Thanks to those who entered last week’s giveaway! You guys are such great story tellers. I loved reading all the moving tales! (and, btw, our move went great. We are in and loving the new house and so incredibly thankful for good friends and family who helped us!).
This week’s entry topic is in honor of my son, Thomas, who turns 11 on Thursday (they grow up so fast! *sniff*). So, to enter to win a copy of REVOLUTIONARY, comment below with a story (real or fictional) of your best birthday ever. 250 words max. The deadline is Thursday at midnight. I’ll announce the winners Friday morning.
I can’t tell you guys how much I loved reading your moving stories! Thanks so much for sharing with me. You are the best.
The winners of this week’s giveaway, chosen at random, are…
Ladies, email me your addresses, and I’ll get a book in the mail to you right away.
I’ll be hosting another giveaway next Tuesday, so come back and try again!
The official release date for the final book in the ANOMALY trilogy is July 15. But I got these yesterday…
This week, in honor of my upcoming move, the way to enter the giveaway is to tell me a story about moving. It can be a real-life story, if you have gone through a move, or it can be totally fiction, if you haven’t. I could use a good laugh, so funny stories get bonus points ;). Keep it under 200 words, and write it below, under comments. Only those entered in the comment section will be eligible to win.
This contest ends Thursday night. I’ll announce the winners Friday.
We are moving at the end of this week. My husband and I are both going to be teaching at a Christian school in Largo, Fl. It’s close to Tampa (home for the past seven years), but far enough that we can’t commute.
We’ve moved before – halfway around the country and halfway around the world. This time, we’re just moving to the next county over. Should be a piece of cake, right? We don’t have to ship anything in a container across the Atlantic. We don’t have to wrap every little thing in bubble wrap so it can survive a thousand miles in a U-Haul. We don’t even have to take our clothes off the hangers.
As far as logistics go, this move is a piece of cake.
My heart, though, is a different story. In my heart, this move is just like the others: we are leaving a place we love, people we love, and everything that is comfortable and familiar. We have to move into a new house, go to a new school, join a new church, and make new friends. And though we know God orchestrated it all – He has made that very clear – it is still difficult.
I thought it quite ironic that my map to the new house said “This route requires tolls.” The first time I plugged in the address and saw that, I teared up a little. Those of you who have experienced a move know the toll it takes on you. Anytime you have to uproot and replant is hard. Especially when the place you’re leaving is a place you love.
So this week, we will put in practice something we learned from past moves: we will embrace the “tolls”. It does no good to pretend there is no cost, no pain in a move. But it does great good to admit that leaving is hard. It is important to say goodbye to special friends and special places, to revisit beautiful memories made.
Moving is hard. But for me, it is a reminder that this earth is not my home. I am an alien here, a wanderer. My home, my citizenship, is in heaven. Until I reach my eternal home, I will seek to honor God, to go through the doors He opens, to follow the paths He lays before me.
The “tolls” He requires are always for our good, to grow us and strengthen us and make us more like Him. And, though the journeys are sometimes painful, the “end of the story” is settled, and it is beautiful.
This week, I have been able to spend time with my sweet niece, Calla, and my brand-new nephew, Clark. I have loved getting to hold the tiny newborn, snuggling and sniffing and smothering him with Auntie Krista kisses.
I have also loved watching big sister Calla do the same thing. But she doesn’t stop there. She kneels down, gets in Clark’s face and tells him, “I love you so much. You’re the best brother ever. You are so cute. I just love you!” She kisses and hugs him and frames his tiny face with her hands and says it all over again. And when she prays, she thanks God for “the best brother EVER.” It is adorable.
Watching Calla lavish her brother with so much love makes me think of God’s love. All my life, I have struggled with fully grasping how much God loves me. I don’t have a problem knowing God is holy, that He is just, that He is good. But that this holy, just, good God loves ME? Really loves me?
I don’t feel worthy of that kind of love.
But as I watch Calla with Clark, I see a glimpse of the love God has for me. Clark can’t do anything for Calla. He can’t hug her back, yet. He can’t tell her he loves her. He can’t earn her love. But that doesn’t matter. Calla loves Clark simply because he is her brother. And she has loved him since she first found out he was growing in her mommy’s belly.
It is hard to grasp, but God looks at me – at you – like Calla looks at Clark. He loves me, even though I can’t do anything for Him. He loved me, even when I didn’t love Him back. He loves me because I am His. But unlike even the sweetest human love, God’s love is perfect. Complete.
When I remember that, when I live in light of that amazing love, I can release my stresses, my disappointments, my frustrations, and just bask in the deep, deep love of Jesus. I can join in Paul’s prayer that we all “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:18b)
I love donuts. Chocolate glazed with chocolate icing is my favorite. Mmmm. I like sugar-covered cream-filled donuts, too. But if I were to eat only donuts every day…not only would I have to fill my closet with stretchy pants, but I’d also be miserable! I need proteins, vegetables, grains in my diet. I need solid good-for-me foods to stay healthy.
