes into the major personality typing systems out there, and then she explains how they work and what they can do for you. I was particularly enthralled with her indepth explanation about the cognitive functions related to the Myers-Briggs types. I had so many ah-ha moments while reading this book. While personality typing is fun for me, it also serves a larger purpose. By understanding how different personality types deal with conflict, why they need alone time or even how they express joy, we can learn to love and get along better with those who are important to us.

Finish by Jon Acuff

This was not a Christian book, but as someone who struggles with follow through, I found this book both encouraging and practical. The book is enjoyable to read just because Acuff is so funny, but he also has a lot of hands-on research to back up his advice. Acuff offers a 30 Days of Hustle program, and when a researcher came to him to ask to study the results, Acuff was surprised at what helped people finish. Things like cutting goals in half, extending deadlines and having fun seem counterintuitive, but actually, they are ways people successfully reach their goals. This is a great read for this time of year when all those resolutions are still fresh.

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohllenben

I have always been a nature nerd. When I was a kid, I loved nothing more than to have my parents take me to the local plant nursery so I could wander around looking at all the various houseplants. I even had a bookcase filled with plants, with each shelf hooked up with special lighting. So, the idea that trees in a forest ecosystem can communicate to each other totally caught my attention. While this book might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I found the ways trees communicate, raise young trees and even sound alarms through their roots absolutely fascinating.

Fiction

The Ember Falls Series by S.D. Smith

If you love sword-wielding rabbits, this is the series for you! This is definitely a hero’s quest type of story. The series starts with The Green Ember and introduces us to the siblings, Heather  and Picket. The two are living an ordinary, peaceful existence until tragedy strikes their home, dragging them into a much bigger story that threatens their whole world.  The story picks up in The Ember Falls with the kingdom on the verge of war, and Heather and Picket are forced to once again play roles that feel too big and overwhelming for them.

 Fairytale Reform School series by Jen Calonita

This is a fun series that features plucky heroine Gilly. She isn’t bad, exactly, but with five little brothers and sisters, all living in a boot without enough resources, Gilly isn’t above stealing what she needs. She’s very good at it – until she gets caught and sentenced to three months at Fairytale Reform School where all the teachers are reformed villains. She soon finds that there is a battle brewing. The series includes Flunked, Charmed, and Tricked with a fourth installment, Switched coming out soon.

The Secrets of the Pied Piper series by Matthew Cody

There are three books so far in The Secrets of the Pied Piper series: The Peddler’s Road, The Magician’s Key, and the Piper’s Apprentice. Do you ever wondered what happened to the children led off by the Pied Piper? Pink-haired Max and her little brother, Carter, are stuck in modern-day Hamelin with their father . . . until they are also led away by the Piper to a place called the Summer Isle. There they meet the original stolen children, who haven’t aged a day and who have formed their own village, vigilantly guarded from the many nightmarish beings that roam the land. The series follows the saga of trying to get everyone back home where they belong.
So, what books did you love in 2017? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

 

 

Why My Word for 2018 is Trust

When I was a kid, my parents and I went to this place called Word of Life up in New York. They had a day camp for the littles and I loved it!

One day, we went to the beach. The memory isn’t very clear anymore, and I’m sure the folks watching us were being careful, but as I waded out in the shallows, I slipped. For some reason, I just couldn’t seem to get my feet underneath me to stand up. We were in a lake, so maybe the rocks covering the bottom were slippery. Or maybe the current was strong. Most likely, I was just klutzy and uncoordinated. Whatever the reason, I just couldn’t stand up, and in my little five year old mind, it seemed like I was going to drown.

Just when I thought all was lost, my friend June reached down her pudgy hand and yanked me to my feet. I coughed and gasped. I think I probably cried a little bit. When my mom came to get me, I ran to her and told her I almost drowned. The workers, understandably, downplayed this event.

In their eyes, they were probably telling the truth.  It was shallow water. I was probably under a total of 10 seconds (it only seemed like 10 minutes). It probably was one of those things that scared me in much greater proportion to the actual danger I was in.

But it was enough to instill in me a great fear.

