Day 31 – August 31, 2014

My oh my, God works in funny, mind-blowing ways, doesn’t He? Remember long ago, distant, Day 29? You know…when I had no motivation to write? Well, that feels like a lifetime ago. Day 29? Why, I was only a child! Ha! Ha, ha!

This morning, prior to church, I pulled out my 4,800 word beginning to my sequel to Middle Ground. I didn’t actually write any more of it this morning, but I was interested enough to pull it out. For the first time in a couple of months. And then, this morning during the first service at church, while a group of kids I was overseeing watched Veggie Tales, I had to pull out a notebook and write down three new ideas I had. Three. They were coming so fast I knew I would forget them if I didn’t write them down right then. (Two important notes here. One: I love me some Veggie Tales, and this was a new one I hadn’t seen. So for me to pull myself away in order to jot down those ideas… Big stuff. Two: I wasn’t neglecting the kids. They were entirely engrossed in Bob and Larry at the time, and I was sitting between them and the door. Just in case you were wondering…)

Now, if you know me, you know that coming up with an idea is never really the difficult thing for me. I could tell you the idea for twenty different, unique, potentially bestselling novels right now. (And lest you think I am a bit too full of myself, know that I firmly believe the bestselling potential would be at its height if someone else wrote the books based on my ideas.) But I do actually feel like writing now. My husband declared that probably meant I would not have any time, or I would break a thumb, or only be able to see out of one eye. I can write with one thumb or one eye. It’s that time thing that I’m worried about…

It’s not that I don’t think I’ll have the time. I just can’t let the writing overtake me again. I mean, I want it to overtake me to a certain extent, but I can’t lose the God time. And yes, the writing can be God time. It was with Middle Ground. But that’s not what I mean. I also can’t lose the family time. I can’t get absorbed to the point that I am okay skipping dinner with my family, or stay up so late that I can’t get up early to spend time with God. I can’t let that happen. I have to find some balance.

Ah, balance. Balance isn’t something I have ever been very good at. I am a bit obsessive. (Those of you who know me are laughing at the understatement.) And when I am writing, and it is going well, I completely lose myself in it. And I have loved that in the past. That’s the sweet spot. That’s when being a writer is a joy, and feels like the only thing I could ever imagine doing with my life, for as long as I live.

I can’t let that happen. Ecclesiastes 3:22 says, “So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work,” but of course Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Enjoy the work, but don’t obsess. Enjoy the work, but only in its time. Enjoy the work, but during its season.

Oh, how I sometimes long for the good ol’ days of Day 29, when things were simple.

Day 30 – August 30, 2014

Thank you for the prayers, regarding the decisions I am in the process of making. (Clueless? Read Day 29 HERE.) Many of you – long-time friends and people I have never met – have reached out to me and told me you are praying, and I just can’t tell you how much that means to me. Thank you so much.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21

After yesterday’s blog, a friend texted me and asked, “So which way are you turning?” My response this morning was that I still didn’t know. But as I further explained my hesitancy to her, I realized I did actually know, after all. Here was my text: “Still don’t know… The idea of all of the publishing promotion is what is giving me an uneasiness about self-publishing, I think. I just don’t WANT to have to be all me, me, me all the time. But otherwise I won’t sell books. :-/ I just want someone big to discover me and take it from there. LOL” How’s that for honesty? (How’s that for delusion?)

Please don’t think i fear the work. That is not the case. I work hard at whatever I do. I love to work hard when I am passionate about something. And up until just about two or three months ago, I fully intended to do the hard work of a driven self-published author all day every day. But God has changed my heart. (Clueless? Read Days 1 – 29!) So, yeah…if I’m being honest, I would love for Oprah to stumble across something I have written (She does garner a brief mention in the Abigail Phelps series, so maybe…) and decide she wants to publish my books and produce film versions. And then everyone would buy my books just because they have a fancy Oprah sticker on the cover, and I wouldn’t have to feel as if I were selling my soul just to bring home ten bucks a month in royalties. (How’s that for honesty?) It doesn’t have to be Oprah, but I’m sure you get the point.

