What Are You Afraid To Lose?

The woman dreams to become pregnant, a prayer that God gave the childWhat are you afraid of losing?

Everyone is afraid of losing something–a loved one, a job, their reputation, sanity, safety, peace, hope … Or perhaps we’re afraid of something being taken from us; the anxiety is the same regardless of how this one (or more) precious thing is wrenched from our grasp.

Almost a year ago, my husband and I lost a baby. We had never expected to be parents, and after 13 years of marriage, not only resigned ourselves to this fact, but completely accepted it with peace. Until I got pregnant. Suddenly, God opened wide the doors of longing, excitement and anticipation. A whole new world brightened on our horizon. We wanted that baby more than anything. However, I miscarried at 11 weeks. The doctors assume the baby died a few weeks earlier and my body took a little time to realize the loss. My heart took much, much longer.

FINISH READING THIS POST HERE …

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What I Thought God Wanted

A man stood before God listening intently; he wanted to catch every single word of instruction.

“Do you see that boulder there?” God asked. “The one on the very edge of the precipice. I created it and placed it exactly there with you in mind. This is your mission, your calling. I want you to push that boulder.”

“That’s all God?” The man glanced down at his puny physique and felt a flush of shame redden his cheeks. It doesn’t seem like a very important job, he thought. At the same time, doubt clashed with his indignation. What if I’m not strong enough to move that huge rock, he wondered.

“That is exactly what I made you to do,” God affirmed. “I will always be with you. Don’t worry, you can do all things through my strength.”

So the man set his shoulder against the stone. Day in and day out, night after long night, he pressed on. Over time, his shoulders broadened with sinewy muscle. His skin grew dark and tan at first, then weathered and ruddy. His shoulder bruised. Once or twice, he pulled back and looked at the massive rock. It hadn’t moved a millimeter.

The voice of doubt reached a fevered pitch in his mind: I’m failing. The one, seemingly insignificant thing God gave me to do and I can’t even manage that. And where is God? I thought He was going to help me—be my strength! Maybe I didn’t hear Him right. Maybe He’s not even pleased with all my work. I only wanted to be obedient. I’m sure someone else could do a better job.

Just then, he felt a presence behind him. His Lord stood there, quietly assessing the tired man and the stone. “I’m sorry, God,” the man whispered. “I couldn’t move it even one tiny bit.”

Jesus reached out a scarred hand and tipped the man’s face up to look Him in the eyes. “What are you talking about?” He asked gently. “I never asked you to move the stone. I only asked you to push it.”

My pastor told that story in a message about finishing well. He quoted Paul in 1 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

My hearted perked up with his words. I’ve felt like that! In particular, I have prayed and prayed and prayed for my husband to love the Lord with all his heart and to lead our family spiritually. (I’ve also employed some unsuccessful tactics like pleading and bribing.) Now, 15 years later, I’m tired, I feel like a failure and I want to quit.

As a Christian wife, I know that my most important assignment on earth is to help my husband become the man God created him to be. God brought us together; He created me to be my husband’s helpmate. Sometimes this appointment seems mundane and unimportant compared to world-wide evangelism and other lofty callings. Other times, it seems like much more than I can handle; it feels like I have sweated and struggled to no avail.

As I listened to the sermon, I felt Jesus’ presence. I turned my heart to listen.

“Daughter,” He said. “I never told you to change your husband. I assigned you to be his helpmate. You put a great burden on yourself when you expect a specific outcome or result. You are only to obey me—be his helpmate. I will be the one to move and change him in my time. But, do you see what good has come of your labor? You, yourself have grown strong. When you were tired and weary, you learned to rest in me. You’ve gained some calluses and bruises, but now you are wiser, too.”

Whether it be our hopes and dreams for a certain type of marriage or something else, our lives and sanity depend on understanding specifically what God has called us to do. He has not called us to bring about an outcome, only to allow Him to use us in the process.

“So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.” Colossians 1:28-29 (emphasis added)

When God Throws an Air Ball

Some times God throws the perfect layup—a perfect opportunity. We see what we assume is His will from a mile away. We’re grateful and we’re ready to go. Then suddenly, it falls short.

And we wonder, What is God doing? What went wrong?

