Archive for the ‘Preaching to Myself’ Category

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Guest Post at Brianna Merritt’s Blog

March 25, 2017

Brianna Merritt invited me to guest post on her blog today. I wrote on how having a “thick skin” isn’t the most important thing when it comes to sharing our creative work:

What if, in spite of all my logical mental preparation, I can’t handle negative reviews? What if I’m a pathetically oversensitive snowflake after all, and bad feedback breaks me??

 Formerly so excited about debuting a story, I began to have second thoughts…not about the value of the story or my decisions in revising it, but about my ability to put such a raw piece of my heart in front of the world and open myself to inevitable criticism.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized something.

Read the rest here.

Also, Laura A. Grace interviewed me on her blog yesterday to celebrate the release of my short story, Threadbare. Check it out!

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I Want to Be a Persons-Pleaser

November 4, 2016

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Something imperceptible shifted in me in the last couple of months.

The first time it felt like a fluke – I was having a good day, apparently, nothing special.

The second time it barely caught my notice – a passionate moment of boldness, probably too bold, but whatever.

The third time it took me by surprise, as I finally realized…

That girl was gone.

That girl who bears within herself the blame for every negative emotion. That girl who internalizes conflict until it cramps her stomach and leaves her no appetite. That girl who feels like she’s been punched at a simple negative statement from a friend.

That girl who thinks it’s all about her.

Who thinks, surely, everyone else’s problems are her fault. Who thinks it’s her responsibility to fix the anger of another heart. Who assumes, when her calmness is met with grumpiness, that her very presence is the impetus.

Who believes in her heart of hearts that if she brings anything other than peace and happiness to any situation, she is worthless, a negative influence that deserves to be cast aside.

That girl lived in my heart despite all my logic growling at her to leave.

I don’t miss her one bit.

Because now I can see clearly – it isn’t about me. It’s almost never about me.  Every heart has so many tethers and roots and tendrils stretching in every direction…what arrogance to believe that every disturbance in another person comes from my tiny corner in their soul!

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Pride’s twin sister is worthlessness. Each one places you higher or lower than God intends you to be.

That girl I knew would spiral into grief and anxiety for hours if a friend seemed in the least bit unhappy with her – desperate to make it right, desperate to restore the balance.

And suddenly I…don’t.  I listen. I exhort. I offer corrections. I offer prayer. Because it isn’t about me – it’s about them and helping them in their needs, because there are tethers and tendrils pulling on them that I don’t even know about.

For so long I’ve hated being a people pleaser by nature.

And suddenly I find I’m not one.

Maybe it’s God’s direct intervention, the influence of friends, or the slow march of maturity. Maybe I’ve been riding a hormonal roller coaster, sent down the track by pregnancy and motherhood.  Maybe something broke in me long ago and it’s finally fixing.

But whatever the cause, I’m done with it!

I want to be a Persons-pleaser…pleasing the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

As long as I am obeying the Father, emulating the Son, and listening to the Spirit’s leading, the tumult of others’ emotions cannot rule me.  I can trust Him to order and guide all my relationships, and if someone has a problem with me for petty reasons and rejects me? – that’s only because He willed it, and He still loves me and is better than any earthly friend.

And for those times when it is about me, and I have hurt someone, He can give me the humility to apologize and make it right – without devolving into self-hatred and miserable anxiety.

My heart, soul, and mind are forgiven, loved, and claimed as precious by the Maker of all things.

I’m so thankful that my emotions finally got the memo! 😉

The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

– Zephaniah 3:17

Have you ever suffered from being a people-pleaser or social anxieties? When? What helped you overcome it? Are you dealing with that right now? Share your story in the comments. ❤️

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Simmer Starters – July 2, 2016

July 2, 2016

Fear Not, the Universe is Wildly Out of Your Control (Ricky Alcantar) – “Psalm 97:1 says simply ‘The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice!’ This of course implies that we do not reign ultimately. On many days I don’t like that. But rather than cause for anxiety the Psalmist encourages us that it’s cause for celebration. Because the Lord reigns.”

We Are Not Superheroes (Kevin Frye) – This!  So many times this.  This applies to any spiritual gift.  “One time an associate pastor was talking to me, and he complimented me on how freely I could dance and worship with my whole heart. I looked at him and said, ‘You can do it, too, you know. I’m not doing anything special. Everyone can experience the Holy Spirit and find joy and be set free.’ I didn’t want to be the only one dancing.”