So I sent out some queries for Middle Ground this morning. I know that signing with a literary agent, or even signing with a publisher, won’t necessarily mean I am any closer to any sort of success, and it certainly won’t mean that the hard work will go away. Truthfully, I know it will mean the hard work is just beginning. But at least maybe I won’t have to feel all of that weight on my shoulders – and mine alone. I’ll have the assistance and guidance of people who know what they’re doing. 

So we’ll see. I don’t know if by sending out more queries I turned to the left or the right, but at least I turned. Now I’m going to be eagerly listening to the voice saying “This is the way; walk in it.” 

And if that way happens to involve Oprah, well…that wouldn’t be horrible. That’s all I’m saying.

Day 29 – August 29, 2014

Pretty much on a daily basis, someone says to me, “So, you’re doing [insert various thing I am involved with] now. What does that mean for your writing?” And my response is usually, “What writing?”

I need to quit saying that. That makes it sound as if I have been too busy to write. That’s simply not the case. Well, okay…not simply. I don’t have time to write, but because I am not taking (making?) time to write. I am staying busy, that’s for sure. Kids, family, church, the tiniest bit of book publicity…there is plenty to do. But if it were a priority right now (or even much of a consideration at all) I could certainly squeeze in some time for writing. As I’ve stated before, I wrote the first books when I absolutely did not have time to write. Now I could do it without even sacrificing family time or sleep or prayer time or meals. I could totally make it work.

But I have no ideas. Okay, that’s not true. I have ideas. And the thought of putting those ideas on paper exhausts me! In several cases I’ve written the beginnings (as much as 10,000 words in one case), I have the endings in my mind, but it’s thinking about that middle part that just makes me groan. Yes, I am aware that middles are a necessary part of every book. And yes, I know that I should just start writing and it will come. Yes, yes, yes.

I’m not sure, but I think the middle that is really messing with my mind is Middle Ground. If you are just joining us on The Year of Blogging Faithfully, here’s what you missed. (“Previously, on The Year of Blogging Faithfully…”) Middle Ground is a completed manuscript which I love. Like seriously love. While I self-published my previous books, I am hesitant to do that with Middle Ground due to my crisis of publishing confidence. Middle Ground is a Christian rom-com which I really believe could do some good in the world. Is it going to bring a peaceful resolution in the Middle East, or get clean water to third world countries? Well, no. It’s not going to do that kind of good. But it has enough mainstream appeal that I think maybe it could get the message of salvation through Jesus Christ into the hands of some people who were just looking for a fun book to read over the weekend. And I don’t want to take that possibility, and destroy it. So I’ve been contacting agents, and there has been incredibly positive feedback. But at the end of the day, they think it is a little too mainstream to be a Christian book, and way too Christian to be a mainstream book. Well, yeah. That’s sort of the point. Don’t think that the title wasn’t chosen for a reason…

So I need to get to writing. I need to get to work putting the ideas on paper. But I don’t like the idea of moving on until there is some direction for Middle Ground. I know authors do it that way all the time, but hopefully by now you have realized I’m not your normal brand of author. Not sure if that’s good or bad, but it’s true.

I’ve been praying for guidance, and maybe if you’re willing, you can pray with me. I really would appreciate that. I just want to do God’s will. If He wants me to keep sending queries to agents, I’ll do that. If He wants me to self-publish, well…I can self-publish a book with one hand tied behind my back. (Although it will take longer that way, for the record.) I can just publish it a chapter at a time on my blog, if that is His will, and if He wants me to put it on the shelf for a while (or, dare I say it…forever) I will. But I am crying out to Him for guidance. I don’t want to mess this up. I’m praying that God will give me a peace about what I am supposed to do, but so far I have no peace about any of the options.

I want people to read it, but when the time is right, when it will have the most impact. I would love to make some money off of it, of course. (“Previously, on The Year of Blogging Faithfully…Bethany quit her job and currently has no income!”) But that honestly isn’t priority number one in my mind. Not with any book of mine, but especially not that one.