A friend of mine’s husband has been without a job for almost three months now. The long anticipated return call finally came. The job he had most wanted came through. Could he start next week?

The following Monday, he arrived early, checked in with his new boss and prepared to go to work. Looking sheepish, the boss pulled him aside. Something came up, he said. Something in the paperwork, something that my friend’s husband thought had long been resolved, they were sorry, but he couldn’t work there.

The news crushed them. Everything had seemed so perfect! What had gone wrong?

It isn’t always a job. Perhaps you met the “perfect” person, but then the whole relationship fell apart. Maybe you’re expecting a baby and you’re so excited, but there’s a miscarriage. Maybe you’ve planned the perfect wedding and then find yourself standing in front of the justice of the peace.

Whatever it is, sometimes God throws the perfect layup, and then it falls short. 

God doesn’t always offer personal explanations, but Scripture is always the light to our path. In this case, a story from David’s life gives insight into the confusion.

David was a young shepherd, probably about 12-years-old when Samuel, the prophet, came to his father, Jesse. Samuel announced that one of Jesse’s sons would be the new king of Israel. Obediently, seven of Jesse’s sons marched in front of the prophet, but each time God said, “He is not the one.”

Perplexed, Samuel asked if Jesse had any more sons. Jesse admitted there was one more, a scrawny shepherd named David.

When David arrived, God told Samuel, “This is him! This is the one I want you to anoint as the King of Israel!” Quickly, Samuel did as he was told.

Logically, we might imagine that Samuel pulled a crown out of his bag, put it on David’s head and marched him to the castle. David should have begun ruling right away! But that didn’t happen. In 1 Samuel 16:13, Samuel turned around and went home. In the very next chapter, we find David back in the fields with the sheep.

I wonder if David asked God, “Why? Why do I, the King of Israel, have to go back to the sheep pen? And how long do I have to wait, God?”

Many years down the line, David did rule over Israel; he was the best king Israel ever had. God called David, “A man after my own heart.”

The Bible never tells us exactly why God made David wait for so long. We do know that in those waiting years, David was filled with the Holy Spirit. He wrote many of the Psalms during that time, singing and sharing his praise for God. He made many good, godly friends in that time too.

We will not always agree with or even understand God’s reason for toppling perfect plans, altering the natural course of things or seeming to change His mind. At times, it may seem like He has misled us. David must have felt that way after being anointed king and then sent back to the fields. Later he was called to the palace merely to serve King Saul by playing the harp.

Even after David took the throne, there was never any explanation as to why God anointed him and then sent him back to being a shepherd. If David had been king right away, perhaps Israel would have avoided many wars and a lot of blood shed. David never would have been hunted by Saul. But the end of the story is that David became a man after God’s own heart and God abundantly blessed him.

Even when things don’t make sense, the end of the story is always that God is working things for our good. He is always faithful and all that He does in our lives is out of His lovingkindness. As we learn to wait through the confusion, we will become men and women after His own heart.

Faster in the Wrong Direction

Did you ever read the story of Winnie the Pooh and the sand pit? I’ll sum it up for you:

Pooh Bear and his timid sidekick Piglet got lost in the woods. They didn’t even know they were lost until Piglet pointed out that they kept passing a very familiar sand pit. Could it that they were just going in circles? No, Pooh asserted, the sand pit was following them.

What do you do when you’re lost? I’ve got some great stories about being lost.

There was the day after my wedding, when I traveled with my dad to pick up my car, that for reasons I won’t go into, was in a small town about an hour away from my new home. Once, I was settled behind the wheel of my own car, Dad waved goodbye and drove off toward his own house. I promptly took the ramp to the interstate—cluelessly, in the wrong direction. I didn’t realize I was lost until an hour had passed and I wasn’t home yet. And then I did the worst thing I could possibly do. As anxiety mounted, my foot got heavier. I could find no where to turn around! I sped faster and faster. In my mind, the faster I went the sooner I would find a solution and fix my error. As you can imagine, going faster only sent me farther in the wrong direction—faster. As well, I missed the first opportunity to correct the situation. 

