The World

Today’s topic wasn’t just random. I believe God planned it down to the littlest detail. Why? Because, in less than twenty-four hours, I will be on a plane to Honduras with a missions team from my church. This trip has been a long time coming. From the time I first expressed interest back in February, getting to go on this trip has been a God thing, pure and simple. There’s no way I would have been able to go on my own. Not from a one-income homeschooling family. But, God worked it out so I know it’s a part of His purpose for my life.

This will be my first time going abroad to do missions work, but I did spend a summer in Maryland when I was a college student. I also took a few one-week mission trips, but it’s the summer trip that has been in my thoughts in recent days. My partner and I worked in the inner-city doing whatever was needed, but mainly, we conducted Backyard Bible Clubs. In my mind’s eye, I see the faces of those children like it was yesterday. They were so excited we had come to where they lived. It was hard work. A lot of times, I was out of my comfort zone, but my youthful self dreamed of changing the world for Jesus. Many times, after that summer, I dreamed of becoming a career missionary.

But, real life intervened, and it’s now thirty-two years later. I wonder, where did that youthful enthusiasm and energy go? What happened to reaching the world for Christ? Oh, I did my best to change my own small corner of the world. I taught school. I married and had my own children. I became their teacher when they were young. I poured into my family. I wonder how much I really changed though. Advocates in the homeschooling community would say I changed a lot for my family, but what did I really do? I’m still working all that out.

We were practicing our faith when our sons were young. Then, we spent time out of the church in their middle years. I’ve written about this before. I became a cynic about the church and the community it’s supposed to offer because of all the bad I had seen. I longed for it still though because God had planted the desire in my heart. Cynicism and longing combined in my heart to make a potent soup.

As I’ve written though, my life has changed over the past six years. Love has come to the forefront, and I have a better understanding of what my faith means. I talk to God often, and He comforts me when the world lets me down. I even have a community that puts up with my weirdness, :-), and that is something, to be sure. I thank God for it every day.

Over the last few years, I’ve been thinking about and planning for what comes next after my children were done with high school. I’ve chronicled many of my thoughts and feelings in this blog. As you know, this is the year. My younger son will start college in the fall. God has been leading me down this writing path. I know that for sure. But, how and in what capacity, I don’t know. I also don’t know what I will do with the time I used to use for homeschooling. And except for my writing, I’m not sure of the path God is leading me on to serve Him. Thinking of that day in August when both of my children will be in college is a blur right now. I don’t know how my days will go or what will be in them.

I think it’s why God led me to this trip. A week away doing work for Him with no distractions, it’s what I need. God will meet me there. The uncertainty and blurriness will disappear, and my life will be changed!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

PS: I will complete this series on 100 Days to Brave when I return. See you on the flip side!

Will My Writing Matter?

I had no business being the oldest in my family. I was always expected to be the example for my younger siblings, but, as I grew into an adolescent and then into a young adult, I wondered, who was going to be the example for me. I had no idea what I was doing and having my mistakes continuously pointed out didn’t help.

Even though I felt unqualified to be the example, I kind of fell into the role naturally once I got to college. My college church had children’s missions groups I became involved with–Mission Friends for preschoolers, Girls in Action for elementary-aged girls, and Acteens for teenaged girls. That time was a precious time for me. The relationships I formed with the ladies I helped and with the girls were life-changing relationships, and all it took was making myself available to be a mentor. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know what I was doing. Just showing up was what mattered, and I gained far more than they did.

I continued this as I married and had children of my own–working in the nursery on Sundays and working with Mission Friends on Wednesdays. My privilege during those years was watching the other children grow up next to my own sons and sharing life experiences together. This quote from the author reminds me of those experiences. “The Bible challenges men and women to lead by example and also to teach and pour into those younger than they are, a few steps behind.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs)

As with all things that are one-sided, I eventually burnt out on teaching and mentoring and everything else that was going on in that particular church. My husband and I left the church. They were willing to let us lead, teach, and participate, but when it actually came to mentoring us or being in authentic community with us, me in particular, not so much. We were too different. We didn’t have enough money, and we didn’t live in the right place. The curse of the Western church, I think, or the church in a wealthy area, at the very least.

We spent almost eight years outside of the church, most of our sons’ middle childhood. My husband mentored some younger people who worked for him, but, other than that, I concentrated on raising and homeschooling our sons once we started our homeschooling journey. I ached for some mentoring of my own, but the few people I had in my life who would have been willing lived a long way away. I had no one in my daily life to follow as an example. I was doing it on my own, following my own instincts.

