I love talking about “big” stuff: future plans, dreams, ideas. I remember, when I was younger, wondering what “great” things I’d do for God. I was up for just about anything, as long as it was big and important.
As I have matured in my relationship with God, I have realized that desire, while being pretty self-centered, can also hinder me from doing the things God actually wants me to do.
For example: I stayed home with my kids until they went to school (then, I went to school with them!). During my years at home, I sometimes felt like I wasn’t contributing enough to the kingdom of God. I spent my days changing diapers and reading Dr. Seuss and mixing baby food into watery rice flakes. I remember really struggling during those years: I had a college degree collecting dust in the closet. My kids wouldn’t even remember I was home with them! Wouldn’t it be better if I used the gifts God had given me in a job that actually paid something rather than spending day after day singing Barney songs and fishing Little People (the toys, not my actual children) out of the toilet?
But while I was in my pity party, God would remind me: THIS is my purpose for you right now. I knew God wanted me to stay home with my kids. And, before I had them, it sounded very noble and rewarding. But day after day (after day after day…) I forgot about the nobility. And the rewards could be few and far between (“Yay, you almost made it to the potty that time!”). But that is what obedience looks like. Waking up every morning and doing what God has for you then, whether it’s feeding a newborn or doing your homework or mowing the lawn.
Our greatest purpose in life is to bring glory to God. And, while we might get to do something(s) big and important, it is in the little things that we really demonstrate our commitment to his supremacy in our lives. And, very often, it’s the little things that mean the most to us later…like staying home. I look back on those years now with such amazing memories, such joy. I would not have traded one day, one diaper, one midnight feeding for the time I had at home with my kids.
So dream big for God! But, as you dream, be obedient in the small things. Do those with gladness, for his glory.
“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” ~ Col. 3:23
Remember when you were a kid and you hated what your mom served for dinner, and she’d say something like this: “I know you hate broccoli, but there are starving children in Africa who would love this meal.”?
I hated that speech.
I know, Mom was right. But you know what? I still hated broccoli (still do – there’s not enough melted cheese in the world to make that veggie palatable*). I still gagged it down. I would have gladly given every serving of broccoli to the starving children of Africa. But that wasn’t an option. And knowing I had more food than they did, didn’t change my taste buds or my rotten “you can make me eat it, but you won’t make me like it” attitude.
I don’t make my kids eat broccoli (though a couple of them actually like it!), but I do find myself saying things like that. I say it to myself, too, and my husband. And not about food, but – worse – about life: “Sure, this move is tough, but at least we’re all healthy!” “I know you miss your friends, but at least you’re just an hour away and not thousands of miles!”
It is a terrible thing to do. Worse than drowning broccoli in cheese. When we are struggling, we need to deal with the struggle. We need to look at that nasty broccoli sitting on our plate and recognize we have to eat it. Mom’s not letting us up until we do. We can cry and whine and complain and fake gag, but when we’re done, the broccoli will still be sitting there. Getting even more slimy and bland. Might as well eat it while it’s hot so it’ll slide down faster.
In life, sometimes things happen we just don’t like. Tough stuff. Pretending it’s not tough doesn’t make it easier. Recognizing other people have it worse doesn’t help either. The tough stuff is still there, waiting to be dealt with.
So we need to deal with it. God can handle our ranting and raving. He can handle our crying and complaining. Just read the Psalms. We can let Him know just how much we hate whatever struggle we may face. And, what I have found, after years of eating metaphorical broccoli, is that he doesn’t take the tough stuff away, but he does help you “swallow” it. He’ll get you through it. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. His ways are higher than ours. His purposes for us are great. And “this, too, shall pass.” Broccoli is very often followed by chocolate cake. So hang in there. Things will get better!
*I apologize to broccoli-lovers. I’m sure it’s a wonderful vegetable with great qualities and maybe you even have a recipe that is so good I can barely taste the broccoli…but I still hate it, and now that I’m an adult, I can refuse it any time I want. So no recipes, please! If you feel the need to send something, the name of a good counselor – one who deals in childhood vegetable trauma – would be most beneficial
There’s a word that Christians rarely use in conversation. I’ve never heard it in a sermon or song, never read it in a devo. It’s a word that makes us uncomfortable, offended. It just isn’t polite for Christians to discuss.
Don’t worry, this isn’t a “beat you over the head for eating that donut” blog. It isn’t a plea for advice on how to lose weight, either. It’s a confession.