That wasn’t the first, nor the only time I’ve done something like that. I’ve gotten lost when out for a simple run, on roller-skates, in my grandparents neighborhood, in many an airport and more. Suddenly, nothing looks familiar; instead of slowing my pace and thinking clearly, I push faster and faster praying that home is around the next corner. However, it wasn’t until recently that I noticed my tendency to accelerate when I’m lost.

Speaking of praying…

What do you do when you feel spiritually lost? I don’t mean lost as in unsaved, or doubting your salvation. I mean lost like, “God, what am I supposed to do with my life? What am I supposed to do in this situation? What am I supposed to do about this relationship?”

Have you ever felt that way?

Since I’m baring my soul, being honest about my disabilities (directionally challenged) I’ll admit that I do the same thing when I feel spiritually lost—I go faster.

Many times, after a move with my husband’s career, I’ve felt detached, floating, essentially lost. I don’t have a job. I don’t have a church. I don’t have kids. Who am I? What do I do God? What did you make me to do?

And usually, I start running. I make lists of all the volunteer opportunities I can find, call them all and offer to be there tomorrow. I sign up for every club. I give my number to every smiling face at the dog park and suggest, “Let’s meet for coffee sometime! I’m sure we have a lot in common.” I visit 15 churches in 15 Sundays.

Suddenly, I’m swamped, overwhelmed and more lost than ever. None of my new activities seem to be “homey”. I’m overcommitted and under-fulfilled, over-used and under-serving. You see, I can’t really serve the way I want to, the way God calls me to, if I’m trying to do everything and really only doing it for my own self-fulfillment.

This year, 2014, God gave me on word to wrap my life around: Walk. I asked Him for one word to guide my pursuits this year, to focus my Bible study; one word to plow the Scriptures with and put on like shoe leather. He simply said, “Walk”.

I have to think this means a couple things. 1) My most delicious prayer time is spent on long walks with my dog. I know there I’ll find Him, when I’m undistracted by the to-do list and to-see people. 2) I need to walk with the Spirit. The Word says when we do this, we won’t fulfill the desires of the flesh. He doesn’t say to run with the Spirit. There’s intention in the slow, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other; the rhythm of walking. 3) No matter how useless I feel, or briefly how disconnected, I need to walk slowly through change. Whether it be into my new life when my husband and I move next time, or any other upset of routine. I must set aside the choking panic of impending solitude and take steady, meditated steps, placing each foot in the footprint of my Father.

I don’t know that these lessons will be well applied to my propensity to be physically lost. I’ve got enough to think about merely applying them to my obedience to Christ. But, perhaps they might. And if not, I always have my iPhone 🙂

Never Unnoticed

“After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.” Luke 8:1-3

I always think it’s fun to wonder about the people Jesus spoke with, ate with, walked with and laughed with. And of course, the first people who come to mind are His twelve disciples. After that, you might think of Lazarus, Mary and Martha-maybe even Mary Magdalene. I think Nicodemus, the pharisee who believed, spent extra time with Jesus. But have you ever heard of Joanna?

The Bible doesn’t say much about this woman who loved and followed Jesus. We do know she was the wife of a man named Chuza, Herod the Tetrarch’s (a ruler) steward. Joanna was one of the many people Jesus healed. We also know that she traveled with Jesus, along with many other women, caring for Him and the disciples and providing for them.

If we dig a little deeper and “put ourselves in her shoes” there’s a lot we can learn from this female follower of Jesus.

Joanna’s name meant “God has been gracious”. When she was born, I’m sure her parents had no idea that one day Jesus would work a miracle in her life. But, after Jesus healed her, she must have taken great pride in her name. Indeed, God had been very gracious to her.

When the Bible says, “These women were helping to support [Jesus and the disciples] out of their own means”, most Bible scholars believe that means the women traveled ahead of the company. In each place where Jesus and his disciples stayed, the women made sure they had lodging, food and other provisions. They did these things out of their own provisions. Joanna and the other women sacrificed their time, money and energy to serve Jesus.

As the wife of Herod’s steward, Joanna had a special opportunity to witness to those of Herod’s household. After Jesus healed her, everyone must have asked questions! Knowing her love for the Lord, it’s easy to imagine that Joanna was excited to tell everyone about Him. This took great courage because the ruler, Herod, felt threatened by Jesus as His fame spread among the people. In fact, Herod had already beheaded John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin. We can learn courage from Joanna as she chose to follow and worship Jesus despite the danger.