It was during and after this time, when I came back to the church, that a long, dormant talent came back to me. I started writing again and began to fill journals with my thoughts, feelings, and inadequacies. There were more of the last one than there had been before because I had lived more of life. But, I also filled them with the faith that was beginning to re-blossom and the questions that were coming to mind because of that faith. I found it much easier to write in my journals and then in my blogs than I did to speak to people in person. Words didn’t take advantage of me like people could and reading back over the words gave me the guidance I was craving.

But, I looked over the words I just wrote and realized something was missing. While I was learning a lot from the letters I wrote to God and from the growing relationship I had with Him, it was missing something. Relationships with real people. Really? Those same real people who have discouraged me in my relationship with God now? Yes, those same people. While my inner psyche goes, ‘Ugh. Really, God? Sometimes, I don’t like people very much,’ He returns my comment with a touch of sarcasm, ‘And sometimes they don’t like you very much.’ Touche, I think. He has reminded me I’m just as human as other people are. A sobering reminder.

It brings up another question, however, one that is important to me. Will my writing matter? Why has God given me this talent to write if no one reads it? I don’t know if it will matter in the grand scheme of things. I don’t know if God has placed this on my heart to do while other, more important things are going on in His Kingdom. I only know that God has placed writing on my heart and that it is something I need to do. My hope is that people who read this after I’m gone will receive insight and wisdom–insight and wisdom they can take with them into their real-life relationships.

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Inviting Someone In

Yesterday, I did what today’s devotion is asking us to do. I invited you into my pain. I laid bare my thoughts of how I was feeling and told you what God had put on my heart. This is the best way I share when speaking is too difficult. I can write down my pain and anguish, and it helps with the hurt in my heart. It begins the healing process and exposes the darkness in my heart to the light.

Sometimes, I wish I felt more comfortable inviting people into my life to confide in and to trust because that’s really the whole point of today’s devotion. Having relationships with and trusting people in real life. I feel like that’s where I’ve stalled on being brave. The hurt in my heart is too overwhelming to speak out loud.

This is where my writing comes in. When I write about matters like this, I use the written words as my prayer to God with whatever matter I’m writing about. Putting the words on paper instead of keeping them locked in my brain helps me as I strive to be honest in my relationship with God. By writing about it in this space, it’s out in the open, and I feel like I’ve released it.

It would be nice though if some of my friends in real life would read my posts especially the ones I’ve written in the last few days. They would gain a better understanding of my personality and how to relate to me. Maybe one of them would actually understand my feelings. But, perhaps it’s better if they don’t. I might not be as honest if I knew people in real life were reading these musings and knew that I struggled with church and my faith. I might not talk to God as much as I’ve tried to get a handle on why my heart sometimes hurts. And I might even lose the courage to try at all.

I don’t want to give up on church though. I don’t want to give up on my faith. I want to do my best to be a part of this community of believers that God has called me to. So, I might sit in the back of a classroom instead of at the front. I might not talk to anyone except for a brief nod and a hello. I might play with a child instead of having conversations with adults. Or I might just cry and not be able to say why. But, these are my ways of inviting someone in, and I hope someday people will understand. If they don’t though, I know my Lord and Savior does, and He is the only one who truly counts!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Doing Our Best

For the last twelve years, I’ve had a couple of different jobs, most of which weren’t paying except for a tutoring stint I did for a couple of months a few years ago.  Even though my jobs weren’t paying, I still feel like I can write something about this morning’s topic because they were different from my calling.

The jobs, as I’ve mentioned before, were housewife and homeschool teacher. I feel funny though saying they were just jobs. In a way, they were part of my calling too. My calling to do my best for my family by keeping a home for them and by giving my sons an education. It reminds me of what Colossians 3:23 says. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” Though I wasn’t as close to God during the first few years of this time as I am now, I can see where this applies as to how I did my jobs.

While I did my best at these jobs, there were parts of them I didn’t like. Nothing is perfect as we all know. Doing the same tasks day in and day out could and did get monotonous. (Except for laundry. For some reason, that is one of my favorite household tasks. Why, I don’t know.) Never feeling like I could get a break was also hard. This was especially true when we lived in Michigan which has snow on the ground six months out of the year. We went through hard times as a family too.

There were times when I wanted to give up and times where I almost did give up. There was something inside though that wouldn’t let me, something that said to keep going just a little bit longer, and I would see my reward on the other side. So, I did. I was brave enough to keep walking even when I didn’t feel like I was brave.

