5 Things I’ve Noticed and Learned During Quarantine

This title is very similar to the one I used last week. I thought it was just as important to talk about the things I’ve noticed and learned during quarantine as well as the things I’ve missed. It’s important for me to take the lessons from the good and the bad as I move forward into what opening my state up is going to look like since this week is the start of the next phase.

One of the things I’ve noticed is how brilliant the spring colors are when I’ve gone for my walks. The green trees, the blue skies, and the many colors of the flowers have taken my breath away when I’ve been outside. I’ve been able to stop and really look at them in a way I’ve never done before. I’ve been still, and I think that’s where God has wanted my heart for the past few weeks. As Psalm 46:10 says, “He says, ‘Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.'” God’s creation is amazing, and I want to keep my heart and mind attuned to it as things start to open.

Another thing I’ve discovered is that my patience has grown during this time. Between staying at the speed limit while driving my son to his essential job and giving grace at the grocery store, I find that I don’t mind things taking longer. Why should I? There’s been no need to be in a hurry. I do want to admit I haven’t been perfect at this. Not by a long shot. But, I’ve made progress, and I want to make sure I keep making progress.

In the previous paragraphs, I wrote of positive things I’ve noticed and want to make sure I continue to notice. But, there are negative things too. Things I want to make sure I keep an eye on and turn towards the positive whenever I’m feeling or experiencing the negative.

The first of these is a lack of perspective. When news of the coronavirus first came out and shelter in place orders were enacted by governments, I thought of many other things that would be affected by staying at home. I thought of the possibility of unemployment which I’ve gone through before with my family. I thought of the ministry my friend runs and about how the people she ministers to are considered to be at the bottom of society. I thought of the likely increases in domestic violence, suicide, and other mental health issues. I wondered what the lack of human contact would do to people, and I wondered what would happen with my own mental health issues. (As far as I’m concerned, it’s been a rough two months.) It seemed to me that there were a whole lot of other issues that would come from fighting this virus. But, of course, most people only thought what we were doing to fight the virus was important. Now, don’t get me wrong. Fighting the virus was and is important. This is an illness we had never seen before, and people were dying. But, to think we wouldn’t have any other effects from shutting down our society was very unrealistic. So, just because someone hasn’t done things exactly the way I would have done them during this pandemic doesn’t mean they’re awful. Let’s exhibit perspective, y’all, not show our lack of it.

This lack of perspective that people have exhibited (especially online) has led me to the one thing God has told us not to have in Scripture. What is it? Fear. Fear of death. Fear of the unknown. Fear of this virus. I’ve gone through a lot of this time not exhibiting fear–going out to walk, going to the grocery store, and to the bookstore now that it is open. But it got me thinking. Was I supposed to be afraid? That’s what news, government, and health officials seemed to be promoting. I looked in Scripture, and there were a plethora of responses. I’ll just quote a few.

Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Here’s one from Psalm 56:3. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”

I liked this one from Isaiah 41:10. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

And, finally, from Psalm 23:4. “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

So, that’s the answer to my question. According to my faith, I’m not supposed to be afraid, and that brings me to the fifth and final thing I’ve learned during this pandemic. Faith. I’ve learned that my faith is stronger than my fear and lack and that it can help me notice and learn what God wants from and for me.

May we all lean into the strong faith God wants us to have.

God bless you all!

Community Versus Individualism

For many of us, today marks the beginning of our seventh week of isolation. We’ve begun working from home, lost or been furloughed from our jobs, or continued working with jobs that have been deemed essential. If we have children in the educational system or who are college students, we’ve had to get used to them being home all the time and make sure they’re following their online educational requirements. All the places we consider important have closed down, and our lives have moved online. It all boils down to this. Our lives have been upended. What I want to talk about today is how this has affected our thinking about community versus what we can accomplish as an individual and how this meshes with my own experiences.

Community. For a while, I’ve had two different communities. One is mainly online consisting of homeschool mom friends (from when I was homeschooling), writer friends (who I’ve met in different places), and people who I’ve known since college (and no longer live in the same area with). It’s quite a diverse set of people, and I’ve gotten comfortable with online interaction more comfortable, I thought, than others. I’ve known some of these friends in real life in the past while others I’ve never met and probably will never meet. Some share my religious faith, and others don’t. Some share my writing and nerdy geekiness, and others don’t. It’s diverse like I said.