Who Will You Serve and Surprise This Week? (Tim Challies) – “If we are to live in such a way that we bring glory to God by doing good to others, we owe it to them to serve and surprise, to fulfill duty and express delight. So who do you need to serve and surprise in the week ahead?”

Dumpster Diving (Nancy Ann Wilson) – A good reminder to take every thought captive.  “We all know how our minds drift all the day long, and we tend to be easily carried along to where ever they might take us. But thoughts left to themselves often go dumpster diving, digging through fleshly things, carnal things, earthly things, untrue, ignoble, unjust, impure, unlovely, and unkind things. The dumpster is always full of this stuff: your own past sins and failures, the sins of others, bitterness, worries, and lusts. And then we wonder why we are worried, envious, lustful, bitter, anxious, or fearful. But we’ve been feeding on this stuff from the dumpster all day!”

Why Your Character’s Childhood Dreams Matter (Ruthanne Reid) – “With very few exceptions, all characters had a childhood. What did your character want to be when they grew up? When they were young, what seemed like the best future path? What job did they want? What skills did they crave? What misconceptions did they have about that job?”

Parenting a Difficult Child (Julie Lowe) – I don’t often post specifically parenting-related stuff since not all my readers are parents, but I thought this was a good article, and encouraging. 🙂

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Of Books and Babies

August 4, 2015

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As a writer, I know the importance of beginnings.

Everything hangs on the first few pages of your novel.  If readers don’t enjoy those, they probably won’t move on.  There are lots of books in the world, so unless someone else told them it was a good story, why should they spend time on a book that confused them, bored them, or offended them right off the bat?

You have to foreshadow everything right.  You have to lay the foundation for the story and its themes, introduce your main characters and setting (in an interesting way!), and put your plot in motion.

Beginnings are HARD!  I can get so fixated on how my book starts that I don’t move forward, perpetually rewriting and revising my opening scene.

I tend to carry this attitude over to my mothering.

These little years are all-important.  I’m forming human beings!  It’s my job (I think to myself) to make sure they don’t grow up malformed, like a tree that was bent into an awkward shape while it was a sapling, and keeps growing crookedly.  It’s my responsibility (so I fear) to dot every “i,” and cross every “t,” so they have the best possible, perfect, ideal foundation for life.  Sometimes I feel like someone is standing over me, putting negative tally marks for every time I do something that is less than ideal for my children’s foundational years.

Oop, too much TV today. Bad mom.  She lost her temper again.  Bad mom.  What, no veggie with dinner today?  Bad mom.

Some people brush off worries about the little years with thoughts like, “Eh, they’re little.  They won’t remember this stuff anyway.”

But! But! I splutter inside.  They might not remember, but they’ll be irrevocably shaped!

They are shaped by my words, attitudes, and fears.  They are shaped when they see me crying over a poop mess, and when I yell about spilled milk on the carpet.

It can’t be done again.  I can’t rewind time, erase my progress, and start over with a stronger opening – my kids’ life, 2.0.  Their childhood thus far is set in stone.  And that’s a scary thought.

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In the world of fiction, there is a writing rule called “Chekov’s gun.”  It states that if there’s a rifle hanging over the fireplace in the first scene, it needs to go off by the end of the novel.  There should be no loose ends, no details that are not relevant, because all details tie into the plot.

Sometimes I wonder what kind of guns I’m hanging here, over my children’s heads.

(Is that…is that a nuclear missile???)

What part do I play in this opening scene of their lives?  Am I a loving mom?  A sweet mom?  A mom who languishes on a sickbed and weakly entreats her child to “have courage and be kind?”

A lot of the time I worry that I’m more like the wicked stepmother.

You had a potty accident on the couch AGAIN??

But I tell myself these things:

God is the ultimate Author of their stories, not me, and God’s stories always have perfect endings, no matter how messy their beginnings.

However I shape my children, His hands are around them (and me), far more powerful and purposeful than my clumsy little fists.

God’s stories are simultaneously first drafts and finished products, full of crazy, unexpected twists and concluded with every plot thread in place.  All His guns go off, and they all go off at the right moment – even if the characters were only fooling around and fired them by accident and hit somebody in the eye.