I am thinking about the “F” word right now because my clothes are getting uncomfortably tight. I either need to lose weight or buy clothes in the next size up (neither my budget nor my pride will allow for the latter!).
What I DON’T need is a diet. God has convicted me time and time again that food isn’t the problem. Me eating the food is the problem. My go-to stress reliever is far too often a brownie or bowl of popcorn than it is His presence. This summer, I have dealt with the stress of a new house, a new job, and a new church with the same old habit: drowning my sorrows in empty calories.
After almost 25 years of walking with the Lord, I have learned this: My relationship with God is the single most important factor in every aspect of my life, including weight management. Finding the “right diet” doesn’t help because those just make me focus even more on food: what I can’t eat, what I should eat, what’s for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner…I am consumed with thoughts of food. That is just as sinful as overeating. My mind is not on things above, but on earthly things.
My prayer this morning was that I hunger and thirst for righteousness. That I turn to God when I am feeling lonely or stressed or sad or happy or nervous…When I am filled with His presence, food becomes what God meant for it to be: a good gift for me to enjoy. Not a god for me to worship or a demon I need to fear.
“Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them.” Heb. 13:9 (emphasis mine)
Did you know poverty can be a blessing?
I am going through a study on the Beatitudes right now, and right at the beginning, I read this verse…
“Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 5:3)
The commentator broke down the word “blessed” and explained it isn’t “happiness” – that is dependent on externals. “Blessing,” she explained, “depends on being rightly
related to God.”
And “poor in spirit”? That is when we recognize our own sinfulness, humble ourselves before a holy God, and truly repent. We mourn over our sin (Mt. 5:4), hate it, want nothing to do with it. This results in a humility that allows us to be rightly related to God.
And that brings blessings. Not just momentary happiness, but a blessedness that is soul-deep. Recognition of our sinfulness makes us hunger and thirst for righteousness (Mt. 5:6). That hunger and thirst is guaranteed to be satisfied.
God isn’t wanting to beat us up for our sin, but neither is He allowing us to brush it off or act like it’s “no big deal.” Our sins sent Jesus to the cross. But His love for us kept Him there. A failure to recognize the former keeps us from fully embracing the latter.
So be poor in spirit. And be blessed.
I love happy endings. I’ll read the occasional “sad” book, but I prefer knowing in advance that, despite the conflicts along the way, the story will end happily. I want the hero or heroine to get everything he/she wants, to be loved and comfortable and never again have any troubles.
I was in church yesterday, and the pastor was referring to the story of David and Goliath. I love that story. Talk about a happy ending! But instead of stopping at the “David killed Goliath and everyone loved him!” part, he read on. It had been a while since I read what happened after that.
Now I know why.
It is not happy.
After David single-handedly defeats Israel’s enemies and is celebrated by all, becomes best friends with the King’s son, and goes on to win more battles, King Saul hears the people (literally) singing David’s praises. Saul is so jealous that he then makes it his personal mission to KILL David.
Yep. David spends years fleeing for his life. Years. Saul plots against him, gets his daughter to plot against him, his soldiers…he is relentless.
As I thought about that yesterday, I realized that our lives are similar to David’s. Not in the “killing giants and running from evil kings” sense, but in the fact that life goes on after “happy endings.” Throughout our lives, we all have “happily ever after” moments: graduating from high school and college; getting a job; getting married; having kids; retiring…But life goes on after each of them. Difficulties come. We have our own “Sauls” that seek to destroy us.
So how do we do deal with that? We follow David’s example: despite all his struggles – from within and without – he is called “a man after God’s own heart.” Read the Psalms that he wrote and you’ll see his relationship with God in black and white. He was AFTER God’s heart — seeking it, longing for it, distraught without it, ashamed when he broke it, rejoicing when his heart was like God’s.
Our “happily ever after” won’t occur on this earth. Those who know Christ are guaranteed one, though – an eternity that is indescribably glorious.
There are amazing moments here on earth. A former pastor called those “glimpses of eternity.” But those aren’t to be confused with eternity itself. Those are moments. We should embrace them when they come, but recognize that life will go on after them, “Sauls” will chase us, circumstances will threaten to overwhelm us. But we can get through them just like David did – by seeking to be men and women after God’s own heart.