Sometimes, though, in our spiritual lives, we are content with “devotional donuts.” Instead of feasting on the solid meat of God’s amazing word, we maintain a steady diet of devotions that are light and tasty. They make us feel good – for a little while - but they are easily forgotten and they don’t really help us build the spiritual muscle needed to face life’s challenges.
I know — the Bible is tough. It is confusing. But I also know that students read tough, confusing works all the time. You have to. Your textbooks are tough and confusing. The literature books your English teacher makes you read are tough and confusing. And let’s not even talk about math! I still break out in hives every time I hear “quadratic equation.” But you read them, you study them, because you know it is important to master that material, to get good grades so you can get into a good college and (hopefully!) get a decent job.
So forget the excuses. Ignore them. And study God’s word. Really study it. Go to your local Christian bookstore and find a study that goes through a book of the bible or addresses a biblical topic. I prefer the ones with fill-in-the-blanks – they help me stay focused. There are many wonderful books like that. And they aren’t expensive — usually $15 or less. And the rewards are amazing. Your faith is strengthened, your love for God and for others is strengthened. And you begin to hunger for the “meat” of God’s word even more. Not that the occasional “devotional donut” isn’t still delicious. But your Christian life shouldn’t be filled with those. They are a treat, an appetizer, but not the main course.
So trade in your spiritual stretchy pants for some walking shoes! It is a decision you will never regret.
This week, on Monday, my baby sister had a beautiful baby boy: Clark Henry Scott. I have spent the last few days showing everyone around me his cute little picture and desperately waiting for my week of reading AP essays to end so I can drive over and hold this precious little guy.
Yesterday, I got a call that a sweet family friend lost her battle with cancer. I ache for her family. Barbara was a wonderful woman and she will be deeply missed.
Life and death.
Joy and pain.
Happiness and grief.
I wonder, as I offer praise for one and prayers for the other, how anyone can survive the radical ups and downs of this life without knowing Christ. He is the source of all good gifts, the giver of life. And he is the Rock we cling to when the storms of life threaten to drown us.
Knowing Christ doesn’t insulate us from life. Jesus himself said that we should expect difficulties. He modeled that for us – enduring temptation, persecution, and even death – an excruciating death that he did not deserve. This life isn’t easy, it isn’t perfect. We will experience pain. But this life is good, too. There are incredible joys, beauty all around us that we sometimes forget to see when circumstances weigh us down.
But the greatest joy I have – in both the happiness and the heartache – is knowing that this life is not our only life. In fact, compared to what is in store for us, this life is nothing – a vapor, a mist, dew on the grass. The greatest joys we can experience here pale in comparison to the joy that awaits us. And the greatest pain will be forgotten when we step out of these sin-trapped bodies into our eternal home.
So I will rejoice with those who rejoice, and I will weep with those who weep. I will live this life with the next life in mind. Because, as the beautiful old hymn teaches, “My hope is built on nothing less/than Jesus’ blood/ and righteousness.”
Go to any bookstore – online or in person – and you will find rows and rows…and rows and rows… of shelves housing books devoted to “self-esteem.” Most seem to focus on loving yourself, forgiving yourself, being good to yourself. Because we just don’t think enough of ourselves.
Here’s what I think: our problems with self-esteem aren’t that we don’t think enough of ourselves. Our problem is that we think of ourselves WAY too much.
At least I do, anyway. I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t think about myself, my needs, my wants. When I don’t feel frustrated that I am not being treated well enough. I look at people and wonder what they are thinking about me – do they like me? Are they talking about me to their friends? Are those conversations positive or negative? They better not be saying bad things because, believe me, I know some stuff about them…Yeah, um, you get the idea.
But plenty of days go by when I don’t think about others: the needs of others, the wants of others, whether or not I am treating others well enough. I am an expert on being self-centered. In fact, I could write a book about that! But being others-centered? I need some help there.
I have help there: it’s called the Bible, and it is SO much better than any self-help book on any real or virtual bookstore on the planet. The Bible has a whole lot to say about how we should think about ourselves. The verse I need to be reminded of most often is this one:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,
not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” ~Phil. 2:3-4
The English teacher in me has to point out that those verses are imperatives – the “bossy” sentence. That’s Paul (lovingly) sticking his finger in our faces and saying, YOU – that’s right YOU – stop being so selfish! Worry more about others than you worry about yourself. The rest of the chapter (which I highly recommend reading) goes on to demonstrate how Jesus lived out this principle. He set the example for a selfless life, and we will experience great joy if we follow that example.
So if I really want to make ME happy, I should think about ME less.
Because my self has enough help.
Predictability has gotten a bad rap, lately. I read a lot of book and movie reviews and the most consistent negative comment is “It’s so predictable.” And reviewers get so angry about that. A predictable movie makes people crazy. A predictable book? A huge waste of time.
