What I Gained When I Gave Up

Work In ProgressAs I (hopefully), put the finishing touches on the second draft of my book this week, I thought a look back might be fun. I’m looking forward to returning soon with fresh posts for a fresh new year! What are you celebrating lately, dear friends? I’d love to hear from you!

For the past three weeks I have taken a break from my regular schedule of writing and posting my blog. Before I go on let me just say, I missed it! I missed you! And it feels so good to be back.

As the new year approached, I sensed God prompting me, asking me, to take a break, to give up, for a time, this writing I love.

At first I thought the idea was crazy. Taking a break from my blog writing seemed the opposite of what I should do. But the prompting continued, and I soon realized the choice to take a break was not just a matter of obedience and trust but a declaration of love.

I love this blog. I love to write. But I love Him even more. And this was my chance to show Him.

So I laid my Isaac down. My promise. My passion. My love. And do you know what happened? I am the one who was blessed.

With my writing schedule cleared for the first three weeks of January I took the time I usually spend writing this blog and spent it on finishing the first draft of a book I started in November of 2013.

As I started to write I knew God was with me. He was all in and so was I. One week, three chapters, twenty pages, and 5,692 words later I typed the words: The End.

So what’s the point of all this? Why do I feel compelled to share? Well for one, I’m excited…as if you couldn’t tell. But more than that I want to share what I learned through this experience. What I feel God has taught me. What I can’t keep inside when it comes to His abundant goodness.

Lesson #1: Milestones are worth celebrating

Don’t get me wrong my work on this book is FAR from over. My first draft is finished but I still have a lot of revision to do. Still, this part of the journey, this part of the process, is over and I’m excited to start phase two. Every phase gets me closer to God’s ultimate purpose for this work, this creation. And every phase is worth celebrating.

Lesson #2: Invite others in

Whether it’s you, my faithful readers, my writing group, my church community or my circle of family and friends, the joy of this milestone should be shared. From the beginning my journey into a writer’s life has been a testimony of God’s love and care for me, for my heart. It’s a testimony of His purpose for my life and for each life He creates. I can’t help but share this phase of the journey, this victory with others.

Lesson #3: Dream big

On the night I finished my book, after everyone in my house went to bed, I stayed up to celebrate with God. This may sound silly but I knew what He wanted me to do. I loaded our DVD player with the movie Becoming Jane and watched as the famous writer, Jane Austen, went from an obscure, female writer to one of the most well-known and bestselling authors of all time.

God has always used Jane Austen, her story, her books, and this movie to inspire me, to nurture my heart for writing, and while I don’t know the plans He has for me in terms of fame and bestselling novels I do know His plans for me are good, and perfect, and safe to trust. I know His dreams for me are far bigger than what I can dream or imagine. And it is glory to think, and contemplate, and dwell on these things. To let my heart and my mind run wild, run free, into the promise of His wild love.

In his book, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis writes, “What God takes away with His left hand He gives back with His right.”

God may have taken away my freedom, so to say, to work on this blog for a span of three weeks, and while it was hard to relinquish this part of me, what He gave me in return far outweighs the sacrifice I made.

This is always His way.

I gave up my blog for three weeks, six posts in total.

I gained a chance to show the lover of my heart that I’m a lover of his.

I gained a finished first draft and the first step toward a dream I have grown in my heart since I was a little girl with a pen and some paper.

I gained three invaluable lessons that will make this journey, this writing life, richer and much more sweet.

And once again, the words of C.S. Lewis abound in my heart:

“When He [God] talks of their losing their selves, He means only abandoning the clamour of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts (I am afraid, sincerely) that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever.” (From The Screwtape Letters)

Feeling more myself than ever, I return to you. I return to this blog. And I can’t wait to see what God has in store.

~From the archives

A Time to Work (Part Two)

Last week in A Time for Work (Part One) I wrote about my recent struggle with desire, trust, and a heart divided in light of an upcoming vacation my family is taking this summer.

Perhaps this all seems a bit silly, a bit overboard. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if I’m blowing everything out of proportion, if I’m making a big deal out of nothing. After all, it’s just a vacation, right?

Vacation or no, it is a matter that has caused turmoil in my heart for quite some time which, to me, is a clear cut sign that it’s time to dig a little deeper and figure out what’s going on below the surface.

When I took the issue of my heart’s desire and lack of trust to God, I came across an unlikely story buried in the book of Haggai. (Haggai? Tell me, when was the last time you took a look at this unpopular prophet?) I say buried because finding this nugget of truth was like finding buried treasure.

When the Jewish people returned to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile, God entrusted them with one task: rebuild His temple. At first the people tried their best to fulfill this charge but as time went on they became distracted, they lost sight of their priorities, and they ceased to complete the work they started.

Instead of building the temple they started to build fine homes for themselves, but as they worked they were unable to reap any sort of harvest. No matter how hard they worked they never had enough.

Finally, God sent the prophet Haggai who instructed the people to refocus their efforts on building the temple.

“… ‘be strong, all you people of the land,’ says the Lord, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ says the Lord of hosts.” (Haggai 2:4 NKJV)

Along with His instruction, God made a promise to His people.

“For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations…and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the Lord of hosts.” (Haggai 2:6-9 NKJV)

In short, if the people could remain faithful to the task God had given, He would, in turn, fill His temple with blessing, glory, and peace.

Blessing, glory, and peace.

As I read this passage everything started to make sense.

Now is the time to work.

When it comes to my husband’s business, when it comes to my own “business” of writing, now is the time to work. These are the tasks we’ve been given and these tasks are our temple.

As God’s truth and promise filled my heart, I could see it clear, how all this time my heart has been divided. Divided between staying and going, my husband and my family. Divided between work and play, sacrifice and pleasure.

So what do I do with my desire? With my heart divided?

As I sat in the quiet and listened to God, the words came soft and sure, “Do you trust me?” In that moment I knew my answer to this question had the power to change everything.

Soft and sure I answered, “Yes, God, I trust you. Yes, God I will work. I will be strong for I know (and it is a little while) that if we build the temple you’ve asked us to build you will fill it with your blessing, your glory, your peace.”

Blessing, glory, and peace.

Don’t get me wrong, I still long to taste the sweet fruit of my family’s upcoming vacation. I long to hunt beauty, to be with them, to find rest, but for the first time in four years I’m willing to work, I’m willing to trust, I’m willing to wait because I know that the fruit God has in store for me, for all of us, is far sweeter.

In the end, I can move forward with a desire that is first and foremost for God and the work He has given me to do. I can trust Him because I know that His words are true and His promises are good. And I can be strong and settled because my heart is no longer divided.

By deciding to take God at His word, by deciding to focus my efforts on work I’ve been given, by deciding to wait and trust God for the fulfillment of my desire, my heart has been made whole.

With muscle and steel, my husband builds his business.

 With pen and paper I write.

Together we hammer out our temple and trust, wholeheartedly, in the Lord of the harvest.

How about you? Are you currently is a season of work or a season of harvest? What does your temple look like, what task(s) has God given you to do? What blessing, glory, or peace has God brought into your life as a result of your faithful effort?

I’d love to hear what God is doing in this season of your life.