Day 16 – August 16, 2014

What is weighing on my heart this morning is the idea – the fact – that sometimes (Usually? Always?) we think we know what is best for our lives. Not only do we think we know what is best, we think we know how we’re going to get to what we think is best. But I’m learning more and more every day that if I am praying for God’s will for my life, and striving to follow that, it does no good whatsoever to try and figure out the plan. The more I think I have it figured out, the more clueless I discover myself to be. And that’s awesome! Yeah, it takes me out of my comfort zone in major ways. I mean, major. But God’s plan is always better than my plan. Every single time.

Three things that have already been written keep coming to mind today, so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel with the Day 16 blog post. I’ll just quote the three things that seem to be speaking my heart today. The first 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.”

The second is the song “Unpredictable” by Francesca Battistelli. I tell ya’…I’ve liked Francesca for a long time, but here lately she is nothing short of the soundtrack of my heart.

Can’t wrap my mind around You; can’t put You in a box; can’t keep You safely contained, no. You’re gonna move the way. You wanna move today. Just let me follow along. When I know that I know what You have down the road, when I’m sure that I’ve figured You out, help me see that I’m small, that I can’t know it all, ’cause You’re so unpredictable.

God is teaching me every day that things which I thought were the ultimate goal are actually just means to the end He has in mind. Just like Ethan telling me that he thought maybe God made me want to be a writer so that I would have the courage to quit my job, full of the belief that being a full-time author was the ultimate ending. Nah. That was just means to an end, wasn’t it? And the funny, awesome, amazing (and somewhat terrifying) thing is, I still don’t know what end God has in mind. But every day, whether I turn to the right or to the left, I’m hearing a voice saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

There once was a girl who was sickly and poor throughout her entire childhood. She had no one and nothing, except for the ability to sing beautiful songs which possessed healing powers, a gift from her mother. Her father, however, possessed only evil powers and he cursed her with the inability to ever sing these songs of healing and restoration in the presence of others. He wanted her melodies to be only for his benefit. When her parents died, she was left alone, with only a song. Night after night, day after day, she lay in her bed, shivering from the cold and nearly starving to death, singing with all her might. The song was her only friend and her only warmth. The song was the only thing in her life of value.

One day a local trader passed by and heard the song from afar. “Who is that, singing with the voice of an angel?” he asked. “Why, it’s no one, sir,” the townspeople said. “It is but only a sickly girl with a song in her heart.” “Lead me to her,” he pleaded, but the townspeople refused, insisting she would not survive the visit.

Another day, a jester from the court of the king passed by and heard the song from afar. “Who is that, singing with the voice of a majestic harp?” he asked. “Why, it’s no one, sir,” the townspeople said. “It is but only a sickly girl with a song in her heart.” “Lead me to her,” he begged, “and I will take her before the king.” But the townspeople refused, insisting she would not survive the journey to the palace.

Still another day, the prince himself passed by and heard the song from afar. “Who is that, singing with the voice of my own heart’s desire?” he asked. “Why, it’s no one, your majesty,” the townspeople said. “It is but only a sickly girl with a song in her heart.” “Lead me to her,” the prince commanded, “and I will take her as my wife.” The townspeople, of course, could not refuse the prince, but as they approached the girl’s hut, the singing stopped.

“She’s dead,” the townspeople cried, full of despair and disbelief that all of their efforts had been for nothing, and they would never again hear the songs which they’d always believed would heal her. That evening, as the townspeople mourned, they heard a melody from afar, and it was more beautiful than any they had ever heard. Even in their sadness, they could not deny its power and they ran to it. Much to their dismay, it came from the hut of the girl, but it didn’t stop when they entered. The voice – more beautiful than that of an angel, more majestic than a harp, more than even a prince could ever know to desire – belonged to a beautiful woman they didn’t recognize, and yet they felt they knew.

They had deprived her of adventure and fame and wealth, and even marrying a prince, but not to be cruel and not to keep her gift for themselves. They had known that the song was the means to an end, and they never gave up hope that it would one day heal her and allow her to be who she was meant to be – even if no prince ever took note. Neither the gift of her mother nor the curse of her father could compare to the power of a village who loved her and not just her song.

Day 6 – August 6, 2014

My phone delivered four life-altering (in ways small or large) nuggets of emotional momentousness today.