The other part of my community consists of people I know in real life. In my life, those groups of people tend to be the same. But, I interact with them in different ways because I do know them in real life. We go out for a meal or coffee; we might go for a walk together; we meet up at church or for a writing group, or we might spend time in one another’s homes. We use technology to keep in touch, but we see each other on a regular basis.

But, that has all been upended now because of the pandemic and the quarantine. The two groups have been mushed together online, and I don’t quite know what to do with it all. It’s hard, to be honest, and it feels weird. I’m alone with the thoughts in my head for long stretches during the day, and they invade my heart and soul. Thoughts like ‘This pandemic will never be over, and you’ll never know the pleasure of real-life friendship again.’ Or ‘This country is going to fall into a depression. How will you survive?’ Imagine those thoughts being on a constant replay through your head. Then, imagine the thoughts of not feeling worthy to be around other people or that other people even want you around. Those are hard things to think, and I don’t even feel like I can tell other people because why would they want to know. They’re all busy with their own stuff or struggling with fears of the pandemic itself.

This brings me to the individualistic part of this post. If I don’t feel like there’s anyone I can talk to about my deep feelings of depression and anxiety, then the only choice I have left is to handle them by myself. Handle my faith by myself. Handle my writing by myself. Handle living by myself. And I’ve done okay with that. I don’t have a whole lot of choice in the matter. But, I do pretend…pretend for the people I need to be around that everything is okay. Isn’t that what individualism is about? What my country, the United States, was built on. Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with individualism. We are all the ones that have to live our own lives after all. I can talk to God by myself. I can write by myself and usually do.  😉 I can experience the world by myself. And, in some ways, that’s more desirable to me. There’s no risk of getting hurt or doing or saying something someone disapproves of. I don’t have to be real with anyone either. So, right now, I’m confused between the two and unsatisfied with all the options. I want community, but feel like I’ve lost the realness of it. Frankly, there’s a part of me that wants to give up. That feels like I have nothing left to offer.

But, God…and maybe that needs to be my reason right now. To depend on Him to supply my lack. To read the words He has given me during the last few days. The Word Porn meme I found on Facebook yesterday said this. “To everyone with a mental illness who is currently in quarantine, sitting with their thoughts every day, be kind to yourself and hold on. The world needs you.” I cried when I read it because it’s very easy to think the world doesn’t need me. Then, there were the words said to me by an author who is getting ready to launch her book this week. You might have read the review of her book I posted a couple of weeks ago. From Rachel Macy Stafford referring to me, “Your vulnerability is a GIFT to this world!” I read these words again and know that my Lord and Savior gives me what I need when I need it. So very thankful!

When this quarantine is over, I will be a different person. We all will be, and I’m praying for all of us to have the strength and courage to move in the direction God wants for us.

God bless you!

 

 

I Thought I was an Introvert and Other Random Thoughts During Quarantine

When we went under quarantine just a few days ago, I was almost giddy with excitement. As an introvert, I have always treasured the time I’ve had alone–even from my family. There’s just something about being alone with my thoughts and not having to answer questions or have conversations.  In addition, I was anticipating more time to read and more time to write–two of my favorite things in the whole world. But, now we’re on Day 6 with no end in sight. (I know many of you have been under quarantine for far longer, and I don’t mean to minimize anything that has happened to anyone.) I just want to use this gift God has given me to process what has happened in our world.

So, it’s Day 6 for me. The first question someone might ask is when I am counting from. I am counting from the day I heard we weren’t going to have church services or classes for two weeks. That caught my attention and caused me to listen to the news more carefully. Worship, and being able to see my Christian brothers and sisters, has always been the highlight of my week.

It’s part of my routine, and if you’re anything like me, you don’t like your routine being disrupted. But, disrupted it was. I’ve had a lot of time to think and to read and write over the last few days. Words have spilled out of me, and I’ve been able to immerse myself in fictional worlds when the real world has gotten to be too much. I’ve also prayed and talked to God a lot. Prayed for patience when I’ve been tempted to say something I shouldn’t. Prayed for the courage to endure. Prayed for strength to defeat the dark thoughts. Prayed for trust when so much is out-of-control.

Peace and a commitment to stay focused came and are continuing to come from those prayers. It’s hard though. A hard-fought-for peace that only Jesus can provide. I can’t do it myself. I know that.