Yep. Your prayers would be appreciated. One of my favorite Bible verses (which I have already quoted in this blog…at least once) is Isaiah 30:21. “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.'” 

Oh, wow. Okay…I was about to say that I trust in God’s promises, and I am ready to hear His voice. But then my ears heard a voice. The voice didn’t say, “This is the way; walk in it.” The voice said, “You’ll hear a voice telling you, ‘This is the way; walk in it,’ whether you turn to the right or to the left, but you’re just sitting still. Turn left or right.”

I write from the heart on this blog. As it comes. And that just came. I haven’t taken even a moment to process anything, but I think it may be decision time. I will be praying to know His will, and if you would be so kind as to say a prayer for me, that is what I would ask from you as well. I’m not praying for it to go a particular way. I’m praying for it to go His way.

Day 28 – August 28, 2014

Today, I honestly just don’t have much to say. Oh, there are always things, of course, but nothing is really weighing on my heart or mind. It was a good day. Nothing remarkable happened, but it was a good day.

So, it feels like a day for just sharing some memories. This weekend is the Telluride Film Festival. Each and every year, I find myself rubbing shoulders with countless movie stars at the Telluride Film Festival. (No, readers of the Abigail Phelps series…Abby has not taken over The Year of Blogging Faithfully! This is actually true!) It all began over Labor Day weekend, 2002. My parents were here visiting from Kentucky, and I was extremely pregnant. Not quite ready to pop, but about six months or so. We decided, that weekend of their trip, to visit some of the scenic mountain towns which are pretty near to us, including Telluride, which is about 75 miles away. Well, we walked around, took photos of the mountains, window-shopped at ridiculously-priced stores…all the fun touristy stuff. At one point we found ourselves being offered champagne and strawberries, there on the street. Well, hmm. That’s cool. We didn’t really know that anything was different about that weekend until we saw Salman Rushdie. I said it was him, but no one believed me. After all, others quite correctly pointed out, there was a bounty on his head, placed years ago by the Iranian government. Surely he wouldn’t just be wandering around Telluride, Colorado. But I knew it was him. Not because I am any great intellectual, or at all impressive when it comes to my knowledge of literature. I had just seen Bridget Jones’s Diary three times in the movie theater. I didn’t quite have the guts to go over to him, put on my best Bridget British accent, and ask, “Do you know – where the toilets are?” But I did consider it and discuss the possibility. Regardless, they still didn’t believe that it was him. So I walked over to the art gallery where he stood and found myself shoulder-to-shoulder with him, looking through some prints. As it turns out, the author of The Satanic Verses, with a multi-million dollar bounty on his head, was wearing a name tag. “Hello. My name is Salman.” Honest to goodness. 

That was our first time at the Telluride Film Festival, though we had no idea that was what was happening. And somehow we have found ourselves at the Telluride Film Festival several times since. And usually we haven’t remembered that it was TFF weekend until we got there. Honestly. We missed the premiere of The King’s Speech (and a personal appearance by Colin Firth) by one day in 2010. One year we were one day late for the special tribute to Robert Redford. (Yes. He was there.) And then in 2011 I came the closest I have come to a true encounter with an actor I love. We walked past a theater, and I noticed a group of women looking through the glass from the outside. Not just looking. Stalking. So I stalked as well. And then the crowd suddenly began to dissipate and I heard one woman say, “Did you see him?” Another replied, “Yeah. He went in that door, and he was right on the other side of the glass for a while. He just went into the room.” “Who was it?” someone else asked. “Clooney,” came the reply, and so began the screams in my head. (If you have read the Abigail Phelps books, I hope you are noticing that the TFF only seems to honor actors who appear in Abby’s delusions. Coincidence? At the very least, the Telluride Film Festival and I have similar tastes…) 

This year I am very aware that it is Film Festival weekend, and I don’t think we’ll be going. Somehow the idea of intentionally going just doesn’t seem as magical. Besides, neither Steve Carell nor Channing Tatum were ever mentioned by Abigail Phelps. So what’s the point?