My mom, who is also not all that fond of the water, really tried. She took me to swim lessons. These lessons were not a huge success since on the very first day, the instructor – a perky college student – informed us with great enthusiasm we were all going to jump into the deep end from the diving board.

Probably seeing more than one pair of saucer eyes staring at her, she quickly assured us we’d be holding onto a pole and both instructors would be right there.

I don’t know about everyone else in the class, but this did not calm my fears one little bit, and as the lesson time wound down, my anxiety wound tighter.

Way before I was ready, we were lining up behind the diving board. I kept slipping to the back of the line, putting off the inevitable.

The other instructor, noticing my fear, offered to jump with me. On shaking legs, I slowly climbed the ladder after the instructor. Together we put one hand on the handle of the long pole.

“On the count of three,” she said. “One, two, three…”

Instead of jumping on three, I shoved the instructor in and grabbed onto the diving board railing. That was the end of my swimming lessons.

But just because I was afraid, didn’t mean I didn’t want to swim, though.

Over the years, I would go to the pool or the beach or parties, and watch in envy as other kids seemed to have a blast. They would hurl themselves from diving boards, shrieking with delight. They’d zip through the water, playing Marco Polo or tag.

All the while, I would cling to the side of the pool, paddling my feet, pretending I was swimming.

But I wasn’t. I would never really swim, never experience the unique freedom of being in the water until I let go of the side of the pool. 

Enter my dad. He was an awesome swimmer. He could walk across the bottom of the pool on his hands which I thought was the coolest thing in the world. It definitely gave me street cred with my little friends, too. After all, none of THEIR dads could do that.

Instead of making me climb up on a diving board and jump into the deep end, my dad spent many hours with me in the shallow end of the pool. At first, he would keep his arms underneath me as I kicked away. With him holding onto me, the water held no fear for me.

Then he used one arm.

Then he used one hand.

Then, I was swimming across the shallow end with only his finger under my chin.

When he finally took that one finger away, I panicked. I started thrashing around. Immediately, his hands reached out to hold me and my panic went away.

We went back to one finger under the chin for a few minutes until he told me he was going to take his finger off. I protested, but he told me to just watch him. He assured me he was right there. That he could reach out to me at any moment. He would not let me sink, much less drowned.

So, keeping my eyes trained on my dad, I swam the length of the shallow end. You would have thought I had just won an Olympic gold in freestyle when I finally reached the other side – all by myself.

The difference between success and failure in this case was trust. The simple truth was I trusted my dad to protect me and keep me safe. Those instructors, as nice as they were, couldn’t even begin to compare.

This year, the word God keeps pressing on my heart is TRUST.

As I step into this new year, I have a lot of things going on in my life that require trust. From my writing, to my children, to friends and family that are struggling, God is asking me to trust Him.

It’s so easy to say we trust God, but walking it out day by day is a lot harder, isn’t it?

Worries, fears, what ifs – they can all make you doubt. But when I cling to those things, I limit what God can do in and through me.

Sometimes, it’s hard though, to simply trust and obey, though. It feels a lot like letting go of the side of the pool and kicking out to that scary place – the no man’s land of the middle of the pool where there are no sides to cling to. But I will never know the freedom that truly trusting brings without doing that.

Without letting go, you can’t glide through the water; you can’t experience the wonder of flying through the air to land with a splash, and then shoot back to the surface. You miss the joy an exhilaration that comes from just letting go.

So, I am left with a choice to make. I can continue to cling to what feels safe, or I can take God up on His invitation to trust Him.

My choice doesn’t change who God is, but it certainly changes how I live my life. I don’t want to miss out and stay stuck, clinging to what feels safe, while never really experiencing all that God has for me.

How about you? Has God given you a word for this year? I’d love to hear about it!

The Importance of Looking Back

The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree

The other day, Brody came home and shared that during Bible class they had all taken a Myers-Briggs personality test. If you aren’t familiar with Myers-Briggs, you can check it out here. Basically, it includes four different pairs of traits with 16 different possible combinations.