And the payoff has come all these years later. I have a college age son who talks to me about his life when he’s home and who is kind, considerate, and a hard worker himself. I also have a son who is almost finished with high school who loves animals and who cares deeply about doing the right thing. They are both my pride and my joy. With this payoff comes a chance to fulfill the dream that has been in the back of my heart for a long time–to write my stories down and see where they can take  me.

So, I can look at this quote from the author of the devotional and look back at the last twelve years of my life and see how they mesh because doing my best for God has brought  me tremendous blessings. “You’ve got to be brave enough to be faithful, even when you don’t want to be. You’ve got to be brave to work hard now for a payoff that won’t come until later. But it is so worth it!” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs)

Thank you, God, for all of my blessings. Thank you for helping me to be brave even when I don’t feel like I am. Thank you especially for helping me find my calling. I ask your blessings on all who read this post. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26

 

Taking the First Step

The other night I sat down with my husband to look at domains and places where I could self-host a WordPress site. I had received an email earlier that day which had a discount to start this process. Knowing though that my husband was an IT person, I decided to wait until he came home from work to look at the information.

It ended up being a good decision. He looked at the email after dinner and said that I could do better. We started talking about my dreams for my writing and what I wanted to try and do with it in the years to come. He showed me a good site to work with, and we checked on the availability of the domain I wanted. It was available! Then, we looked at the pricing packages. We talked about that for awhile because I have a hard time spending money on myself. Truth be told, I would rather spend it on my kids or be frugal with it. And, we had already spent the money to purchase an airline ticket for me to go on our church’s mission trip this summer. But, as I looked at the computer screen, I realized I was looking at my future. I was looking at the next phase of my life. I had spent all these years blogging knowing that having my own website was the next logical step, but there had always been reasons not to take it. My kids needed something; we were paying for my older son’s college tuition; my husband had had a couple of hospital stays. Life had been overwhelming.

But, now it was time. We looked at the one-year, two-year, and three-year packages. The three-year, of course, was the most expensive, but it also had the most value. It would give me three years before I had to pay any more money towards my site. He said I should go for it, and he would help me as much as he could. My brain told me I should go for it too. What was holding me back? I think it was the idea that Jesus taught us to share what we had with others and that spending this money on me and my site would be selfish. At that point, I heard a voice in the back of my head. It said I needed to take this step–this was where I was being called to walk. So, we spent the money, and I am now the proud owner of my first domain and self-hosted WordPress site.

We spent the first night getting things started, and my husband worked on the site mechanics. He also imported this blog into its new space. Doing stuff like this is very much his talent. He wants to teach me about maintaining the site and how to add the things I want to add. A section for book reviews is coming; so is a section for my short stories. We are both looking forward to where this first step is going to take me as I follow God’s will for my life.

As I began writing this post, I heard another voice in the back of my head.  It said there was a verse of Scripture that was related to what I had heard the other night. I needed to find it and share it. What’s cool is that I remembered enough of the phrasing to put the words into my You Version search box. This is what it came up with. Isaiah 30:21 says, “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.'” Taking the time to listen to my Lord and Savior has given me courage to take the first step. I’m looking forward to sharing this journey with all of you.

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Starting the Journey

When I starting writing these blog posts about bravery this week, I started my journey towards understanding myself better so I could understand my relationship with God and others better. I could read all the books about bravery I wanted, but if I didn’t put my thoughts and feelings into words, I would never figure out that being brave was something I could actually do.

It’s the same way with writing. Several years ago, I heard whispers telling me that I really needed to try this thing called NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). For those of you who don’t know, this happens during the month of November when writers attempt to complete a 50,000 word novel before the end of the month. I had not tried to write anything for many years, and the thought of a blank page or a blank computer screen was daunting. I didn’t know how I would start it or even if I could finish it so I put off deciding whether I was going to participate or not. Finally, the whispers of a long, dormant dream were too much. Because I had written many stories when I was younger, and I knew I still had stories within me. I signed up to participate, and by the end of November, I had written over 50,000 words. They were rough words, but the story that had been in my head was now stored on my computer. I had succeeded at something that part of my brain tried to tell me I couldn’t do. It only took starting to make the words come out.