Day 27 – August 27, 2014

On this day in history, the most powerful volcanic eruption in recorded history occurred, on Krakatau (1883), Lyndon B. Johnson was born (1908), Roman Holiday opened, featuring Audrey Hepburn in her first starring role (1953), and my parents got married (1966). They weren’t my parents then, incidentally. I didn’t make my appearance until 13 years later.

My parents have been married 48 years today. I think it’s wonderful to see marriages survive that long, but what I find truly remarkable is that their marriage hasn’t just survived. It’s not just that they are still married. It’s that they still have a marriage

My parents haven’t had a perfect marriage – whatever that is. I know that there were and are arguments. I have seen them be truly frustrated at each other. There have been money problems, health problems, kid problems (Guilty as charged!), and certainly other problems I am not even aware of. But they also talk to each other. They laugh with each other. They say “I love you” regularly, and I’ve never known one of them to leave the house without hugging or kissing the other. (Trust me. My sister and I have covered our eyes and said “Eww!” more times than I could count.)

They are fantastic parents, and I could go on and on for days about all of the wonderful parenting things they have taught me, and continue to do for my sister and me on a daily basis. But that’s not what today is about. Before they had kids, they had a marriage. And somehow in our home, there was never any doubt that the marriage was the core of the family. There was a marriage before we were born, and there would be a marriage after we grew up and moved out. So the marriage had to matter, even when the chaos of children stood to steal the spotlight.

I could call them my role models, and that would be true, but it also wouldn’t adequately portray the importance of their influence in my life. It’s because of them, and the example they set, that I entered into a marriage in which divorce is not an option. In our modern society that is neither practical nor politically correct. And yet, divorce is not an option. And that’s not to say that when there are issues we just resolve ourselves to muddle through, even if we’re miserable. No! Because divorce is not an option, we know ahead of time that we need to make the investment and work at it and love each other with everything we’ve got. (My dad jokes that they have served 48 years of their life sentence.) It’s because of my parents that I know I don’t have to crumble when difficult situations arise. They didn’t fight in front of us, per se, but they were also real. So I know that a disagreement is not the end of the world. It’s because of my parents that I don’t mind embarrassing my kids by kissing their daddy in front of them. I want my kids to grow up knowing their parents are in love with each other, like I did. What may have evoked an “Eww!” or two then, evokes gratitude and respect now. And actually, my kids don’t seem to mind. It’s all they have ever known, and they have two generations of it to deal with! Truthfully, if I kiss my husband in the presence of my kids and my parents, my mom and dad are the ones more likely to say, “Get a room!” And that’s as it should be. It’s their turn to say, “Eww!” After all, it is their fault.

Dad and Mom (3)

 

Day 26 – August 26, 2014

I am stepping way outside of my comfort zone today. Very few days of these first 26 have been comfortable, but some… Yikes. When these thoughts first came to me this morning, I actually prayed for God to take them away. I didn’t say I didn’t want to do it, but I definitely tried to give Him an out. “Lord, if I’m seeing more here than you want me to see, and this isn’t what you want me to do, just take it away before I blog today.” Many days have gone that way. I feel confident that I know what I’m going to blog about, and then God makes me forget my original intent, because the new idea is so undeniable and strong. I even stalled a bit this morning. I sat down to write this an hour ago, and then I spent way too much time watching celebrities take the Ice Bucket Challenge. Now that’s a good use of my time… But I thought maybe if I waited a little while, He would give me something else. But He didn’t. 

In Matthew 18:19, Jesus said, “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”

I am no Bible scholar, and I won’t pretend to fully understand that statement. I take Jesus at His word, but I also think there is more to it that I don’t understand. I know that with faith the size of a mustard seed we can move mountains, but I also know that even Jesus, as He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, said, “Not My will but Thine.” My husband and I would have no trouble at all agreeing that it would be nice to suddenly have a million dollars delivered to our front door. If we agree on that, and ask God for it, will it be done for us? I tend to think not. Could it? Sure. The Creator of the universe can do anything. But would He? So, in Matthew 18:19, did Jesus just mean if we ask for things which will glorify God’s Kingdom? Maybe. But I have been in prayer groups in which prayers were said for so-and-so to come to know the Lord. Two on earth were in agreement as it was asked, and yet it wasn’t done. At least not then.