You might be wondering about the first part of my title though. Why do I no longer think I’m an introvert? It’s a tricky thing. While I’m feeling a hard-won peace in my heart, I’m also feeling deeply lonely. I find that I miss seeing other people and interacting with them more than I thought I would. Don’t get me wrong. I love my family, and my Lord and Savior has been a constant presence and reassurance which I’m grateful for. But, I’ve missed seeing other people, and I didn’t expect it. It’s like energy has flowed out of me that I can’t explain. Everyone is talking about all these things we can do virtually which I plan on taking advantage of, but it seems like something is missing. The presence of another person. I took it for granted before because crowds tend to overwhelm me, and I tend to retreat when that happens. But, I have good friends who I enjoy seeing every week and living life with. It’s hard to think that this might be the last time I see some of them, and I haven’t told them what they mean to me. But, they do. They mean so much. And if you are one of those, you do mean the world to me.

As I am dealing with this new world of quarantine caused by Covid-19, I’ve come to realize that I am a mix of both types of personalities. I also know my Lord and Savior is okay with our expressing the good and the bad that has come with the changes in our society. I pray that you and your family are safe and well and that you know His presence in a deep and meaningful way today.

God bless you all!

Fasting Avoidance

I read about this fast the other day, and God has been nagging me since then about writing a post about it. As I said in my last post, I am the queen of avoiding an unpleasant situation. If I am uncomfortable in any way or don’t know what’s going to happen, I have the potential to react badly. So, I thought I would go further into that today.

Actually, now that I think about it, the title of this piece could be changed to Fasting Avoidance and Control. These are both things that I use to make myself think I have the illusion of control over my life. And, “illusion it is,” or at least it should be. For those of us who believe that Jesus is our Lord and Savior, He should be the one who is in control of our lives, not us. But, we don’t let go of that easily, or at least, I don’t. We fight and claw to maintain the illusion that we have some good in us though Scripture is clear that there is not and that we are all in need of a Savior.

Couple that with someone who suffers from depression and anxiety, and one could see that my whole make-up might be considered a recipe for disaster. Actually, I have a story I want to share from my own life that illustrates this clearly. It happened six years ago. I had been invited to a conference by a friend. This conference stated we would have an encounter with Jesus during the weekend, but did not give a lot of details about what would happen. (as was their right) I debated with myself over a couple of weeks about going because I don’t like not knowing what’s going to happen, but I finally decided it might be good for me. I went to the meeting place where we would take a bus to go to the conference center. Many women were there, but I only knew a few of them. Everyone else seemed to be fine with meeting new people, but I was terrified when my friend left me and said she would see me out there. I went to the bus with the other women and saw other people clapping and cheering for me. (Did I mention I didn’t like attention being focused on me either? I didn’t and still don’t.)

We left the place where we had met to go to the conference center, and I cried on and off the whole way there. I didn’t like the way this weekend was starting. When we got there, I was able to eat dinner, but the feelings of panic and fear returned every time I had to be around a group of people in a small space. By the end of the first evening, even though I had enjoyed the worship and the lesson, I was exhausted from the panic, anxiety, and being in a place I had never been with a group of people I mostly didn’t know. The next morning my friend asked me if I wanted to go home as that was an option. I wanted to go home, but, on the other hand, I wanted to stay too. I was a woman who was almost 50, and I was ashamed that I couldn’t handle this level of uncertainty. So, I took a deep breath and stayed. The people who were running things made sure I was either at the front or at the back of a crowd so my chances of having a panic attack were less. It ended up being a good weekend for myself and my faith, and I was glad I went.

But, I haven’t been back since, and I have to wonder why. There were many reasons besides avoidance, all of which were valid. In the six years between that situation and now, I had done many brave things including going to Honduras on a mission trip one summer with a plan to go back again this coming summer. But, there have also been things I’ve completely avoided which have affected my relationships with other people and being taught and encouraged in my faith.

With all that, I wonder if I have ever embraced the mystery of my faith and not just side-stepped it. In recent years, I believe I have taken steps in that direction, but I know I can’t say I have fully arrived. Not until I make a deliberate choice to walk in a direction I don’t want to walk in because God has asked me to. So, for that reason. I am fasting from avoidance today, and I invited you to as well.

God bless you all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fasting Regret

For Lent this year, I’ve decided to go through the book 40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole again. I went through this book last year and learned a lot. I wasn’t sure if there would be anything new for me to learn this year, but I’m a few days into it, and things feel different. Between reading this book and the book Praying Women by Sheila Walsh, my understanding of prayer and its impact on my life has jumped four-fold. In the midst of thinking about regret and the other topics in Chole’s book, I hope to come out on the other side of this season with a better understanding of faith and how being a Christian really does matter in my life.

