Beware Those Little Attacks

The phone rings. “Hello?” I answer. It’s John, a nice man from a self-publishing firm I have been talking to on and off for the last three or four months. “Hi, John,” I smile. “It has been a while, hasn’t it?”

For nearly five years I have struggled with my writing life. Motherhood and a bent toward procrastination have not always coincided with my dream of writing a book. In search of answers and guidance, I sought the services of John and his firm last winter.

I listen as John reminds me of our last conversation. With my first manuscript on the verge of being completed, John and I have had several conversations about what to do next. Do I self-publish my book with John and his firm or spring, feet first, into the unknown world of traditional publishing?

“So, Jennifer,” John urges. “Have you decided to let us help you publish your book?” It’s a good question. I am the first to admit that I know little of these two possibilities. John knows a lot about the world of publishing. What John doesn’t know, is that I have just returned home from my first writer’s conference.

After spending two days with authors, agents, publishers, incredible speakers, and fellow writers, I realized that the decision I needed to make wasn’t about self or traditional publishing. Instead, I decided, first and foremost, to trust God’s calling for me to be a writer and begin to take my writing seriously; knowing that if I stay faithful and obedient to Him, everything else will fall into place.

All of these thoughts filter through my mind as John and I continue our conversation. “As a matter of fact, John, it’s funny you should call.” My heart beats strong and determined as I tell him about my weekend at the conference. “In a nutshell, John, I’m just not ready to commit to your firm. It’s not a closed door by any means, but I think I owe it to myself and my book to at least try for a traditional contract.”

“You know,” John quips. “It is nearly impossible for an unknown author to get published. The statistics just aren’t in your favor.” John continues to paint a dreary, yet vivid picture of how difficult it is to get a book published, and as listen I begin to sense that this phone call is not about John or getting my book published. This phone call, I realize with a moment of God given clarity, is an attack.

It wasn’t John who was attacking, but Satan. What I mean by an ‘attack’ is that Satan was attempting to take John’s less than positive words about my writing goals and decisions, and use them to convince me that these decisions are pointless, ridiculous, and impossible. Without God’s help to see this attack for what it was, I know I could have quickly and easily become doubtful and discouraged about my decision to embrace everything God has for me and my writing.

The writer’s conference I attended changed everything for me. It drew me closer to God. It clarified my purpose. It helped me to set goals and map out a plan for my writing career. It filled me with hope, confidence, and a giddy, school-girl joy for writing that I haven’t felt in ages. Is it any wonder, that these victories would be opposed?

After a few minutes, John and I both realize that there is nothing more to say. We wish each other well, and I hang up the phone. I can feel God and His strength all around me, a vote of Holy confidence. I’m thankful for this phone call for it reminds me to be on guard, to beware those little attacks.  I laugh out loud and say, “Satan, you’re going to have to try a lot harder than that.”

Every day a battle rages, but ultimately I know that this battle is not just for the purposes that God has called us to, but also for our hearts. Win or lose, God is glorified by our decisions to be faithful and obedient to our callings, and He will defend us against Satan’s attacks.

As I pursue my dream and face the battles that lie ahead, I am thankful to know that the author and perfector of my story, of ALL stories, will forever be by my side.




Angry Birds

A couple months ago my family discovered the video game, Angry Birds. When it comes to video games, I admit I am guilty of living under a very large and heavy rock. They just aren’t on my radar.

As I have recently learnt, Angry Birds is a highly addictive game where cartoonish looking birds are catapulted by sling shot through the air towards seemingly innocent pigs. The object of the game is to use the ‘angry birds’ to destroy the pigs’ shelter and wipe out each pig in the process. Brilliant, right?

A few days ago I was having ‘one of those days.’ It was the kind of day in which I trudge around the house feeling edgy, disgruntled, and short-fused for no apparent reason. My girls were in the middle of eating their lunches when my daughter, with an extra dose of three-year-old, took her milk, the contents of her plate, and a spoon, and proceeded to make “soup” on the kitchen table.

While creative, and fueled by her desire to be like mommy, her, so called, ‘soup’ created a culinary mess that I wasn’t in the mood to contend with. Her behavior was aggravating, yes, but also, at its root, rather innocent. I could see this, but in the heat of the moment I chose to focus on my frustration. As I cleaned up her creation, I barked, and complained, and scolded her for making such a mess. It was in the middle of this scolding that it hit me: I’M AN ANGRY BIRD!