It’s kind of a joke among family and friends that my oldest, Brock, is like his dad, and my youngest acts just like me. So, it was no surprise that our Myers-Briggs results were basically the same. He is an ENFP, and I am an INFP. The E and I stand for extrovert and introvert. (That basically means that he gets his energy from being around other people, and I recharge by being by myself).

Despite that difference, there are a lot of ways my son and I are alike. One of those ways is that we are both idea-people, with ideas popping up so fast, it’s kind of like whack-a-mole, but with ideas.

 

Looking Back Isn’t My Natural Tendency

As idea people with lots of different interests and passions, it’s easy to jump to the next project or idea without ever looking backward at all to see what worked and what didn’t with previous things.

This tendency is never more present for me than at the start of a new year. I get excited about all the possibilities, and ideas for projects and goals flood in. This makes things difficult in two ways. First, it’s hard to know what ideas and goals to pick because as I’ve been learning in recent years, I can’t do ALL THE THINGS! The second issue is that I get so excited about what is coming up that I usually forget to take a look behind me to see what I’ve learned, so I can better move forward.

Giving Yourself the Gift of Time

So this year, instead of jumping in with tons of goals and projects the first week of January, I’ve given myself the gift of time – time to sort through 2017 (which was a tough year around here), and look at what I learned. Before stepping into all the new and shiny,  I want to take stock of the old and broken-in and decide what I want to take with me and build upon in the new year.

This is a practice I want to implement in more areas than just new year’s resolutions, though. I did a lot of journaling about what I was learning as I worked my way through the Gospels this year, and I wrote out a lot of my prayers this year to stay focused.  I also wrote down quotes from some of the books I was reading.

Taking the time to look through those journals was eye-opening and encouraging. I was able to see ways that God answered my prayers, themes of what God was teaching me, lessons I’d learned, and wisdom I had read (which would have been lost in the files of my brain probably forever if I hadn’t written them down!).

Lessons from 2017

As I look back at 2017, I’d love to share with you a few key lessons (besides the importance of looking back!) I learned that I hope you’ll find helpful, too.

The importance of writing things down

As I said before, I did a lot of journaling this year, and it was a huge blessing in my life. I tend to process and learn through writing, so writing down what I was studying and learning as I read my Bible helped me to both remember what I was learning and be able to go back to refresh my memory. I have also started to write down my favorite quotes from books I was reading. Since I read a lot, this has been an especially great practice for me, so those little gems don’t get lost or forgotten!

The importance of prayer

It seemed everything I read, everything I heard all pointed to the importance of prayer. I know this seems like a no-brainer to those of us who grew up in the church, but knowing something and doing it are two totally different things. In my quest to understand prayer better, I did a short study on prayer in the Bible. It showed me a few things. First, I found that the prayers recorded in the New Testament had much more to do with others spiritual well-being than their physical well-being. Not that we shouldn’t pray for others physical well-being, but it’s equally, if not more, important to pray for their spiritual well-being, too. The second thing I saw was the importance of being persistent. This is something I struggle with because it feels rude to me, but it’s stressed multiple times with positive results.

The importance of the eternal

I spent much of 2017 reading through the Gospels. For whatever reason, I had kind of resisted studying the them. After all, wasn’t it four versions of the same, exact story? Hadn’t I heard all the stories umpteen times? I am so glad that I overcame that resistance though because God showed me so many awesome things. One of those things was the value Jesus placed on the eternal over the physical. This year was a year of loss for me. I not only lost my dad, but a great-aunt and great-uncle, along with my parents’ best friends. That eternal perspective was a life line during loss.

The importance of doing one thing at a time

In our crazy, busy world, it seems like you have to multi-task to even have a hope of keeping up. What I realized this year is there is no such thing as multi-tasking. In reality, you are just switching back and forth between two or more things. As someone who is easily distracted, this is just a recipe for disaster for me. I have found great freedom and peace from giving myself permission to concentrate on one thing at a time. Try it, you might like it too!

The importance of knowing your limits

In the past year, God has been really teaching me that I can’t do all the things. I know this should be fairly obvious, but I have struggled with over-scheduling myself and being very stressed out as a result. I am the queen of thinking I can do way more in an allotted time period than is remotely possible. Because of that, I have felt a lot of frustration last year. I am also interested in a lot of different things, so I have a hard time saying no to new commitments. So, this year, I’m trusting God that I won’t miss anything important as I limit what I focus on and clear off my calendar.