Yesterday, Thomas, my dad, and I went to Disney’s Blizzard Beach – a super-fun water park in Orlando. We had a great time riding the rides, bouncing around in the wave pool, and drifting along on the lazy river.
Not everyone, however, was having fun. As I sat and waited for Thomas to ride the zip line, I watched a drama unfold by the lifeguard stand. A woman had, apparently, lost her sunglasses in the pool below said zip line. It happens. A few minutes before this, I heard a man ask a lifeguard about a pair he had lost in the same place. The lifeguard told him there are a few times a day when someone comes to pick up lost items in that pool, and when that occurs, the items will be available. The gentleman thanked the lifeguard and returned to the fun of the park.
Not this woman, though. Nope. She didn’t like the lifeguard’s answer. She wanted her sunglasses NOW. She hovered over the ladder as kids got out of the (very deep) pool and tried to get some of the braver ones to dive for her glasses. When the lifeguard had to jump in to help a preschooler, the woman met him as he handed the child back to her mom and demanded he dive down and get the glasses himself. The poor guy tried, but he couldn’t get them. He was the ONLY lifeguard at that particular pool, and there were kids jumping in from a zip line AND sliding in on a mini-slide. His job was to watch them, as he very kindly explained. Over and over. He needed to be at his post. Someone would be by to get her glasses later.
Still she stayed. She got her family in on it. Tried to get her son to dive in for them (totally against the rules…the pool was a landing spot only, and needed to be cleared quickly after every landing so the next rider could go). She pulled other lifeguards in – lifeguards that were going on their breaks – and got the same answer. They all knew the policy: no swimming or diving into that pool while kids were on the zip line. Those kids wait a long time for their turn!
I was there for a while. And so was she. She was there after we left. Still complaining, still demanding. Disney parks aren’t called the “Happiest Place on Earth” for nothing — this park was SO fun!! — yet this woman chose misery instead. She chose to stand around griping instead of riding rides, bouncing around in the wave pool, or drifting along the lazy river. We left with smiles on our faces and fantastic memories. She left with a nasty attitude and very wet sunglasses.
But as I was watching her, feeling oh-so-good about myself and my fabulous attitude, I realized that, though I wasn’t behaving like the spoiled brat from “Willy Wonka” right then, I have had plenty of those “I want it NOW” moments: When I’m in a hurry to get somewhere and my family isn’t moving as fast as I want them to; when I’m in line at the grocery store and the woman in front of me has problems getting her credit card to work; when I see a cute outfit I’d love to have, but know it’s just not in the budget right now…I can get SO Veruca so fast. I get frustrated, demanding…This is important to ME so it should be just as important to everyone else!!
The Bible tells us just the opposite. Paul exhorts us to “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). Those times when we want something now, and it isn’t happening…? Those are opportunities to reflect Christ. Putting the needs of others above ourselves is HARD. And it’s definitely not what the world is saying! But it is true. And there is far greater peace in living according to God’s standard than the world’s.
So relax. Let go of the selfishness, and embrace a life where you’re NOT the center of the universe. Walk away from the sunglasses…
Yesterday, I left church crying. I shed quite a few tears in church, as well. Why?
It was our last Sunday.
We love our church. It has become more than just a place of worship. It is a home, a refuge, a community.
Yet so many people hate church. They leave churches or refuse to join because they have been hurt at church, or people they love have been hurt at church, and they decide they’d rather worship at home than with a bunch of hypocrites.
I get that. I’ve been there. Not every church is a healthy church, but there ARE healthy churches out there. How do you find one so great that you cry buckets when you have to leave it? Try these two tips:
Before we joined this church, I prayed like crazy. My biggest prayer was that we find a church where our kids could grow. I wanted them to be surrounded by people who love Jesus and who will encourage our kids to love Jesus. God answered that prayer in such a big way. We had Miss Julia, Emma’s Sunday school teacher, who oozes passion for Jesus. She would call Emma out when she was doing wrong, point her to scripture when she was struggling, and text her at all hours of the night when she was doubting. She even came to Emma’s activities (like “The Music Man” performance at school). Andrew, Ellie’s middle school pastor, digs deep into the word and knows that 6-8 graders can do more than just play games on Wednesdays nights – they can be world changers! Mr. Frank worked in the elementary ministry, despite his disability. He hugged Thomas every time he saw him, looked him in the eye and said, “You know what, Thomas? I love you. But Jesus is crazy about you!”
