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

When You Find Yourself Walking a Broken Road

 

Winter 10The snow? It just kept falling all big and heavy and white. And we? We just kept laughing and dancing and shaking our heads that this beauty, this land could be ours.

Thirteen years (18 if you count the dating, doe-eyed, dreaming ones), three states, three major moves, four apartments, one rental house, two months that turned into seven years living with mom and dad, five employers, three children, and one self-started business led us to this.  

To a real life winter wonderland and a place to call our own.

Winter 4 Winter 7 Winter 8 As I held my baby close watching snowflakes melt on her cheeks. As little girls laughed and dug their hands in mounds of snowy white. As husband snapped photos of tears in my eyes and I craned my head back to catch flakes on my nose and eye lashes.

As we all stood for this slice of time and wonder, wonderstruck by the beauty of this first snow of the season, by the beginning of this season in which we leave one home and create another all I could think was: this...

He knew it would come to this. This is what He had in store, set aside, waiting, planned, created for us.

The jobs, the moves, the states, the dwellings some of them, many of them, broke our hearts. But now we see how He worked it for good.  How He made a broken road and blessed it to bless us.

Winter 9Winter 13Winter 12There’s a country song that says it: “that God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you.”*

And He did. He has. He will continue to.

He takes the broken, the lost, the forgotten, and makes it new. Makes it good. 

New, as snow on evergreen branches.

Good, as the feeling of home.

*”Bless the Broken Road” Lyrics by Bobby Boyd, Jeff Hanna, Robert E. Boyd, Marcus Hummon

 

What We Have to Remember When Evil Breaks Loose

 

Nativity“Tell me, Annabelle, how is she?”

“She’s different, my lord. I’m afraid her time in Lukenwalde, and that horrid Prince Silvano, has changed her dramatically.

“I was afraid it might be so.”

“Tell me, my lord, is it time? I hate to see her languish like this. She can’t even look at her gifts. She insisted I burry them in that wooden chest of hers. Hidden in darkness, they have remained there since the day she came home.”

“It saddens me to hear it, but no, ‘tis still not time.”

“Forgive me, but I can’t see the sense in waiting much longer. I know you have your reasons, but I don’t understand.”

“Trust me. ‘Tis all I can ask. I know ‘tis hard. I know you don’t understand. But trust me, dear Annabelle. Please, just trust me.”

~*~*~*~

As I watched the headlines light up the screen last Friday night all I could think was: Again? It’s happening again?

Innocent people murdered. People doing nothing but living their lives, attacked by pure evil.

I thought of the school children killed in 2012.

The marathon bombing of 2013.

The heinous acts being carried out against men, women, and precious children throughout the Middle East.

And now Paris.

I thought of what this world has come to and the evil we’re facing and how we desperately need a rescue.

And I thought of my story, of this scene I edited just a few days ago. About the king and his beloved that fill the pages of this tale I’m writing.

In this particular scene the king’s beloved, Princess Merrily, is in trouble. She needs a hero, a rescue. Her friend and confidant, Annabelle, implores the king to come. 

But the king, he’s patient and wise. He has a plan and it’s a good one. And while Annabelle doesn’t understand, the king asks just one thing: “Trust me, dear Annabelle. Please, just trust me.” 

When evil strikes like it did last Friday I think we’re all inclined to implore our King and Savior to come. To come and rescue His beloved. To come and recue this weary world. We don’t understand the evil or why He’s waiting so long.

But our King, too, is patient and wise. He has a plan. A good, good plan. To prosper and not to harm. To give hope and a future.

And our King, too, asks us to trust. 

To trust him and Him alone.

Not our government. The headlines. The next election.

Not our trendy beliefs. Our Facebook posts. Our celebrities, our leaders, our heroes.

Not the rock of dread in our gut. The voice of fear in our ears. The image of horror before our eyes. 

Just Him.

“Trust me,” He says. “Trust my tract record. My truth. My promise.”

“Trust my unfailing love for this world, for you, for my precious beloved.”

“Please, just trust me.”

 Trust that the King is coming.

Why Now Is the Time to Dream

 

DreamThis summer my husband and I came extremely close to buying a large chunk of land less than a mile from where he grew up. We were excited; so excited to see these plans come through.

For months we talked and planned and dreamed. We walked the property and checked with the owner time and again working toward a deal.

This dream of owning land, of building a house, of having a place to call our own has been in our hearts since the day we wed almost thirteen years ago. And really it was a dream long before then.

We’ve come close to seeing this dream realized several times throughout our marriage but somehow it always falls through. 

At times this has shattered our hearts to pieces and other times it’s been okay because we knew God had better plans, but even still our hearts continue to dream and hope and long for that day, for that place all our own.

Again, this summer we thought we had it. And again this summer it didn’t work out.

Overall, we were kind of relieved when the deal didn’t go through. Too many red flags kept waving and we walked away from the land with all kinds of peace in our hearts.

I am so thankful for this but still we wonder what’s next. If not this land, this deal, then what? Will our dream ever come true? 

 It’s definitely been a time of trial and drawing close to God. Of choosing again and again to trust Him with our desire, to be open with our hearts, and believe His plans for us are good. To prosper and not to harm us.

And in this time of drawing close I keep hearing Him whisper a special message just for me:

 Now’s the time to dream. 

Having His permission to dream is both freeing and affirming. It inspires me to picture that place I long for so deeply. 

To see in my minds eye (and a Pinterest board or two…okay three) that one part cabin, one part castle, one part cottage home which is so perfectly me.

To picture my bedroom, my girl’s room, my writing nook.

To picture a spacious yard for my girls to play and an apple orchard just for me.