  1. I received another Middle Ground rejection today. (E-mail received on my phone.)
  2. I had a difficult time caring about that rejection too much, because of an amazing review which a fellow author wrote for I’ve Loved These Days. Of course I greatly appreciated the kind words she wrote, and I was unbelievably humbled by them, but more than anything, I could tell from her review that she got it. She heard what I was trying to say through the writing, and it was a powerful reassurance that I wasn’t writing into an abyss. (Facebook notification received on my phone.)
  3. I learned the word “taradiddle,” which is a small lie. I think “taradiddle” is a delightful word, and I intend to work it into conversations whenever possible henceforth. (Dictionary.com Word of the Day app on my phone.)
  4. I was reminded of these Bible verses, Colossians 3:1-2: Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (YouVersion Bible app Verse of the Day, received, of course, on my phone.)

It was amazing how each of these things played into the next. (Okay, that was a taradiddle. The Word of the Day was just a little bit of fun and had little impact on my day.) And by the time God threw an opportunity at me today, seemingly from out of the blue, my heart was ready for it.

Isn’t that fascinating? I think it’s fascinating how things which seem relatively small in the grand scheme of things can be preparing us in ways we can’t understand for things we would never expect.

I can’t say much more right now – partially because there are details to be revealed later and partially because bike-riding with my son awaits – but I will be telling you much more in the coming days. For now, suffice it to say it was a good day. It was a day in which I was blown away by God’s love and His magnificent, mysterious ways.

Day 4 – August 4, 2014

It’s a little after 5:00 p.m. and I am just now getting around to blogging for the day. What’s more, I am just now on the internet for the first time all day. Why? Was I busy working on my next novel? Was I out ministering to the masses? Was I cleaning my house, or spending amazing quality time with my family? Nope. I was taking a nap. I do that now. I mean, not all the time, but occasionally. I turned 35 in July, and that not only means I am eligible to run for the highest office in the land, it also means I take naps. If you had told me any of that even just a few months ago, I would have thought that running for president was much more likely than regular naps. But, you know…that’s all part of retirement, I suppose.

My family and I splurged and went to Pizza Hut for lunch today, to partake in the lunch buffet. It’s incredibly inexpensive, we haven’t eaten out in ages, and we ordered water to drink. Nevertheless, I felt guilty spending the money. But oh well, it’s done. Anyway, I guess all of the carbs made me sleepy (I much prefer that to the ‘I just take naps now’ explanation…) so I ended up falling asleep. When I awoke, I said to my husband, “I’ve done nothing today!” He replied, “Except register two kids for school.” Oh yeah. That. And now, ladies and gentlemen, we’ve come to the recurring theme of the day.

If you’ve been reading The Year of Blogging Faithfully, you know that God usually speaks to me through various sources, until I get in my head whatever it is I am supposed to get in my head. (Side Note: After I blogged yesterday, I read a chapter of Praying God’s Will For Your Life by Stormie Omartian, of which I have been reading a chapter a day. If you haven’t yet, read Day 3 and then read this prayer which was at the end of the chapter I read yesterday. I read the chapter after I had already blogged: Lord, if there are things in my life that are not of You, I don’t want them. Please take them away and release me from longing for them. Help me draw on You for all my needs. Teach me to recognize my enemy and give me strength to resist him. Help me turn my heart away from the world and look only to You as my source and my guide. Yeah. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.) So today, God has been speaking through my children. And I don’t mean I’m looking at them and seeing what God wants me to see, though that’s certainly happening. I mean He is speaking through them. Ethan is 11 and Noah is 8, and they are both Christ-followers. Their faith is genuine and strong. So, today, I believe God spoke through them. And it wasn’t the first time.

When Ethan was 3 and Noah was still a tiny baby, the two of them sat in the backseat of my car, in their car seats, and Ethan said to me, “Mommy, did you know Noah had a sister?” My eyes met his in the rearview mirror. “Oh yeah?” I asked, already freaking out a bit. “What makes you say that?” “He told me,” my sweet toddler replied. Noah had been a twin, but the other one had been lost extremely early in the process – well before we would have been able to tell a gender, and actually so early that we hadn’t known for a fact that the extra growth in my uterus had actually been a baby at all, though doctors were fairly certain. But that had absolutely never been discussed around Ethan. Think what you want, but from that day on, I knew that Ethan had a relationship with God that I couldn’t fully understand.

Today at Pizza Hut, he said, completely out of the blue, “Maybe God wanted you to become a writer so you would quit your job. But now you’re not supposed to be a writer, you’re just supposed to stay home. He just wanted you to leave your job so you would stop being so sad all the time.”

This kid also said to me, no more than a week after I quit my job, “Mommy, don’t take this the wrong way, but you seem a lot nicer now. It’s not that you weren’t nice before, now you seem happier.”