I knew a woman who left a church because no one spoke to her. I asked her if she was involved in any ministries? “No.” Part of a Sunday school class? “No.” Volunteer in the nursery or youth group? “No.” She got to church late, left early, and complained that, after six months attending the church, she had no friends. The biggest mistake church-goers make is thinking church is for them. Like it’s Chick-Fil-A where the workers are there to meet your needs and make sure you are satisfied. You miss out on the joy of community and the fulfillment of your God-given gifts when you think that! The church is a body of believers. Every part of that body is important. No church can function if the only people serving are those who are on staff. We are all gifted differently.
My friend Rebekah is both merciful and organized. She is the homeroom mom to a second grade class at an inner-city school that our church has adopted. She makes sure those kids have school supplies and uniforms at the beginning of the year. She sends their names out to our Sunday school class so that each kid has a family praying for him/her and has gifts at Christmas and their birthdays. She plans class parties and field trips. And she LOVES doing that. I can hear it in her voice when she talks about those precious kids.
The Wheetley’s (the “real” Carey and Kristie from the ANOMALY series) are some of the most hospitable people I have ever known. They’ll open up their home to anyone, anytime. When the teen Bible study needed a host home — the Wheetley’s volunteered. When our Sunday school class needed a party house – the Wheetley’s volunteered. The VBS workers need a place to make crafts?? Yep, the whole crew met up at the Wheetley’s. Never once have I heard them complain about the mess, the amount of people, the expense of hosting. They love opening up their home. They delight in using the gifts God has given them to help the body of Christ.
I could go on…but you get the idea (and this post is already long enough!). Want to love a church so much you cry when you have to leave it? Pray about which church God wants you in, then get involved! Use your gifts. Look to serve. It is SO worth it, believe me.
Those of you who have read this blog lately know that we just moved. Those who read this blog regularly know that this wasn’t our first move. But it has caused me to remember our first move.
Ironically – Sovereignly – that move took place fifteen years ago this month. At the time, my oldest daughter was six months old, and I did NOT want to move! I was so angry – at God, at my husband, at the state of Texas…why should we have to leave a place we loved, where we had family and friends who loved us, to go someplace we knew NO ONE??
This was before Skype and Facetime, when the only way to share Emma’s first steps and first words were by sending a VHS video taken on our huge camera. The only way for them to see how she was changing was to take pictures on actual film, have it developed, and mailed it to them. That move to Texas for Dave to attend seminary, planned when we were first married, did not make sense now that we had a baby! I was sure we needed to change plans. Dave could just do something else. Surely, God didn’t expect us to leave Florida- with a baby – just so Dave could study His word??
But Dave was convinced this is what God wanted, and no amount of whining and complaining from me (and believe me, there was A LOT!) could change his mind. So I went. Kicking and screaming.
You regulars know the end of that story…I LOVED living in Texas. God gave us amazing friends and a fabulous church. He took us out of Florida, not to punish or crush us, but to strengthen and bless us.
So, as I adjust to this move, I remember that one. With every move, the part of me that kicks and screams has gotten better. I’m just whimpering now. A major improvement over fifteen years ago! But I know that, eventually, I will rejoice. Because, though circumstances are sometimes difficult, my God is always good.
Do you ever feel like your prayers don’t go farther than the ceiling? That maybe God isn’t really there, or He’s there but just doesn’t have time for you? Maybe you’re feeling that now. If so, consider these possibilities as you seek to reignite the flame of passion in your walk with Christ:
I have found that when I feel far from God, it is because I have moved away from Him. This happens when I allow sin to go unconfessed. That lingering bitterness (“but you don’t understand – I can’t forgive that.”), the justifications (“I know the Bible says I shouldn’t, but it feels so right…it must be okay!”), the shame (“I can’t admit I did that…not even to God.”). Sin creates a barrier between ourselves and God. Jesus, in His death, burial, and resurrection, has paid for that sin (yes, even that sin). Our job is not to be good enough to earn His forgiveness, it is to accept it. I John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Is there a sin you need to confess? Do it! Jesus is waiting to offer forgiveness and restoration “from all unrighteousness.”
Don’t Grow Weary
The temptation when we feel far from God is to just stop trying. Why read the Bible when you get nothing out of it? Why pray when no one seems to be listening? We want to just give up. Our faith seems broken. The excitement from camp is gone. So you hit Snooze instead of getting up for your Quiet Time. You don’t bother praying. But that cycle takes you farther from God, not closer to Him. James 4:8a says, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” Not “might” draw near. He WILL. So keep seeking Him, keep praying. Make sure your time with Him isn’t rushed, that you aren’t preoccupied. It is hard to hear God speaking when our minds and hearts are focused on other things.