My list of dreams goes on and on filling my heart with light and hope. 

 And it’s not about not being happy where I am now. Indeed it’s being more than okay with waiting to see these dreams come true, but as I wait it’s also okay to imagine, to wonder, to trust. To dream big dreams that spin me around and point me to Him.

As I dream about my someday home I’m reminded that His permission to dream also holds true in other areas of my life where I find myself waiting. 

There’s the dream of another baby… perhaps a little boy.

The dream of spoiling our family and friends with trips, and blessings, and gifts galore.

And the dream of publishing my book.

So I let my mind run wild in the quiet and waiting places. In moments with Him and those Pinterest boards.

And I picture a little boy in cowboy boots who smiles just like his daddy.

I picture my parents on a cruise ship, my family in Germany, my best writing buddy and me in a tricked out glamper doing book signings from coast to coast.

I picture my book, printed on leafy pages, looking right at home on a Barnes and Noble shelf.

Will these dreams ever come true? Lord only knows…

But this I know for sure…

His heart for me is good.

His promises are true.

And now’s the time to dream. 

Why It’s Time to be Done with Mom-Guilt

Barnes and Noble“How did I get here?” I wondered to myself as I sat in the middle of Barnes and Noble trying desperately not to slip into an ugly-cry meltdown.

Barnes and Noble…my happy place! What could possibly cause a mostly stable, high-functioning adult to wind up cuddling a stuffed Pooh Bear in the B&N cafe to keep from crying like a two-year-old? (Where, by the way, not even a tall vanilla latte with a side of frilly chocolate mousse could entice me to cheer up.)

Mom-Guilt. That’s what. I mean serious Mom-Guilt. I mean, mommy-meltdown-I- will-never-forgive-myself-for-being-such-an-awful-mother-kind of Mom-Guilt.

It was Frozen Day at Barnes and Noble. Frozen Day. We’re talking little girls dressed up like tiny Anna and Elsas everywhere. A real life Prince Hans roamed the store. The children’s department was transformed into Arendelle. Story time and sing-alongs were repeating every hour.

And I had no idea.

My sister, my girls and I thought we’d take a quick trip to our favorite bookstore. We thought it’d be a respite to get out of the house for a few minutes before it was time for my one-week-old baby to nurse again. My sister and I thought we’d let the girls play with the train set in the children’s section while we leisurely sipped fancy hot drinks and enjoyed some long awaited sister time.

But no. Frozen had thrown up in Barnes and Noble and I was caught holding the bucket.

It felt like the mommy equivalent of Pearl Harbor. I was taken by surprise and my sweet girls with their Anna and Elsa costumes at home in their closet were the casualties of war.

We couldn’t even stay for story time, and the guilt I felt was suffocating.

Now my girls, they handled the disappointment of our Barnes and Noble debacle far better than I did. With a couple of cookies from the café, compliments of their still-functioning Aunt, they were happy as clams. But me? I couldn’t get over it. When I got home and relayed the story to my husband my ugly cry broke free.

Looking back, from a slightly more stable perspective, I know it was never just about missing out on Frozen Day.

It’s the journal I never kept…or even started…or even bought…for baby number three.

It’s the crocheted blanket I didn’t finish.

It’s the intense anger I felt and showed against my girls when they woke me up from a much-needed nap.

It’s the baby that doesn’t always nurse quite right.

It’s the infant gas bubbles I can’t seem to fix.

It’s the attempts at homeschooling that never seem up to par and all the “I’m sorry Mommy can’t (fill in the blank) right nows,” that seem to riddle our days.

It’s a long list of ways I’ve failed or feel like I’ve failed or seemingly keep failing these precious ones I love so much.

During a recent doctor visit I commented to my doctor about the difference between being a mom of one and being a mom of three. “When I think of all the things I did with my first that aren’t even on the radar with my third I feel so guilty.”

“Just stop right there,” my doctor said, “because that’s not what’s important. What matters are the kids, and you give them plenty of love in hundreds of ways every single day. Trust me. Listen to me. Believe me. You have nothing to feel guilty about.” 

It’s the hardest thing to believe. I know it in my head but in my heart…

As I’ve tried to take my doctor’s words of wisdom to heart another voice, a still, small voice, keeps trying to teach me something new.

A truth that reveals the real truth about guilt.

The truth that teaches me that guilt is nothing more than the belief that God is not enough. For me. For them. For all my mistakes, my mean tos, my mishaps.

Whenever I allow my head, my heart, my feelings to bog down in guilt what I’m really depending on is myself, my own limitations, my own capabilities. I’m tricking myself into believing that it’s all up to me and that if I mess up or don’t come through the penalty will be more than I or my girls can bear.

Guilt leaves no room for grace.

Guilt leaves no room for God.

And this is precisely why it’s time to be done with the mom-guilt.

Because God is enough. He’s enough for me and enough for them

And there is grace. Grace that covers my shortcomings, my mean tos, my mistakes.

There’s the daily invitation to live close to Him, trusting Him to come through when I can’t. Trusting that He is capable when I’m not. 

Trusting that He has entrusted me with these little lives for a reason, that He has already given or will give me everything I need to mother my children well. 

So Mamas, (because I know I’m not alone), what if we decided to live mom-guilt free?

What if we chose to love ourselves the way we love our kids?

What if we chose to show ourselves the grace God shows us?

What if we stopped all the striving, performing, the high-pressure comparing, and simply sought the heart of God, and His heart for us, in all the mommy moments (good and bad) that fill our lives?

It’s time to be done with Mom-Guilt because even the most broken down, messy mom is a beloved child of God.