I’m in no way doubting what Jesus said, I’m just saying I believe that verse, along with most of the Bible, is full of meaning and power which is beyond me. I read and I study, and I understand more and more all the time, but I think there are many things I am not capable of understanding while I still possess the handicap of having a human brain.

But regardless of the full depth and meaning of Matthew 18:19, I know that two prayers are more powerful than one. We are told so repeatedly, in various ways. 

As I was thinking about all of this, I was reflecting on the cultural phenomenon which is the plus-one. i did a little looking around, and according to the Urban Dictionary, a plus-one can be several different things which I assure you I am not referencing. What I am referring to is receiving an invitation to a wedding or a dinner party, for you plus one. Countless romantic comedies and television shows have explored the emotional angst involved in receiving such an invitation. If you are known to be in a relationship, then the person’s name is mentioned alongside your name. If not…Bethany Turner and Guest. Plus one. Who do you ask? Do the people inviting you already have someone in mind? If you take a friend, will they assume you are either a) romantically involved with that person, or b) unable to find an actual date? Should you just forget the whole thing and go alone? Or maybe you shouldn’t go at all.

God invites us to bring our requests, needs, and desires to Him. And we are welcome to go alone. He wants us to go. He wants to hear us cry out to HIm, so He sent out an open invitation. Any time. Any where. For any reason. But His invitation makes it very clear that we might want to consider bringing along a guest – someone to partner with, someone else to advocate on our behalf. Sometimes right alongside us, and sometimes when we are too weak, scared, or broken to advocate for ourselves.

I make no claims regarding the proficiency of my prayer life. I pray, I spend time with God, and yes, I see answers to my prayers. But I don’t have a red phone – at least not any more than anyone else does. God listens to our prayers – yours and mine. But I struggle. My prayer life is strengthening – primarily as my dedication to taking time to pray strengthens – but it still leaves so much room for improvement. I still get distracted, and occasionally I fall asleep mid-prayer. Literally. But that’s okay, because it’s not something you study and practice until you get good enough at it to pass a test. It’s the building of a relationship. A life-long relationship. I believe God isn’t nearly as concerned with my words and my spiritual ADD as He is the desire in my heart to grow closer to Him, and my dedication to making that happen.

So, here’s what I’m saying… If you ever need a plus-one, let me know. You can comment here if you want it to be public, or you can e-mail me at seebethanywrite@outlook.com if you want it to be private. I’m not saying I can do anything remarkable for you, but I can join with you in prayer if you feel you have no one else. Or even if you do have someone else, and you want one more. That is what I believe God is leading me to say today, so maybe someone out there needs it. If that someone is you, I’d be honored to be your guest at the feet of the Lord.

Day 25 – August 25, 2014

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us – yes, establish the work of our hands.  Psalm 90:17

Some days, when I figure out what it is that I am supposed to blog about that day, I immediately feel like I have blogged about that exact subject already. And quite often, I have. I begin to doubt myself, thinking, “No. Surely I can come up with something else to blog about. I mean, I’ve yet to discuss any number of things: my son’s haircut and the emotional ramifications for all involved, or how excited I am that Scott Bakula is returning to TV this fall, for instance.” (Don’t worry…we’ll be sure to hit on that one at some point.) But – and I don’t really know how to explain this – when I know what I need to blog about, I just know. And, without fail, there always seems to be something new which I need to learn or explore in the topic which I fear I have beaten to death.

I hadn’t looked at book stuff in a few days, prior to today. I haven’t been looking to see how many copies I have sold, and I haven’t been obsessively checking to see if there were any new reviews. I haven’t so much as said, “I’m still alive!” to my Facebook fan pages, and my websites have been sadly neglected. And it’s been wonderful. Having said that, it hasn’t actually been intentional. I’ve been busy. School started, new ministry opportunities have flown at me, I’ve spent time with my family and friends…I’ve been living life. And it hasn’t broken my heart to not have time to be the struggling author.