The Bible says that the women who had come with Jesus from Galilee watched carefully to see where He was buried. Three days later, they returned to care for the body of the Lord. Joanna was one of those women. She heard the angels say, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!”

Even though her name is only mentioned in the book of Luke and even then only twice, there is much we can learn from Joanna. She reminds us that no matter how small, insignificant or unnoticed we feel, God always has a plan for us.

 

Took the Words Out of My Mouth, and Old Lessons Re-Learned

There’s something affirming about someone taking the words right out of your mouth, especially when that someone is really Someone!

In July, I wrote a post called, “Love Isn’t What You Thought It Was”.

(To be honest, God has been dredging up a lot of old lessons for the past few weeks: Walking, Loving, Good Works, Calling and Purpose to name a few.)

A few days ago, I received my daily subscription from Desiring God. The sermonette was written by John Bloom, the president of Desiring God.

His title caught my eye: Love is Not a Verb. 

Funny, I think I wrote something like that…

So, I went back through the archives of Predatory Lies and discovered that indeed, God had spoken that same truth to my own heart: “Love Isn’t What You Thought It Was“.

I won’t go so far as to say that great minds think alike, but I will revel in the truth that our God never changes. His truth is always the same, yesterday and forever.

What do you think Love is?

coming SOON, the paperback of The Predatory Lies of Anorexia: A Survivor’s Story

Unidentified Calling

How many times have I told you God? I’m not cut out for  this! It almost feels like you’re that parent with pie-in-the-sky dreams for his kid, ambitions for Jonny to be a star baseball player when all Jonny wants to do is learn the guitar. 

I am a self-aware people pleaser. I’m not an entrepreneur or a risk taker in any capacity. I don’t like failure or rejection and I can’t handle large uninsured investments of my time, money or emotional energy. Yet, here I am, holding the second rejection of my manuscript in as many days. What makes you think I’m supposed to be a writer? 

If I didn’t know myself so well, I’d assume that I’m just fool hardy, a glutton for punishment, cocky and pretentious to think I have a story to tell and a ministry to fulfill through the written word. But I know I heard you. I know you put me up to this. 

Just the other day, I was thanking you for finally revealing “my calling”. But now, as I evaluate the outcome of my obedience, I think you’ve got me all wrong. It’s so hard, Lord! I really don’t want to sit in this uncomfortable space of waiting for and listening to you, of pressing on and stepping out in faith again and again. Can’t I just do something cut and dry, trudge along in a rut carved by some previous, daring saint? Is there just a “good Christian” to-do list I can follow?

I prayed this prayer under my breath, not too sure that I want God to hear me. I mean, I don’t want Him to give up on me, to relinquish His great plans for me, but I’m so tired of living in limbo. It feels like none of my projects find any closure. I’m still waiting for feedback from publishers, waiting for the answer to prayers about our family’s future, waiting for that phone call to be returned, waiting for the support group I lead to grow, waiting for the magazine editor’s response, waiting for some affirmation that my life is bearing any fruit for my Father, that I’m on the right path, that I’m doing something right!

God?

Except for this uncanny pressure, like His thumb between my shoulder blades gently propping me up and pressing me forward, I wonder if God really doesn’t hear my whispered prayer. He’s been mysteriously quiet today. But He didn’t chide me for my fears or mock my frustration. He only lay upon my heart one thing: “[Do not] get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time [you] will reap a harvest of blessing if [you] don’t give up.”*

I’m pressing on.

I am blessed to work with, write for and count as friends, dozens of other authors. So, I take great comfort in their humble stories of rejection letters and their gutsy determination to press on.

Here are a few links that have bolstered my spirit:

Chad Allen, by means of Mary Demuth and her humble honesty about failure even after you’ve “made it”. Here’s a priceless one, a cup of tea for the weary creative’s soul. I shared it once before and I’ve Pinned it so I can find it over and over, but just so you don’t miss it: In the Ditch.  And here’s board where I keep scraps of possibilities. Hopefully you’ll find brain stimulation there too. And one more, By Anne R. Allen, with enough wit to put some saucy back in your key strokes and determination to defy discouragement.