And then, Noah also made this comment today, regarding these people who sat next to us at Pizza Hut today, who apparently were looking at us each time he glanced over: “Maybe they were noticing how happy we are, and they’re not happy. And they wish they could be happy like us.”

I don’t feel God is telling me to quit being a writer, but I do think He’s telling me it shouldn’t be my priority. Since April, when anyone has asked me what I am doing now, my answer has been something to the effect of, “Trying to sell books and writing some new stuff. And raising the kids.” I realized today that it’s always been “And raising the kids.” Like that comes second. How mistaken I was on that!

From this point on, I’m staying home, raising my kids. And, oh yeah…I’m writing a little bit too.

Day 3 – August 3, 2014

Well, I called it, didn’t I? Yesterday I said, “Can’t wait to see what You have for me in the sermon at church tomorrow…” In case you didn’t read it, go back to Day 2. The point was God was finding ways to drill the same message in over and over, and I was pretty sure the church sermon would be directed towards me. Our pastor sometimes comments that he hasn’t been reading our e-mail. Have you ever sat through a sermon like that? You just know that someone told the pastor something about you, and so the pastor decided to target the entire service around you? The other 20 or 200 or 2,000 people in the room are just scenery. It’s all about you. Yeah… That.

There were a million things said today which felt as if they were meant solely (Or should that be soully? Ha!) for me, but let’s just start with the very first Bible verse quoted today:

My days have passed, my plans are shattered, and so are the desires of my heart.  ~ Job 17:11

May I, once again, direct your attention to Day 2?

I don’t know if I really know how to explain where my heart is on all of this. By now, you all know the back story, but just in case you don’t, here is the super speedy summary version: Quit my career (not just a job!) in April, decided not to get another career (or even a job!) because I felt God leading me to stay home, raise my kids, and be an author. No big deal, right? Ha! And again I say, Ha!

I never knew I wanted to be a writer until I was one. And now I feel very strongly that I’m supposed to be. But to do it full-time? To know that, as of now, my monthly income couldn’t buy my family dinner? That’s terrifying. But it’s what I want to do. Absolutely. So to feel God saying, “Go for it”? Remarkable. But I’m a weak, doubting, crazy lady, so remarkable turns into, “Wow. Thank you, Lord! Okay. Here we go. You’re telling me to do this, so I know you’ll make it work. I just have to sell [insert astronomical, completely impossible number here] books a month, and I can afford to do this. Okay, well…I didn’t quite make the quota this month. And the savings, which wasn’t that impressive to begin with, is dwindling. This surely was not what You intended. I get it. You want me to go back to work.”

Oh ME of little faith!

The sermon today discussed some of the possible causes for failure, as found in Proverbs. One of them was, “We fail because we give up too soon.”

But what if I’m wrong? What if I misunderstood? That’s what I’ve been asking myself over and over and over as I watch the little bit of financial cushion we had fade away. Well, today I had an epiphany. I am seeking God’s will. I mean actively, passionately, wholeheartedly seeking it, in a way I never have before. He will honor that. I have made it known (to Him and anyone else who will listen) that the desire of my heart is to stay home – be a wife, a mom, and a writer. But if that’s not His will, I’m begging Him to let me know. But I need for Him to do more than let me know. I need for Him to change the desire of my heart. He will do that for me. I know He will. Why? Because I am seeking, I am begging, and I am desperately trying to follow His desire for my life. There are tests, there are trials, and there are hardships, but my God does not trick people.

So I still don’t know what’s next on the journey, but I do know that I need to stop worrying so much about it. I need to do what He is calling me to do, and I may have to figure out what that is one day at a time, but that’s okay. I can’t think about when the money is going to run out. If I am misunderstanding His call on my life, I have to trust that He will take away my certainty about what I currently believe He is telling me to do, and He will direct it somewhere else. Until then, I have to begin and end each day in gratitude that, for some reason, I actually get to spend this season of my life using the talents He has given me to do exactly what I love to do. That is humbling and overwhelming, and I am so extremely grateful.