That’s the point the author is trying to make in today’s devotional. Our journey is not supposed to be a journey to courage though many of us treat it as such. We think we will find courage if only we could take the next step or make the next turn. Life doesn’t happen that way so we give up on the dream never to take it up again. No, courage is already in us and grows with every step we take. I liked what the author had to say about this. “The moment you take that first step, little seeds of courage begin to sprout in your heart.” “Little seeds of courage.” That reminds me of the mustard seed Jesus talked about. Matthew 17:20 says, “He replied, ‘Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.'”

I read that and think having bravery or courage should be an easy thing. Why not? It’s right there in Scripture. We should have enough faith to move mountains. We should be able to be brave or courageous at the snap of a finger. But, as we all know, it doesn’t happen that way. People struggle with trying new things, meeting new people, and having new experiences. Or at least I struggle. I don’t know about the rest of you. 🙂

Sometimes, I think that step of courage is easier when your dream doesn’t involve people. When you are trying something for the first time, and there are no witnesses. There is no one around to make fun of you or to say mean things to you when you fail. It’s just you and your dream waiting in the wings, waiting for you to pick it up and run with it. There is none of the messiness of relationships, no worries of being judged by other people.

As much as I might want to live in a world like that though, God wants me to be brave in my relationships with other people too. He wants me and wants all of us to take the first steps in our relationships so that courage will grow in our hearts, and that is the hardest thing of all. We risk rejection; we risk judgment; and we risk our hearts when we enter into the messiness of life within our communities. But, God is not asking us to risk more than He did. After all, He sent Jesus, His only Son, to die on the cross for us.

Starting the journey to bravery and courage in my dreams and relationships is one of the hardest things I have ever done and will ever do in this life, but every time I’ve been able to, I’ve grown into God’s plan for me and have been tremendously blessed. Praying that we all will be able to take the first steps towards bravery and courage!

 

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

God Will Never Leave Us

When I woke up this morning, I was slightly discouraged because I had not heard from one of my Christian friends who I had contacted yesterday to get some counsel. Life has been doing its best to overwhelm me recently, and I didn’t think I was doing the best job of handling it. I’m not the kind of person who tries to contact ten or more people at a time so when I didn’t hear from that one person, I wasn’t sure how to feel or react. Before I could say or type words that might have been damaging, God spoke to me.

First, I should say that I generally start every weekday morning with writing in my journal. It gets me in the frame of mind to write and gives me a pulse on whatever’s going on in my life. Have you ever seen this quote from Pat Conroy about writing? “Writing is the only way I have to explain my own life to myself.” That’s me in a nutshell. Sometimes, the only way I have to understand things that happen in my life is to write them down.

Anyway, back to the journal. I was writing and writing and writing. I turned the page and noticed the Bible verses that were printed on that page and the facing page. The first one I read was Hebrews 13:5. “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.'” Whoa! That was one I needed to read. God put it in my path at just the right moment. Even if no one else is there for me, He will always be there.

The second set of verses was just as profound. Isaiah 49:15-16 says, “I will not forget you. I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” God doesn’t forget us. He doesn’t forget me. Even if my Christian brothers and sisters abandon me, God will never leave me. I needed to read those verses too.

That was all it took. My heart and my load lightened. I finished writing in my journal and had the idea for this blog post. There were more verses than I could count when I employed the search function of my Bible app. I liked this one from Deuteronomy 31:8. “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

I also liked this one from Psalm 55:22. “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.”

My favorite though was from Matthew 24:35. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

I’m so grateful that God put these words in my path at just the right moment. They have sustained and strengthened me and reminded me of who needs to be first in my life. Now, if I could only figure out how to stay willing to live in community when my Christian brothers and sisters let me down. But, I think that might be another post. 🙂

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Forty Reasons Why I Write

Thought I would focus on my writing side today since I read about this challenge on the Positive Writer blog and decided to participate. http://positivewriter.com/reasons-why-write-challenge/  I’ve written about the reasons why I write before, but it was more of a telling of my own story and what led me back to writing after going away from it as a young adult. Writing down the reasons themselves will be a good exercise for me. So, without further adieu and in no particular order, here are the forty reasons why I write.

1) I write because I can be honest with myself.

2) I write because I need to get the words out of my head.

3) I write because it’s the best way I communicate. When I talk, I have a tendency to stumble over my words. I don’t have that problem with writing.

4) I write because I like telling stories.

5) I write to give people hope.

6) I write to help with my depression.

7) I write because I want to keep a record of my life.

8) I write because it helps me not to feel alone.

9) I write to honor the gift my Lord and Savior has given me.