In the next several posts I’m going to be “going deeper”. That’s something the Holy Spirit  has been etching on my heart lately. I’m not completely sure what it means, but the more that I explore it, I’m finding it applies to nearly every aspect of my life.

I have a tendency to cast a wide net. I reach farther, do more and often give up quickly on the things that seem to have the least potential. Then it’s off to the next interest, praying this ambition is more promising (honestly, praying that maybe I found God’s sweet spot for me). Anxiety wells the longer it takes for an effort to blossom. Pure fear takes over when God seems to tie my hands behind my back. Wait He says, kneel here until your knees wear a deep indentation in the carpet.

What are the things that make you question whether you’ve heard God? What were you completely sure of yesterday, that you’re less than convinced of today? How do you know if you’re on the right track? What if you’re not?

*Galatians 6:9

Why I Create

They called it re:Write. As I sat my bum in a chair pinched between two other wannabe writers, (or perhaps they’ve already arrived and confidently call themselves “scribes”, as such) tears welled in my eyes.

Apparently, not enough of my life is “re:Writing” to make blip on a publisher’s radar. Apparently, the spontaneous energy that itches at the tips of my fingers and prickles my mind when there’s no paper in sight, isn’t really what good books are made of. Apparently, almost nobody reads anymore. Apparently, the mysterious romance of author and pen, discovery and syntax, melody and imagination just isn’t enough. And apparently, even a message from God, a testimony of redemption, this welling glory in my chest, a conviction to share Gospel through story, to wrap my story up in His story, just may not be newsworthy.

Between masters of market analysis and prestigious publishers, an author was sandwiched. Ted Dekker took the stage in artsy array, as if he’d clothed himself from the quirky Austin shops on his way to the conference. His message entranced me and coaxed even more tears through the rivulets already marring my makeup.

It was almost as if he implored me not to be there. His call to my artist-heart was that sweet-sorrowful voice of Create, wooing me to endure. I wept, fearful that in twelve more hours of facts and figures, the voice would be drowned out. Back in my room last night, I sobbed.

I picked up the program, willing myself to will to go back, to face the cold, hard truth of the dismal potential of publishing.

re:Write. This call to make something of my words is almost the same as what propelled my earlier years of an eating disorder – an effort to prove I’m exceptional at something. I imagine if someone would just validate my words, pluck my story from the slush pile and be astonished at its merit, then, then, I will be someone. My life re:Me, re:MyWriting will define me.

I’m sure dozens of people are spurred on by such messages. I know that their SMART goals drive them to succeed; I know they know what success looks like. I know they will beat me in this race for literary recognition. But, I’m also sure I’m not the only one who feels this way, trapped, shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of others pressing to realize the same dream, haunted by the fact that only a few of us can possess it.

You see, I can’t write regarding writing. I can’t think regarding writing. When I do, I find myself tangled in the concepts I’m trying to convey, confused by my own story, caught up between the needs of a reader, the demands of a publishers and the Reason. THE reason. That’s it. I have to write for a reason, and that reason has to be beyond myself, beyond numbers and platforms and pie charts. I write re:Jesus.

I first sat down to write because I had a story. I had a powerful tale of a damsel in distress rescued by her one true Love, a Love who had pursued her before she ever knew His name. But it was more than a powerful story, it was a pervading story, oozing through my pores, from the inside out, shimmering on my skin, transforming me. And as long as I wrote from that place at my Redeemer’s side, staring up at Him in awe and gratitude, the words flowed. He is my Reason.

Sitting in the conference, I felt as if I was trying to write from a distance; squinting to see a becoming profile of my Lover, attempting to place Him in the best light, then pausing to evaluate myself and impose one story on top of the other. But I can’t see the real story from there. It’s clearest when I’m standing right next to Him, when He illumines, when I am focused so intently and intimately on Him that I can scarcely see the distinction between us.

So, I left the conference. For myself, pressing my story into palms, seeing my story in another woman’s eyes, holding her shaking shoulders and angling her just enough that she can see Jesus, sharing my story over coffee and in long letters, declaring my redemption on parchment that may never have spine or cover art or rave reviews – it is enough. It is more than enough. It is who I was meant to be and how my story was meant to be told.

My life re:Jesus.