Today, I had to spend a little time doing book stuff. There were a couple of things which could not be avoided. Not bad things – just things. So I re-entered that world. The world in which I beg for sales and reviews. The world in which I have to act confident and self-assured, and like I know what I’m doing. The world in which I have to, essentially, talk about me, and how wonderful I am, and how wonderful my books are, continuously walking the line between offering other authors support and begging everyone to love me! As a self-published indie author, I am my own marketing department. And don’t get me wrong…I’m good at sales when I need to be. My former career – not to mention years as a theatrical director and various roles on tons of committees and boards – turned me into a master marketer. But all of that was different. Never before has my marketing required such egocentricity.

It’s what you have to do. If an indie author wants to sell books, you have to sell yourself. You are the product. Yes, people buy your stories, but your stories are so deeply intimate, so treasured, that it is difficult to separate them from your heart. So you sell yourself. You sell your heart.

I had no problem with that for the first 13 months after I first published. But now? Now I’m having some difficulty. The problem is, I don’t want to focus on me. I love my books, my characters, my stories… And I want other people to love them too. Not only that, I would love to make a little bit more money than I do. (Any would be nice!) So, I prepare myself. I get ready to sell.

And suddenly I hate the way it makes me feel. 

I can so easily get lost in that world. Once I step back in, it’s easy to jump in a little further, and a little further, until I am once again all about the art of selling me. In fact, it’s difficult to avoid getting sucked in. But when I do, I feel less peace and contentment. I feel less joy.

Now, let me be perfectly clear. I don’t think any of the book stuff i have to do is wrong. It’s not that. It’s just that I haven’t yet found a way to be a successful, self-promoting indie author who doesn’t get lost in herself. And every moment in which I am lost in myself is a moment when I take my eyes off the Lord. I’m not saying others can’t do it, but can’t do it. Not yet. Someday, maybe. But maybe not.

Maybe publishing isn’t the life for me. God is calling me to write – at least daily! – but beyond that? I don’t know. Maybe I’m not meant to ever make another dime from my writing. I can live with that, but it’s not my top pick. The dream hasn’t changed. New York Times Bestseller, maybe a Pulitzer or something (A Kennedy Center Honor would be nice…and ironic, based on the subject of my first books.), book tours to fantastic locations, media outlets calling me for interviews…that’s the dream. 

Well, it was. But now, when I get lost – just for a moment – in the dream, it looks a little bit different. Because I want to be doing it all for the glory of God’s Kingdom. I want the bestseller, but I want to be the author of the Christian book which crosses into the mainstream, and brings people to the Lord. I want the book tours, but what I really want is to tour with Women of Faith, or something similar. i still want the interviews, but I dream of the opportunity to give God the glory – publicly and proudly, in front of a ridiculous number of people whom I can perhaps reach. I still want to receive a Pulitzer, and I want there to be a huge amount of controversy because it went to some Christian book, and the controversy will get people talking about faith and spirituality. 

I’m not saying it’s not about me anymore. I’m saying I don’t want it to be about me anymore. And so far, I just haven’t found a way to keep it from being about me.

 

What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?

Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 

Matthew 16:26

 

Day 24 – August 24, 2014

A few years ago, I really couldn’t have begun to imagine that I was meant to be anything other than a banking executive. I had moved up the ladder pretty quickly – going from part-time teller with no prior experience to Vice President of Operations/Cashier/Internal Auditor/Compliance Officer/BSA Officer/OFAC Officer/Human Resources (Literally…that was my entire title. Reciting the whole thing is like reciting Elizabeth Taylor’s entire name. Did I just date myself? Does anyone make Liz Taylor husband jokes anymore?) in just under ten years. I would retire as a banker someday, I knew.

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

A few months ago, I resigned from my position at the bank. As I have discussed in great detail, it was terrifying, but I knew it was the direction God was leading me. What’s more, I knew that, at least for the time being, I wasn’t supposed to seek employment elsewhere. I needed to focus on writing, and selling the books which were already published. I so strongly felt God leading me in the direction of not taking on another job, that I just knew He intended to make a bestselling author of me. That was why I had to leave my job. That was why I had to say goodbye to my month of paid vacation each year, and my salary, and my 401(k). My books would be flying off the shelves soon, I knew.