For a split second, my day, my words, and my actions played out in retrospect before my eyes:

Me: Angry Bird, squawking up a storm, flying blindly towards the destruction of hearts and home.

My Children, My Household: Innocent pigs, hiding, waiting, seeking shelter, and hoping not to be lambasted by an Angry Bird attack.

Oh dear.

Wouldn’t it be nice if days like this came with a ‘Start Over’ button? Fortunately, God’s grace is abundant and covers the destruction of Angry Birds and frazzled moms. Days like this one have taught me that timeouts aren’t just for the
little ones. Sometimes, mommies need them just as much as the kids do.

Seeing myself as an Angry Bird made me realize that a few minutes alone with God were in order. As my girls finished their lunches, I slipped upstairs to my room and sought a moment alone with God.

“Lord,” I prayed. “Forgive me. Forgive my squawking and my blindness to what my words and actions are doing to the innocent hearts around me. Forgive me, Lord, for the destruction I have caused. Lord, come into this day and help me. Give me your patience, give me your peace. Give me your joy. Amen.”

I know in the midst of a busy and hectic day that taking a timeout is not always easy or convenient, but I also know that even a few minutes spent in some form of prayer, scripture, or worship will never return void.

After all, isn’t it a matter of focus? An Angry Bird heart is one that is focused on nothing but itself. Those moments when I was ‘flying blind’ were not so much about blindness, but about my eyes seeing only me. My feelings. My complaints. My frustration. Listen closely, and all that Angry Bird squawking will sound a lot like, “Me! Me! Me!” As a result, anything that doesn’t comply with the Angry Bird way of thinking becomes an easy target, innocent hearts included. On the contrary, a heart that is focused on God, makes love its aim, and the result is an attitude that looks for ways to breathe life into the people and places that surround it.  

Sometimes, a quick timeout makes all the difference in a derailed heart and mind. Sometimes, the events that transpire over the course of a day call for timeouts to be sprinkled through morning, noon, and night. No matter what we face, or how often a timeout is needed, what matters most is that we take the time to stop, adjust our heart and mind, and let our focus fall on God.

Seeking God in the midst of an Angry Bird kind of day may not be the ‘Start Over’ we sometimes wish for, but it can ‘Refresh’ our spirit. With our hearts focused on God, we can go about our days with love, rebuild the broken shelters, and create a safe place for our loved ones…our precious ‘pigs’… to dwell.

Rain on Me

Sometimes I like to picture God’s love as rain falling on me.

7:00 AM

My day started sunny. Despite a long, wakeful night with a fussy baby, I woke up this morning feeling, for the most part, cheerful. I was tired, but as I worked on fixing breakfast and getting the day started, I thought, “God will help me. Just be happy. God will give you rest, or whatever it is you need for this day.” Not a bad start for a sleepy mom of two, but somewhere between feet-to-floor joy and my morning shower, my heart began to change…

8:00 AM

My baby, Tenley, sits in her highchair, not so patiently waiting for me to clean her up and move her to the next part of our morning routine.  Meanwhile, my three-year-old, Aletheia, doddles at her oatmeal and asks for the 500th time if she can go watch “Mary Poppins.” I wipe Tenley’s face and glance at the clock: 8:05 and ticking.  A 10:00 appointment looms on our schedule, lacing the morning with urgency. My heart begins to tighten.

8:15 AM

We charge upstairs to get dressed. Aletheia, always two steps ahead of me, climbs onto my neatly made bed and begins to add her signature touch. Pillows and sheets cover the floor, as I catch up and find that little hands have made extra work. Struggling to find time, energy, and patience, I hastily scold her and scramble to set things right. My hurried heart pulls tighter.

8:30 AM

Quickly, I head for the shower.

“What did you do with the jeans I left on the floor?” My husband asks, as we brush shoulders in the bathroom doorway. He, on his wild way into his day.  Me, rushing madly into mine.

His asking comes across a little too demanding. “I hung them up,” I answer, annoyed.

It is a petty exchange, but my heart snaps clean through. Gracelessness ensues, a torrent of tired sets in, and I feel that I am too much and not enough at the same time.

8:45 AM

I escape into the shower and run to God. The warm water falls with my anger, weariness, and tears. I kneel on the floor of the tub and try to be honest with God.

“Lord,” I pray. “I started this day with you, but now I feel so, so…”

“Hard?” I hear him say.