So, regret. Why is it so tough to let go of it? I think regret leeches over into the new life we’re hoping to have. I read the response I wrote in the book last year, and it brought back memories some of which were painful to read, but some that showed where I was now as compared to last year. I’ve become more and more aware that Jesus meets me in the darker places, the places where I’m not sure how to move on. What Lent does is help me move through those darker places to the celebration of Easter, to Jesus’ resurrection.

I do have regrets in how I’ve lived my life. I think all of us do. What I’ve done with them mostly is carry them with me in the hope that I can avoid making the same mistakes again. I have rarely directly addressed the situations that caused the regrets. There are two reasons for this. One, I’ve never learned how to manage conflict well. Two, my fear of being rejected is great.

But, in the last few months, I have learned some things and am continuing to learn things about my faith that are helping with my prayer life and will help as I struggle to let go of regret. It’s not me. It’s not me at all. What I mean by that is Jesus needs to come first in our lives. Before spouse, before children, before extended family, before friends, and even before our Christian brothers and sisters. Jesus is first, and therefore, we should not expect or want to maintain control over our lives. One of the first songs Carrie Underwood sang entitled “Jesus Take the Wheel”  illustrates this vividly. This is also illustrated in Scripture. John 3:30 says, “He must become greater; I must become less.” Of course, I’ve listened to this song and read this verse many times, but it has become clearer to me what it means in the last few months. Control and the release of it. Let me explain. I’ve been praying for a situation, a situation that has caused me great grief and sorrow. And every time I’ve prayed, I’ve wanted it solved so “life would get back to normal”. God doesn’t want me to pray that way. He wants me to pray so He would be glorified whether the situation is resolved in my lifetime or whether it is resolved in eternity. This is a hard thing for me and contradicts most of what I’ve ever heard about prayer. But, it’s what God wants from my prayer life and from the things I regret and try to hold onto.

I wonder something else about the things I regret and try to control. I wonder if I take the regrets I have over certain situations or people and attempt to maintain control by avoiding them. And, if this is true, have I truly let go of the regret. I weave a delicate web, I think. But, it’s important for me to consider these questions if I want to live a life with God coming first and me coming second. Do I get involved with every situation or ministry that’s available, or is it okay to hold back sometimes? And, if I hold back, am I holding back because I have regrets about the past or the people, or am I holding back because it’s not something God has called me to? Those are hard questions for me to answer. I would like to think I’ve moved beyond the situations or the people who have caused me regret. And, to a point, I think I have. But, when I avoid something or someone for fear of being hurt again, I’m not so sure. So, I know I have more work to do–in ceding control to my Lord and Savior and in being engaged in a Christian community.

So, I come back to regret and my need to fast from it. How, I ask myself? It comes back around to what is said in Scripture, specifically in Lamentations 3. Verses 22-24 say this, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.'” I’m especially attracted to the part where it says his compassions are “new every morning.” We get a new start every day, all of us. Fasting regret is possible, and I pray we can all know God’s love and forgiveness. I begin this today. Will you join me?

God bless you all!

What Happened to Love in the Christian Church?

I discussed this at length in my journal earlier, but the topic won’t let me go. Of course, it could also have something to do with the fact that Valentine’s Day is tomorrow. So, I thought this would be a good topic to explore in the blog. I decided to take it, run with it, and see what happens.

As I said, it’s almost Valentine’s Day, and anything media-related is full of ads for the perfect gift for your romantic partner. To a lesser extent, there are also valentines for your child to pass out in class and gifts for you to give to your family. It’s another media-hyped holiday to get us to spend our hard-earned money in the name of love.

But, love…that’s an important thing. God loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on a cross for us and be resurrected three days later. It’s the basis for this faith we practice as stated in John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” So, we should know. We should know how we’re supposed to love people.

What’s happened then? What’s happened that’s made it so hard to state and show love in the Christian church? There are many reasons the first of which involves sin nature as if you didn’t know I was going to say that.  🙂 When the Fall happened, when Adam and Eve sinned and were forced out of the Garden of Eden, everything that God had made was perverted including love. It’s why Jesus had to come here and die for us. He was the only One unselfish enough whose sacrifice God would accept. Humans make it hard and are hard to love, and sin nature has made them that way.