10) I write because it helps me be a better teacher. (I homeschool my son.)

11) I write because it helps me make sense of the craziness in this world.

12) I write because I like “happily ever after” endings.

13) I write because I want to leave something of myself behind.

14) I write so I can write the bad parts of my life in my journal and leave them there.

15) I write because I like finding just the right word to put in a sentence.

16) I write because I can’t imagine giving it up.

17) I write because it’s my way to escape.

18) I write because I dream.

19) I write because I like to see filled up pages.

20) I write because it reflects who I am.

21) I write because I want my grandchildren to read what I wrote just like I read what my grandmother wrote.

22) I write to share my faith.

23) I write because I would like to be on someone’s bookshelf or Kindle one day.

24) I write because I want to encourage people.

25) I write because I like to build different worlds.

26) I write because it takes me back to my childhood.

27) I write because it helps me remember.

28) I write because I’m not the typical woman my parents would like me to be.

29) I write because I’m a geek and a nerd.

30) I write so I won’t be confused.

31) I write because I want to make a difference

32) I write because I like creating something out of nothing.

33) I write to bring closure to my past.

34) I write because I want to be heard.

35) Writing is cheaper than therapy.

36) I write because it has changed my life.

37) I write because it reflects more of who I am. (I’m not just a wife or a mom.)

38) I write because I like creating characters.

39) I write because I like it when someone tells me my writing meant something to them.

40) And finally, especially this week, I write so I won’t be jealous that half of my town is in the Caribbean for spring break. 🙂

Write Despite

As most of you know, 2016 was a rough time for me and my family. I’ve realized something though. I managed to do something in the middle of all the mess. I posted in this blog every month of the year, more than once. I proved to myself that I do have something to say which I plan to carry into 2017.

I was thinking of what I wanted my writing goal to be for 2017, and I found it when I was reading another author’s blog. Chuck Wendig stated what I’ve actually been doing for this past year. “Write, despite.” I’ve written despite pain, despite sorrow and despite fear. Especially fear. Fear that I won’t be accepted. Fear that I’ll never get it right. Fear that I’ll fail at relationships and end up alone.

But, I’ve made some positive changes in the past year and plan on going in the same direction this year. The only one whose approval I need is my Lord and Savior’s. No one else matters, but Him. And it’s been by writing despite everything that I’ve understood this.

So, going forward with this goal sounds like a good idea to me. Write my stories down. Write in this blog. Write in my journals. Write to bring glory to my Lord and Savior. Just keep writing and don’t quit.

I especially liked this quote by Chuck Wendig that I’m going to end with. “Write no matter what, write anyway, and write always.” That is my goal for this year.

May God bless you all today!

Joy in Trials (Beyond Our Walls)

I was reminded of another event in our lives earlier that occurred on this day six years ago. My husband had to have surgery. The particulars aren’t important. How I felt and what I was dealing with at the time is. When I was in that waiting room six years ago, I had a feeling that things were about to change though I did not know how much, and I felt a reassurance that everything would be ok through all the changes.

Is this joy in trials like it talks about in James 1:2-4? I think it was though I wasn’t in tune with my Father like I am now. Here are the quoted verses. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

This is right in tune with this morning’s devotion entitled Testing of Our Faith. The author shared her family’s story, and not having known her through most of the testing of her faith, I was encouraged by the way she expressed joy even through pain. I thought to myself there was no way I could express that kind of joy. No way I was mature enough in my faith.

God showed me I was wrong though. Going back to those moments six years ago, I expressed joy through the gifts He had given me. While I was waiting, I pulled out my notebook and worked on my novel. This was my second year of participating in something called NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and I was determined to have 50,000 words finished by the end of the month even through my husband’s surgery, even through homeschooling my boys, even through all of it.

As I wrote words down, as I could see my plot begin to come together, I felt a sense of peace come over me. Writing was my gift. I could write things down I couldn’t say to anyone else. I could write, and my life would become clearer to me. I could write, and my soul would be lightened. All things that were important at that stage of my life and things that are still important to me now, six years later.

In the years since that moment, I have been through more trials, but I have also learned to use the gift God has given me to get through those trials. I guess, in a way, my gift is what allows me to express joy.  I used to think expressing joy meant I was supposed to be happy all the time. And, when I wasn’t, it meant I was failing in my faith walk.

That isn’t it at all though. God has taught me that by writing about the good times AND the bad times, I am using what He has given me to express joy through my trials.

God’s blessings on all of you today!