Let me go a little “Full House” on you and ask (cue music) “What ever happened to predictability?” (Come on, you know the rest…”The milkman, the paperboy and evening TV…”)
And let me throw something crazy out there: Predictability is NOT necessarily a bad thing. In fact, (cue “teacher mode”), in ancient Greece, the winners of “Best Play” were not the ones with the most original script. Not by a long shot. The winners were the ones who told the best story. Same with Shakespeare. He didn’t invent the story of Romeo & Juliet. Or Hamlet. Or most of the others. He just told them better than anyone else. In fact, Romeo and Juliet gives the ending away at the beginning. Predictable? Sure! One of the greatest works of literature ever? Um, mostly yes, though dying for a love that you’ve had for less than a week isn’t all that romantic to me, personally, but whatever…
A great story isn’t defined by whether or not you can guess the ending. Stories aren’t math problems. The joy is sucked out of reading or watching a film if all you’re looking for is the “who did it?” or “Which boy does she pick?”
The joy of reading or watching (or listening to) a good story is the telling of it. How is the plot developed? What are the characters like? Do we love them? Root for them? Are we transported to a different time or place? I love when I’m in a movie theater and the lights go up and I suddenly remember I am in a movie theater. I was so engrossed in the world of the movie that I totally lost track of reality. A good book will do the same thing.
Let a good story take you away. I *predict* you’ll be glad you did (cue groan).
I recently finished my second reading of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. I can’t say that I enjoyed the book. Those of you who have read it understand. It isn’t enjoyable. But it is good. Ultimately, though, for me, the author’s hamartia is far more fatal than the characters’ disease.
The story itself is a tragedy, but the heroes’ tragic flaw is not fatal pride, like Oedipus; fatal passion, like Romeo; or fatal optimism, like Gatsby. Their flaw is in themselves – literally – the cancer that kills them IS them. Unlike the classic tragic heroes, Hazel and Augustus are fully aware of their tragic flaws. They are not in denial, not surprised by death. They know their days are numbered, that their “infinity” is shorter than others’. It is heartbreaking to become attached to characters who are dying. I like happily-ever-after. That’s not in there. Green doesn’t sugarcoat the fact that death is ugly and mean and can destroy the living as well as the dying.
Augustus loves metaphors, and the novel is full of them. The ones that stick out to me most, naturally, are those that reference faith. Support meetings take place in the “heart of Jesus” – the basement of a church. But those meetings are meaningless, full of empty repetition and one upmanship. They are led by a fool who can only offer mantras and the same story over and over again. That man is a modern-day eunuch who has lost his manhood and has nothing lasting to offer to anyone. Nothing of value happens in the church, only talk of death and death itself. To Augustus, there is more life and hope in video games than there ever could be in “the heart of Jesus.”
“Why are we here” is the unspoken question each character asks, a question that is discussed, but never answered satisfactorily. The fictional book Hazel loves so much is, I believe, a metaphor for the pursuit of purpose. She is desperate to know how An Imperial Affliction ends, what happens to the characters after the narrator dies. She travels across the globe to find those answers only to discover, in a wizard-behind-the-curtain moment, that the author is a fool. She rejects him then, and she even rejects him when he pursues her. He is not worth knowing.
The only divinity hinted at in this novel is the divine Universe, a Universe that deserves to be recognized and appreciated while you can recognize and appreciate it. The Universe is powerless to stop evil or sickness or death, but it will live on. Man will eventually die out, the sun will eventually burn out, but life creates life, so the Universe will remain. The best we can do is to appreciate being part of it for however much time we have. Because we will all eventually be forgotten, whether we are Shakespeare or the person about whom he wrote Sonnet 55.
As a Christian, I read this book, and my heart breaks for the author and for the millions of people who think like him. To them, faith in God is an impotent belief system, good only to create sayings to be hung on walls and cross-stitched on pillows. Living in heaven is as fanciful an idea as living on a cloud. Intelligent people must reject that notion, they must stop trying to seek immortality and just embrace our own flawed mortality.
The ultimate irony is that the God who created John Green gave him that incredible mind – the mind that has the ability to write beautiful stories. The God Green rejects gave him the free will to reject him. The God who Green sees as, at best, helpless, and, at worst, abusive, created the Universe that we should enjoy.
As I finished this book, I prayed for John Green, that he comes to know the true God, that he sees Jesus isn’t Patrick the Support Group Leader or Van Houten the Author, or just an idea constructed to help people deal with the painful circumstances of life. He is so much more than that. Life is so much more than just these mortal bodies enjoying this immense universe. I prayed he would see that love DOES make life worth living, but true love, true purpose, cannot be found in another human, but in Christ Jesus. The fault, John Green, is not in our stars, it is in our hearts. And what we are all looking for is not Alaska, but the Savior.