And my children are shaped by far more than my flaws!

They are shaped by our Bible lessons, even when I think they’re not listening because they’re busy giggling and smearing cinnamon toast on their faces.

They are shaped when my hubby kisses me in front of the kitchen sink.

They are shaped when I play Christian music on Pandora.

They are shaped by my hugs and kisses, that cup of water I bring them at 2 A.M., those many hours reading Beatrix Potter.

It just isn’t as simple as, “You’re either doing everything perfectly or YOU ARE FAILING AT LIFE.”

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We are all a crashing, colliding, crazy, messy crowd, mixing our good acts with bad attitudes and our worst mistakes with our best intentions.  We are saved in Christ, yet struggling sinners.  We aren’t perfect, but we rest in Perfection.  We are flawed and fallen, and yet He does His good works through us, and appoints us as His representatives in the world and His members in the church.

He didn’t just put me on the earth to make my children grow up well.  He also put them here to make ME grow up well.

So I can’t be paralyzed by these first pages.  I have to keep moving forward, working out my part in my own story and in theirs.  For praise be to God! – I pen imperfect novels, though I may write the beginnings a million times, but He never needs revisions, and He is creating a masterpiece.

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Be Still

May 25, 2015

One recent evening, I curled up next to my husband in bed and cried.

I was overwhelmed with stress and sadness over a situation I couldn’t help.  I couldn’t change it, or magically make the problem or the pain go away.  It was just there, weighing down my heart with anxiety for loved ones who were hurting.

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Like many husbands, my hubby sees his wife’s tears as a plea for help – to do something, to somehow make it better.  But what did I expect him to do?  He had no more power over the circumstances than I did, he informed me.

“I don’t want you to fix anything,” I insisted.  “I’m just sad, and I’m telling you about it.  I’m just sharing life with you.”

He might not have been able to fix the situation, but he had some wise words for me instead:

“You’re basically helpless.”

I let out an anxious laugh.  “Is that supposed to make me feel better?”

“Yes and no,” he said.  “In most situations in life we at least feel like we have some semblance of control.  But this is one of those situations where we don’t even have the illusion of control.  We’re totally helpless.  We just need to lean on God, and trust in Him, and let him take us along for the ride.”

I immediately felt better, though I couldn’t peg why yet.  All I knew was that the sea of emotions felt calmer, contained in the palm of God’s hand.

By the next morning, reflection had given me some answers.

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I don’t think of myself as a controlling person.  But I never noticed before how much of my stress comes from the anxious desperation of feeling out of control, helpless against the sea of life.  I was like a child learning to float on my back in cold water – but I was thrashing and kicking and getting water up my nose.  It was as if my husband reminded me, gently, “Spread out your arms and legs like a starfish.  Stick your tummy up.  Just hold still, and you’ll float.”

And now I was floating.

It didn’t change the fact that I was in the water, and it was cold, but there is a calm that comes when you’re floating instead of fighting.

Most of us have some urge for control in our nature.  When we meet trouble, our instinct is to fix it, to feel responsible, to feel pressure to do something, anything that will make the unpleasant feelings go away.

But there are situations we can’t help.  We can’t fix it.  We can’t even escape it.  Maybe it’s having a sick child, or being jobless, or being single, or depressed, or losing a loved one and suffering grief that never seems to end.  In those kinds of situations, we can’t take charge and control.  We’re helpless.

Those are the times we have to lean into the pain, to face it with eyes wide open, and say, “I don’t like this.  It hurts, and I don’t want that.  But God, You are good.  And you are trustworthy.  You sent this trial into my life, so I’m going to accept the pain with open hands until you decide it’s time to take it away again.”

Be still and know that I am God.

“Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah.

Psalm 446:10-11

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He is a sovereign God!  He does not have a Plan B.  All of life is His perfect Plan A, a beautifully organized symphony building up to a crescendo of love and glory.

Sometimes He doesn’t mean for us to overcome the pain – He means for it to lead us to the Rock that is higher than we are, to teach us things about life we might otherwise never see through the blindness of comfort and complacency.

So if the waves of emotion are breaking on your head, stop thrashing.  Rest your limbs.

Be a starfish.

Be still.  Let the water carry you where it will.

They are His waves, just as much as we are His children, and they won’t drown us if we turn our faces up to Him and float.

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
Hillsong United