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

A few weeks ago, as I sat in church on Sunday morning, I heard the still small voice of God telling me that I needed to tell my pastor that I wanted to write something. What, I wasn’t sure. Maybe I needed to contribute to the church newsletter? Write a drama? I had no idea. I didn’t even know that I wanted to write something, but God told me I should tell him that. So I did. About 72 hours later, I was in a meeting with my pastor and associate pastor. They’d asked if I could go in and visit with them a bit. They had already come up with something they needed me to write, I knew.

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

In just a few minutes, I will be heading out to the church for a meeting with volunteers who want to be involved in our church’s student ministry – middle school and high school. I’m also going to be working in the children’s ministry. And families in general. It seems as if this all came about practically overnight, and in a way it did, but when I think about it, I can look back and retrace the steps and realize that God has been leading me here for a very long time. I won’t begin to assume that this is the final destination. How many times do I have to be certain I know what God is up to, only to discover I am “looking at my watch while God’s looking at His calendar,” before I stop trying to figure it out? But for the first time, I am okay not knowing. Because whatever He comes up with, and where He leads me, it’s going to be awesome, I know.

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21

 

Day 23 – August 23, 2014

I was going to blog this morning, because I knew we wouldn’t be home until late. And here it is, 10:00 p.m., and I’m just now getting around to it. I slept in this morning, but when I finally got out of bed, I did manage to get in some good God Time. God blessed that time, as He always seems to. I was feeling encouraged and strengthened, and ready to blog Day 23! I sat at my desk, typed one line, and then heard shouting downstairs in the basement. Nothing serious was happening – just Ethan and Noah fighting. And I was annoyed. I had been feeling so good! I marched out of the bedroom, stood at the door with my hands on my hips, and shouted, “Enough with the shouting! You’ve ruined my peace!” Yep. That’s really what I said.

That little brotherly argument resulted in a very long, in depth family conversation. And then it was time to get dressed to go. Blogging did not happen. 

We spent the day at the Reach Out Music Festival (www.reachoutmusicfest.com), right here in Cortez at the CIty Park. What an awesome day! The festival began at 2:00 p.m., but it wasn’t until about 8:00, when the awesome, Grammy-nominated Ryan Stevenson was sharing his testimony, and then singing his song “Holding Nothing Back,” that I realized why I hadn’t been allowed time to blog earlier in the day. 

I’M HOLDING NOTHING BACK FROM YOU
DOESN’T REALLY MATTER WHAT I LOSE
GOT A HEART THAT’S OPEN
I’M BROKEN
AND I WANT YOU TO KNOW

JESUS, I DON’T WANT ANYTHING
COMING IN BETWEEN YOU AND ME
JESUS, IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT I HAVE TO GO THROUGH
I’M HOLDING NOTHING BACK
NOTHING BACK FROM YOU

Can I say that? Can I sing this song (one of my new favorites!) without being a hypocrite? Well, yeah! I mean, provided God doesn’t want the tiny little bit of cushion I have left in my savings account. And provided He still lets me be a writer. I mean, I am totally okay with not selling any books right now. Because we’ll get to that part of the plan eventually, right? And of course, God knows not to mess with my marriage, my kids, my house, my health, and my ability to drink coffee. All of those things are sacred. God knows that. So, yeah! I’m holding nothing back, and it doesn’t really matter what I lose.

No! I’m holding nothing back has to mean I’m holding nothing back. 

God has called me to follow Him, and I have said I will. So it’s time to go. Go big or go home, right? Well, I think I’ve already made it clear…I intend to go big.

Jesus, it doesn’t matter what I have to go through. I’m holding nothing back. 