That’s why we, who are Christians, need the Holy Spirit in our lives to help us love. Having the Holy Spirit in our lives is the only way we can love others. His presence is the only way we can love through the selfishness, the brokenness, and the impatience we all show on a daily basis. Some of us are better at expressing this than others, but we can all be better. How are we going to attract the world to Jesus if we are no better than the world? Not very well, I think.

Then, there’s the way the English language has mangled love. Speakers of this language only have one word to describe this feeling–love. And, I think we can all definitely say that the feelings we have toward our romantic partners are different than the feelings we have toward a piece of apple pie and everything in-between. At least, mine are different. 🙂 Couple that with sin nature, and you can see all the problems that could come with saying ‘I love you.’ to our Christian brothers and sisters. Even with all of the qualifiers which I can’t stand anyway. (Especially with the sex trafficking that’s going on worldwide.)

But, we need to try–to express love and to show love, and to do that, I thought it would be helpful to define the ‘types of love’ that exist in the ancient Greek language. They had more than one word for love which, I think, might be helpful in how we think of love.

The first kind is eros, and this resembles what we, in the West, think of as romantic love. The kind of love that Valentine’s Day is meant to celebrate. This word comes from the word erotas which is ‘intimate love’ and which represents sexuality. But, as I said earlier, this is NOT the only way we’re supposed to love.

The second kind of love is philia. This, in today’s terms, represents something like brotherly love. It shows loyalty, sacrifice, and appreciation. More of a familial or close friend kind of love, if you would, where people would take care of each other and show love to each other because of the kind of relationship they had.

There is nothing wrong with either of these kinds of love. In fact, I would argue that God knows they exist and that they help us build bonds with each other which are necessary and helpful in this fallen world. But, and this is a big but, these are NOT the only kinds of love we should have. It’s the third kind of love that represents what Jesus did for us on the cross and how He wants us to love each other. The word is agape. A word that any of us who have been Christians for a while are probably familiar with. It means universal love, charity or altruism essentially a love that we give freely to others regardless of the relationship we have with them. This represents how God wants us to love and how He wants us to show Him to the world. We need to love this way in our churches first though, and this is where, I believe, we are sorely lacking. How can we love the world if we can’t even show love or express love in the church?

So, on this Valentine’s Day, I issue a challenge. Let’s take time to show love in the way God wants us to. I think we’ll all be glad we did.

God bless you all!

 

Be a Noticer

This week I was going to write about the birthday I had over the weekend and how it felt to be a year older. But, instead, I decided to write about noticing instead. It’s been on my heart and mind.

Noticing other people. It’s not wired in us, is it? Except for when they’re interfering in our business or keeping us from where we want to go. We find it hard to pay attention to other people when they’re speaking because we’re thinking of the next thing we want to say and forget learning what another person is interested in if it doesn’t interest us. It’s not worth our time. Then, we wonder why we’re lonely and seem to have few or no friends.

I’ve written about feeling lonely and feeling like I haven’t found my tribe before, and it’s not a pleasant feeling. To think I could only talk about the weather with someone or the latest football score has been disheartening.

But, then I started thinking about the people who notice in my life and thought I would tell you some of their stories today. The first one is my husband. We’ve been married for over twenty-five years, and he’s surprised me with almost every gift he has given me. Yes, I have made lists for my birthday and for Christmas, and he has gotten me some of those gifts. But, it never fails. He’ll notice something in a store that I touch six months before the occasion, and inevitably, it ends up in my pile on Christmas morning. He notices me and the kind of person I am, and I am grateful. I was especially grateful that he bought me an All-Access Pass to Master Class last year which I used to take several classes from well-known authors. I learned so much and was glad he continued it for this coming year.

Another person in my life who notices me is someone who I have known since college. She is one of my best friends, and I consider her an adopted mom. It’s been over thirty years since I first met her, and there are many stories I could tell you. But, I want to focus on one that happened just this week. She sent me a birthday card which she usually does near my birthday. The card had this written in it. “I can’t wait to read your novel.” I felt so validated. I don’t have many people in my life that acknowledge my writing efforts, and sometimes I just don’t feel understood. It’s a “me” thing, I assure you. So, to have her do that made me feel so good.