The importance of anchoring your hope in Jesus

As I looked back in my journal, I saw over and over again that I had doodled the words from an old hymn, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.” With everything going on in the world and what was happening in my own, personal world, I realized once again that the only firm foundation is Jesus. It is only through HIS strength that I can do anything at all. It is only through HIS steadfastness that I can have peace in the midst of turmoil.

The importance of planning ahead

I am not much of a planner, and tend to be more of a by the seat of my pants type of girl. I tend to resist planning because it feels restrictive to me, but I am learning that when used correctly, it can offer freedom. By planning ahead, I can eat better, use my time more wisely and be more intentional about spending time with my people. I started work on my first novel in November, and I decided that I needed to do some plotting (planning ahead) rather than just diving in. This has been a refining process and doesn’t come naturally for me, but I believe I will have a much better, richer novel than if I had just plunged in without any planning at all.

The importance of leaving the outcome to God

I don’t know about you, but when God asks me to do something I tend to get all wrapped up in the outcome. As I prepared to speak at a teen conference in the spring, I found myself tied up in knots over how good of a job my words would do. I had gotten caught up in the trap of thinking the outcome was up to me. In reality, all God asks of us is our obedience. He is the one who is responsible for the outcome. I don’t know about you, but that takes a huge load off my shoulders.

So how about you? What did God teach you in 2017? I’d love to hear about it!

 

 

Five Minute Friday: INTENTIONAL

Life has been a bit crazy the last six weeks or so, but I am back at Five Minute Friday. If you haven’t heard of Five Minute Fridays, it is where women (and some men too!) from all over the world write about one word for 5 minutes. No editing. No second guessing. Just publishing. You can join in with your own post OR just read others HERE.

The word this week is INTENTIONAL.

Intentional is kind of a buzz word these days, isn’t it? Everyone it seems wants to be intentional – in their parenting, in their relationships, in their faith, in their work, even in their play. People (especially women) have woken up to the fact that they want to be intentional with their time and how they spend it.

I get it. I do. We have one life to live, and we don’t want to waste it. And let’s be honest, if we aren’t intentional about our time, we can waste it, frittering it away on social media or just sort of drifting through our days and letting life happen to us rather than the other way around.

But here’s the deal. As good as all that is (and it is – even the Bible says to use our days wisely), I think it has become another form of perfectionism that can paralyze us from doing the very thing we want to do: live intentionally. 

We can become so afraid that we aren’t being intentional, our schedules can become so rigid there is no room for spontaneity or fun. We can become so “intentional” we end up missing the very people we WANT to connect with on a deeper level because we’ve lost our flexibility.

A case in point – I am a lover of PowerSheets. This is product put out by Lara Casey (you can find the 6 month versions here as the full year has sold out) that helps you do some soul digging work to find good goals. Not the typical New Year’s resolutions that you abandon a week into January, but truly meaningful, good goals that you work on all year long. (am I the only person who feels like they have to accomplish ALL the goals in January?). As a buyer of PowerSheets, I am also part of the Facebook group for the first time this year. I was surprised just how paralyzed many of the women felt – like they were going to do goal setting wrong, like they had to get intentional living just right. Despite the fact that Lara is an active participant in the group and is always encouraging everyone that things don’t have to be perfect, still, getting this intentional living thing right was truly paralyzing to some of these women even with the perfect set of gel pens and planner stickers (yes, these are a thing!).

I’ve been there – so afraid of going in the wrong direction I stayed rooted to the spot.  So afraid of messing up my beautiful goal planner that I was afraid to write the wrong thing. Even though that is what it is for. 

That’s why, this year, I’m going to be intentional about not being perfect. Yep, imperfection is a goal of mine. It’s why I decided to intentionally give myself January to dream and think and plan. I find most of the pressure I live under is put there by me!

If we want to live intentional lives, we have to get past the paralysis of perfection and step into the messy of actually walking it out. 

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