“Yes, Lord, Hard. In my heart…hard.”

I open my eyes to see my hands clenched in hard fists, holding on to angry, and I think of the rain: God’s shower of love and blessing.

What happens, I ask myself, when rain falls on something hard? A tin roof, a paved blacktop, or a stubborn heart? It deflects, splatters, and is gone, while the hard surface remains impenetrable. What happens, my thoughts continue, when rain falls onto something soft? Fresh tilled earth, sand, or a heart made humble? The rain soaks in and changes the surface until it is saturated and full of rich, wet goodness.

I see them now, God’s blessings. The ones he has been pouring out all morning:

Teething baby receiving comfort only mommy can give…

Three-year-old at play…

Husband who needs me…

Hope for a nap…

Each of them LOVE deflected by hardness. His love. My hardness.

I open my hands, relax my heart, and pray to be made soft.


My Journey of Desire (Part 3): Birthday Gifts

With all the amazing truth God has shown me over the last few weeks, I thought for sure I was ready to tackle Tenley’s first birthday. “I think I’ve finally come to terms with Tenley’s big day,” I told my friend, Amanda. Kindly, Amanda simply smiled her “We’ll See” smile and opted not to argue.

I’m thankful to have a friend, like Amanda who sometimes knows me better than I know myself. In the days that followed, it didn’t take long for me to realize that God and I still had some work to do.

Two days before Tenley’s birthday, my emotional dam broke open. After arguing with my husband over something insignificant, I found myself angry and upset. To my surprise this petty argument was all it took for my defenses to crumble. Pent up tears started to fall, slowly at first for the frustration I felt towards Chris, then quickly for my heart’s true ache. Before I knew it I found myself weeping for the unavoidable arrival of Tenley’s birthday and for all the longing I have felt this year.

“God, why?” I asked. “After all you have taught me, why do I still feel this way? Why do I still feel so deeply upset?”

“Because it’s not just about Tenley, and it’s not just about the day she was born,” He gently replied.

Suddenly, I realized through God’s tender reply, that all the grief I have been feeling over Tenley’s birthday and the loss of a natural delivery is not just about these recent experiences. Rather, this grief is old and lasting.

It’s about the time in high school when I didn’t make the basketball team. It’s about the time I failed to finish my first marathon. It’s about my decision to not finish college and the book it’s taken me five years (and counting) to finish. This grief is about all my significant failures. It’s about each and every time I’ve felt defeated or have failed to accomplish something precious and important.

Finally, the nagging ache in my heart made sense. Some of these experiences happened to me when I was very young, and all of them have awaited their chance to be tended by God’s loving care for a long, long time. In a sweet instant, in my very own water to wine miracle, my tears turned into laughter, and for the first time in 363 days of sorting through the desires of my heart I felt at peace.

For so long now, I have looked at this season of desire, loss, and sadness as something I had to get over, as something I had to let go. By validating my feelings of grief, I also feel that God is showing me that these experiences are not something I have to let go or get over. They are a part of me, a part of who I am. Each and every one of them has shaped me, formed me. How could I let them go?

Rather than dwelling on them, rather than staying here, stuck in grief, I must, by God’s grace and guidance keep going. I must continue to bring the aches of my heart to God. I must find my security and comfort in Him and His truth. I must allow myself the grace to grieve my losses, defeats, and failures. And I must continue to desire, to trust in the plans He has for me, and sow the seeds He plants in my heart.

Throughout the scriptures God instructs His people to set up memorial stones as a testimony to the way He has worked and provided for those He calls His own.  Tenley has grown a lot this year, but sometimes I wonder if I have grown even more. This growth has only been possible through God’s work in my life, and I feel the need to remember this year, to testify about what He has done.

As Tenley’s birthday arrives, I will hold her, love her, and cherish her. With every smile, every kiss, every hug, every chance to watch her sleep, every second lost in her deep blue eyes, I will remember my year of desire, loss, and growth. Tenley is my memorial stone, my testimony and sign of what God has done in my life and in my heart.

When the time comes, I’ll lean in close to Tenley’s cheek and help her blow out her first birthday candle. As I watch her eyes grow wide with the excitement and joy only a birthday can bring, I will give honest thanks in my heart to God, creator of desire and healer of hearts, for all I have been given: A beautiful daughter. A mended heart. Two precious gifts worth celebrating.