So, with this on my mind, I decided to make a point of trying this myself. If being noticed made me feel this good, imagine what it could for someone else. At the end of Thanksgiving weekend, the residents of where I live were asked not to bring any more garbage to the dumpster. It was broken, and it would take a few days for someone to come and fix it. Of course, no one listened. Everyone wanted to get rid of their trash from Thanksgiving. Anyway, I had just bought a few Christmas cookie mixes and decided to mix up a batch for our maintenance crew. They would be the ones who would clean up the mess, and I wanted to make sure they knew they were appreciated. I didn’t think a whole lot about it though. It was just…something that felt natural. I also knew I might not get any kind of response. But, I did it anyway. And I think I felt just as good if not better than the young men who received those cookies. They, and the job they did, had been noticed, something we all long for.

I also spent some time with my birthday buddy during the weekend of our birthday. She is a young lady at my church whose birthday is on the same day as mine. She, her mother, and I went to the mall, and I felt joy in noticing the little things she liked. We went up and down escalators, explored stores, and talked about the toys she had bought. It was a great afternoon! (Thank you, Jenny and Ivy!)

Finally, I want to say this. Make an effort to be a noticer. Notice when someone is happy and when someone is sad. Notice, and don’t try to fix it. Just be there. I believe that’s the way Jesus wants us to be present and to show His love to others in our sphere of influence.

God bless you all!

PS–I wrote this last week, but haven’t been able to get it posted before now because of computer problems. Thanks for reading!

Quiet Servant or What I Learned During NaNoWriMo

As promised, I am back in this space after a month of working on a story that I care deeply about. Did I accomplish the goal of National Novel Writing Month which is to write 50,000 words? Did I finish my first draft? The answer would be no to both of those questions. But, I wrote 26,826 words of a story I care deeply about and plan on continuing. I learned some things this year though, and that’s what I want to share with you today.

The first thing I learned was that life still exists during November, and people still expect you to live it unless you have the good fortune to live alone. (Maybe I’ll plan that for next November. Lol) There were dogs who needed walks, people who needed rides, and things that needed to be accomplished like going to the grocery store and paying bills. I did all of those things, of course. I mean, I do like to eat, and having a place to live does have its benefits. 🙂

But, it cut down on the time I had to write, and it made me wonder if I really respected my writing time, or if I’ve made my intentions clear to the people I share my home with. Somehow, I think not. When I, as mom or spouse, let myself be interrupted at the least little issue, it shows me I haven’t made my intentions clear.

For that matter, I also learned that the people closest to me (and I am widening the circle to include friends and acquaintances in this one) are not necessarily the ones who are going to understand my need to get words on the page or on the screen. They are also not the ones who are going to participate in that all-important use of the like, comment or share buttons on social media. Yes, I know this is a more recent invention, but it is also a more visible way for authors to interact with people who read their work, and it can be frustrating when it doesn’t happen.

What also has made me wonder if I’m any good or if it is worth it for me to plan time to write is the lack of commentary on my abilities as a writer. When I see publicity like “Come hear this person speak. He is a gifted communicator,” it makes me think my gift is lacking. Now, I am well aware that I may not have the gift of writing at all and that I may be just shouting into empty space. I don’t know. If I think about it too long, it can be depressing. That is why I so appreciated the meme I saw from Create Magazine yesterday morning. “To the artists who have not yet felt the impact of their work upon others, thank you for showing up, thank you for creating.” It inspired me to keep going.

But, I look at these words and realize I’ve left Jesus out of the equation. No human being is going to care what I create or even care about me, for that matter, as much as He does. And with His love, I can respect what He’s called me to do and respect that I am valuable enough to make the time. Make the time to write.

So, in retrospect, I am a writer and a servant who very often is relegated to the background by the world and those in it even my Christian brothers and sisters. But, Jesus doesn’t relegate me to the background. He loved me enough to die on the cross for me. So, I can write, and I can serve and know that my Lord is well pleased I am using the gifts He has given me. Thank you to all who have inspired me, and may our Lord and Savior continue to inspire those of us who create.

God bless you all today!

Words When There Are No Words

I haven’t done the best job of keeping up with this blog recently. I haven’t planned for topics; therefore, posts have gone unwritten. But today…today, I feel the necessity to try and write words where there are no words. Thoughts where there are only tears. Good where I can only see evil.

In case you don’t live in the United States, or you haven’t kept up with the story, a young girl with the sweet nickname of “Cupcake” was kidnapped from my home city. For two weeks, many people have been hunting for her and praying for her safe return. But, last night…last night that ended with the finding of her remains. My heart hurts for this family. It hurts so much. It hurts that I can see the evil present in this society and not know what to do about it. It hurts that times like these seem to be the only times we come together.