T-Shirt

 

Day 22 – August 22, 2014

On November 18, 2000, I was seeking God’s guidance on…something. I honestly have no idea what. But I remember the day. Or the moment, rather. November 18, 2000…let’s see…I was getting ready to get married the following April, and move across the country (from Kentucky to Colorado), leaving behind my family, my friends, my church, my college education, and my job. I just can’t imagine why I might have been seeking God’s guidance and strength! (Sarcasm noted?) Regardless, the specifics don’t really matter. I was searching. I was seeking. I was crying out. And in the midst of my search, I did something which I don’t recall ever doing prior to that moment, and I know I haven’t done since.

“Dear God,” I prayed, “I just don’t know if I am making the right decision.” Again, I don’t recall the decision. I know it wasn’t about getting married, or the move to be with the man I was going to spend my life with. That was never in doubt. “Lord, I’m just going to open my Bible and I pray that you will lead me to the verse I need to read. Just let that verse tell me all I need to know.” And then I closed my eyes, flipped through the pages of my Bible, held my finger aloft while the pages flipped, and then randomly placed my finger down on the page – I suppose when it felt right. My right index finger had landed on John 4:48.

“Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”

I believe the spiritual, theological, religious explanation of what happened that day is, “I done been told.”

That story is completely, 100% true. Believe me, I sort of wish I’d made it up. My spiritual immaturity – treating God’s Holy Word a bit like a Ouija board – is a bit embarrassing. But I wasn’t embarrassed then. I was uplifted. That is the first time I really felt as if God had spoken to me, and I was beside myself with humility, praise, and gratefulness. I made a notation right then and there, in my Bible, so that I would never forget the power of that moment.

Fast forward to August 21, 2014. As of yesterday morning, I had forgotten the power of that moment. 

In church on Sunday, our pastor was discussing the importance of teaching God’s Word to our children – and of becoming intimately acquainted with it ourselves. He talked a little bit about how the Bible isn’t really a book, it’s a library. And just like you wouldn’t take 66 books off of the shelf of a library, read them one right after the other right after the other, and expect them to make sense as one cohesive work of literature, you also shouldn’t approach God’s library that way. So where do we begin? He recommended Genesis, Exodus, John, Acts, and Romans. Of course all of the books of the Bible are necessary, important, and worthwhile, but those five really lay the foundation. So start there. Well, I read Genesis and Exodus relatively recently, but I couldn’t remember if I had ever read the Gospel of John in its entirety. If I couldn’t remember, I needed to do it again. So on Monday morning, I started with John, determined to read a chapter each day.

Yesterday morning, I got to John 4. I saw the notation in my Bible as I read and the memory swept over me. I found myself smiling as I remembered, and I thanked God for making His presence known – even if His way of making His presence known all those years ago was to tell me I needed to just trust that He was there, whether He really made His presence known or not.

Yesterday, moments later – literally moments – I was trying to read a chapter of The Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie Omartian, and I just couldn’t focus on the words on the page. The distracting thoughts were powerful, and positive, and they were giving me ideas for ministry. My mind was racing with not just ideas but fully-formed plans. For ministry. I wouldn’t have been able to write them down as quickly as they came, even if I had tried. But I didn’t try. What did I do? Essentially I told God to be quiet.

At first I didn’t realize it was God. In fact, I felt as if the thoughts were distractions from God. All of this would be bad enough, but here’s the real clincher… Before I ever began reading yesterday morning, before I ever stumbled across my spiritual time capsule from the year 2000, before I ever began swatting God away like a fly, I had prayed a very specific prayer.

Lord, today just help me to shut up long enough to listen to You.

Ha! Ha, ha, ha! Oh, I’m so dense sometimes. There He was, talking to me, showing me – like a movie in my mind – exactly where I needed to begin on some things (things for which I had been asking Him to show me where to begin!) and I basically said, “Don’t talk to me now, God! I’m trying to listen for you!”

Thankfully, it all clicked before it was too late. “Oh no!” I literally whispered to myself, yesterday morning at 6:30, as I realized what I had been doing. I quickly grabbed my notebook and jotted down everything I was seeing in my mind. I was beside myself with humility, praise, and gratefulness, and I pray I will never forget the power of the moment. God had used John 4:48. Again. He’d once again pointed out my tendency to push and push and push my way to His will, when sometimes all I need to do is shut up and listen.

I done been told.

John 4 48