Day 2 – August 2, 2014

Do you ever hear God speaking to you? If so, how does He speak to you? There have been times in my life when I have severely needed my spiritual hearing checked. God could have spoken to me through a literal burning bush, and I probably would have rushed to get a bucket of water. But when I am listening to Him – and listening for Him – He speaks to me in remarkable ways. He usually speaks to me through what I am reading, or a sermon at church, or a song. But because He knows how oblivious I can be, He usually uses what I am reading AND a sermon at church AND a song. They will all hit – boom, boom, boom – and they will all be telling me the same thing. And then the Holy Spirit gives me an excitement and a peace regarding whatever call to action is clearly being put before me. Well, I think God just might be trying to tell me something this morning. See what you think…

I’m not making any of this up. I literally read these things this morning, as part of my time with God. And I didn’t intentionally read them. Well, I did… (“No! I won’t read! I WON’T! Oops. Didn’t mean to do that.”) But these just “happened” to be the chapters I got to today in two books I have been reading. I have been reading Praying God’s Will for Your Life by Stormie Omartian for, oh…I don’t know. Years, I guess. Because I always quit when it gets too tough. Too pointed. I always quit when I realize I’m not up for the challenge God is setting before me. I mean, I want God’s will for my life, but not at the expense of totally giving up my will for my life. Just being honest. Well, this time, I want it. I really want it. And yes, there are still things I want, but the difference now is I’m realizing I am never going to be able to get what I want if it isn’t what God wants, because really we want the same things. He just wants them better. (Did that make any sense? Probably not.)

So the chapter I read in Praying God’s Will for Your Life this morning was entitled “Praying to Say Yes to God Each Day of Your Life.” And from that chapter came this painful, hard-hitting, undeniably true little nugget:

The part we don’t want to hear is that a time comes when each of us must place our desires and dreams in the hands of God so that He might free us from those that are not His will. In other words, you secure your future by releasing your dream to God and, if need be, allowing it to die. If you’ve always had a certain picture of what you think you should do, you have to be willing to let the picture be destroyed. If it really is what God has for you, He will raise you up to do that and more. If it isn’t, you will be frustrated as long as you cling to it.

Ouch. But hey…that might not have really been intended for me. I’m also reading Bruce Wilkinson’s The Prayer of Jabez, a fascinating, polarizing little book which I am probably one of the last ten people on earth to read. I decided to read a chapter of that this morning, too. Because surely, in that book, God would tell me “Hey, you’re right on track. Don’t change a thing, kid! You’re gonna be a star. A star, I tell ya’!” (Why does God sound like a Hollywood talent agent in my mind? Does that give you some scary insight into my brain?) Well, hmm… Today I got to chapter three, “Living Large for God,” and in this chapter the author brought up the subject of Arithmetic. Well, first of all…WHAT?! (Side note: I have the dictionary.com Word of the Day widget on my phone, and today I learned something. Did you know there is “a printed punctuation mark, available only in some typefaces, designed to combine the question mark and the exclamation point, indicating a mixture of query and interjection, as after a rhetorical question,” called an interrobang? Fascinating.) Anyway…I hadn’t used or even thought of the word Arithmetic, well, maybe ever. And then the day after I decided to use it for The Year of Blogging Faithfully, it’s being discussed in The Prayer of Jabez, in the very chapter I just “happened” to be reading today?

Bruce Wilkinson wrote of expanding our territory for God’s work, and he said:

For most of us, our reluctance comes from getting our numbers right, but our arithmetic completely wrong. For example, when we’re deciding what size territory God has in mind for us, we keep an equation in our heart that adds up something like this:

My abilities + experience  + training + my personality and appearance + my past + the expectations of others = my assigned territory.

No matter how many sermons we’ve heard about God’s power to work through us, we simply gloss over the meaning of that one little word through. Sure, we say we want God to work through us, but what we really mean is by or in association with. Yet God’s reminder to us is the same one He gave the Jews when they returned from captivity to a decimated homeland: “Not by might nor by power but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).

Our God specializes in working through normal people who believe in a supernormal God who will do His work through them. What He’s waiting for in the invitation. That means God’s math would look more like this:

My willingness and weakness + God’s will and supernatural power = my expanding territory.

Double ouch. But that’s okay, because that could really all just be an amazing coincidence. If only I hadn’t had my headphones on while I read. If only I hadn’t been listening to a playlist with more than 70 songs on it, and if only the one which “happened” to play hadn’t been “I’m Letting Go” by Francesca Battistelli.

 

I’m letting go
Of the life I planned for me
And my dreams.
Losing control
Of my destiny.
Feels like I’m falling and that’s what it’s like to believe.
So I’m letting go.

This is a giant leap of faith,
Trusting and trying to embrace
The fear of the unknown,
Beyond my comfort zone.

Okay, God. I’m putting down my bucket of water now. Can’t wait to see what You have for me in the sermon at church tomorrow…