And I don’t know what to do about it. Isn’t it funny that I can sit here and write these words and still not know what to do? I feel paralyzed, and yet, I don’t think God wants me to feel this way. He has a purpose for me as I reflect on this tragic event. First, He wants me to pray for this family and all who knew this child as they mourn. I cannot and will not try to imagine their overwhelming pain. But, I can approach the throne of God on their behalf. I can ask Him to give them peace and comfort as they cry.

I can also love and appreciate my family and the community around me more. I know I’m imperfect at this, but, at the same time, I know that the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life and heart can and will help me to love better as long as I don’t get in the way.  🙂

Being a part of the solution instead of a part of the problem is another way I can have an impact. Our world is so divided, so torn apart. Satan wants it that way, you know. He doesn’t want us to know about the incredible love Jesus offers to those who believe in Him. And, if we do believe, Satan does everything he can to make sure that people don’t see Jesus in our lives–don’t see His love or His grace. We can change that. We can mourn with those who mourn, and we can grieve with those who grieve no matter how uncomfortable that might make us. And, we can cling with all our might to the cross, the cross where Jesus demonstrated that love, as I am doing this evening. Oh Jesus, come quickly!

Difference Maker

Over the past few months, I’ve been praying for something fervently. The specifics are not important. What is important is that God has said wait. That hasn’t sat well with me. This was something I felt like I urgently needed. Well, I wanted it urgently anyway. How’s that for honesty? 🙂 I wanted my request as fast as God could possibly grant it so I wouldn’t feel different anymore. From other people, I mean. I wanted to fit in and not be noticed so I could go about the business God had for me to do. But, as I’ve thought about my request recently, it’s not something God can do quickly. He’s teaching me lessons about prayer, about being different, and about being molded into the person He wants me to be. So, that’s what I want to talk about today–about being a difference-maker.

During my life, I’ve suffered for being different. I wasn’t the most popular child or teen. I wasn’t a cheerleader or a homecoming or prom queen. In fact, I’ve stayed in the background for most of my life much to the chagrin of some of the people in my life and of the world, in general. This world is made for people who are at the forefront or who want to be at the forefront of whatever is going on. People who want to stay in the background are generally not noticed which, I guess, is the point, but bear with me. I do have a point.

God has called us to be different whether we are introverts or extroverts and whether people think differently than us or not. We’re different races, genders, sizes, live at different income levels, and have different interests. He made each of us differently. I get that. I can see it anytime I go outside. What I don’t get though is why we, in the church, insist on classifying everything into a certain order. Our children are in age-classified or grade-classified classes, and we expect the adults we hang out with to have children the same ages as ours. We expect them to have the same life status as we do and the same income level. In fact, Martin Luther King Jr. said this fifty-five years ago. “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.” And, this has been true over my entire life as it has been a lifetime since this statement was made. In all my years of being a Christian, I only found an integrated church seven years ago. Pretty sad, isn’t it?

My point with all of this is that we are different, and it’s time we, in the church, accepted each other for being different. This is easier said than done though, and it brings me to my second point of the situation I’ve been praying about. Prayer. Like I said in my opening paragraph, I’ve been praying for this situation to resolve itself so I wouldn’t feel different anymore. And, of course, I’ve been praying for the situation itself. God has used this time though to teach me about persistent prayer. Praying on my knees. Continuing to pray even when it seems like nothing is happening. Learning how to wait. I liked the quote from Lewis Smedes that John Ortberg used in today’s Devotionals Daily email. “Waiting is the hardest work of hope.” I’ve had to learn how to hope in the midst of the waiting.

This brings me to my final point of being willing to be molded by God into the person He wants me to be. My devotional journal had a Scripture on today’s page I want to share here. From Isaiah 64:8, “Now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” God is molding and forming me even in the midst of this painful situation. I don’t like it. If we, who are Christians, would be honest, I think most of us would say the same. But, there is another quote from John Ortberg I want to share because it sums up everything I’m trying to say. “What God does in us while we wait is as important as what it is we are waiting for.” It stung me as I read it. I should be celebrating the chance to wait and to be my own unique self. Because being different, in my opinion, is the only way I can be a difference-maker for the Kingdom. And, isn’t that who we all, as believers, should aspire to be?

God bless you all!