Meet With Other Believers
We were made to be in community with other Christians. We need to share our hearts with people we can trust, those who will encourage us, challenge us, and pray with us. Hebrews 11:25a charges us to “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing…” I find that, when my faith is weak, being around others whose faith is stronger buoys me. Hearing what God is doing in their lives helps me recall all that He has done in mine. Talking about my struggles makes those struggles more bearable. And, in turn, when I have come out of my “dark night”, I can help others through theirs.
It’s so easy to focus on ourselves. We get overwhelmed with circumstances – often beyond our control – and begin a downward spiral. Others don’t care and now not even God seems to be listening?? I have had my moments where I am so angry and irritable because I feel that no one – not even God – is treating me well. First, I have to humble myself and seek God’s forgiveness for my pride and selfishness. Then, I need to remember that I am the child of the King. The Creator of the Universe. Yes, this God loves me, died for me, cares for me, plans for me. But he is not worthy because of what He does for me. He is worthy because He is God. He is the most worthy, the most holy. I find that when I concentrate on worshiping our amazing God, I am drawn into His presence. I was made to worship Him. I experience joy and peace and contentment when my eyes are on Him and not myself.
I have loved reading the posts from the REVOLUTIONARY Blog Tour. This was a tough book to write – ending a trilogy is HARD – and I was a little worried about what the reaction to the final book would be. But those who stuck with me through the first two seem to be enjoying the finale. Whew.
So before I get back into my “regular” blog posts, I thought I’d write one on the process of writing REVOLUTIONARY. I won’t give away any spoilers, if you haven’t read it yet. But I will give you a little peek into my brain (be careful, it’s messy!) and how this final book went from concept to novel.
I started out the series with a rough idea of where I wanted it to go. “Rough” is the key word there. I started making changes as soon as I began ANOMALY — those of you who write know that stories and characters tend to take on a life of their own.
But when I got to REVOLUTIONARY, I knew I needed to be more intentional. This was the end of a trilogy. Threads need to come together, ah-ha! moments must be prepared, revelations made. My editor encouraged me to raise the stakes and don’t be afraid to kill people, when necessary.
I took advice from a writer-friend, Shannon Dittemore, who re-read the first two novels in her ANGEL EYES trilogy before beginning the final book. It’s important, she encouraged, to remind yourself what has happened, who the characters -large and small – are and even what places look like. So I re-read the first two, making notes along the way.
Before I began the first draft, I was able to head up to the Thomas Nelson headquarters in Nashville. During that time, I threw some plot ideas around with
the whole editorial team…so much creativity in one room! It was an amazingly fun afternoon. They also gave terrific insight into how I could integrate elements from the other novels into this one to create a greater sense of unity and finality. My editor and I also tossed around some ideas that would lead to one of the big “I did NOT see that coming!” moments in this final book.
Finally, I sat down to write it. It was bittersweet. I found myself slowing at the end, just because I didn’t want it to end! I spent a long time in this world with these characters, and I was sad to be saying goodbye. I also slowed because I had to keep checking the other two books — what did this room look like? What color were that character’s eyes? It was really like writing the ending to a 210,000 word novel than writing the third book in a trilogy. I wanted to make sure the key characters were well developed, that most of the questions raised were answered, that the ending, when it finally came, would feel worth all that time my readers sacrificed to get there. And, above all, I wanted to be sure that I was honoring God with this book and this series.
I finished REVOLUTIONARY a year ago this week. It wasn’t due until August 1st, so I let it sit for a week before going through it one last time. It, of course, went through several more edits. First drafts are never perfect! But the story was complete. I knew what happened to Thalli, Berk, Rhen, and Alex. And I was DYING for everyone else to know, too. And, after a year of waiting…now you know! Or you CAN know.
If you haven’t read it, please do! If you have – would you stop by one of the booksellers’ websites and leave a review? The best way to help an author – besides reading his/her book – is by reviewing it on Amazon, B&N, GoodReads, ChristianBook, etc.
THANK YOU! For reading my books and my blog, for being interested in this post. I appreciate it more than I can say. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to write these books, and I love hearing from those of you who have read them.