Archive for the ‘Christian Living’ Category

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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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On Living in a Box

September 6, 2016

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Sometimes my life feels like a long saga of making proclamations to myself…

I would never do that.

Nah, that’s not really for me.

That’s not my thing.

Or conversely:

This is what I am made for.

This is my thing, my purpose.

This is who I am.

…And then God bringing me around later and showing me, “Surprise!  Now this is your thing.”  “Tell you what – now I’m going to have you do that.”  “Guess what?  This is for you.”

As a silly example of what I mean…

When I was a kid, I once proclaimed that I’d never feed my kids sandwiches.  We had PB&J most days for lunch and I eventually decided sandwiches were boring.

And now I have an entire Instagram account dedicated to sharing my sandwich inspirations and all the sandwiches I enjoy making, because making sandwiches is one of my favorite hobbies.  (And my kids don’t really appreciate the fancy sandwiches yet, so guess what? Most of the time they have PB&J. 😉 )

I also maintained for years that “I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations,” (as said J.R.R. Tolkien) and that I generally eschew symbolism in my stories.

Lo and behold, the most recent story God gave me to write started as straight allegory, and has evolved into a more varied but still deeply symbolic fantasy story.  And I love it with a great passion.

Surprise!

These kinds of things keep me humble…or they should. 😉

Perhaps more startling and painful is when God shows me, “No, that isn’t what you were made for.  No, that’s not actually your purpose.  No, that is not who you are.”

I like to have a very solid perception of myself.  Who I am.  What I am.  Where I’m going.  What I’m made for.  I like to do the things I’ve always done and be the person I’ve always been: solid, steady, reliable.  I like to know why I’m here and then stalwartly fulfill that purpose.

But who I am needs to grow.  And in my finite human perspective, “why I’m here” is always my own subjective idea.

As much as I loftily think I understand God’s purpose for me, His ways are not my ways.  He is in charge of my life and how He uses it.  Who am I to even dream that I would fully understand who He made me to be and why?

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God is in the business of showing me, again and again, that “who I am” is a lot more fluid – and a whole lot bigger – than I think it is.

“Who I am” isn’t habits or preferences or projects or talents.  “Who I am” is broader than any of the things I use to define myself.  How can my identity be anything but vast and broad, when I am created in the image of an endless and infinite God, a new creature being remade into a picture of His all-powerful Son?

I pride myself on being someone who thinks outside the box to some extent.  Yet here I sit, chalking out little boxes for my identity and then planting myself in them and making myself at home.

And then freaking out when God spray-hoses away a side or two of the box I was so comfortable in.

Hopes, dreams, ambitions, talents, abilities, callings, habits – I’m prone to believe that who I am comes from those things, the things that I “am.”

But what a fragile and shaky identity that is!

Any one of those things God could remove in a moment.  He is always changing me and growing me.  Erasing my boxes.  What I think defines me one decade may seem small and silly to me the next.  Worse, I may remain stubbornly planted in a box when I am far too big to fit inside anymore, like a baby bird trying to squeeze itself tight inside the broken eggshell…when in reality, it’s big enough to fly.

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I believe we each have a unique identity.  I personally dislike the reductionist mentality of only ever saying, “I’m a sinner saved by grace – that’s all I am,” to explain who we are, because clearly each sinner saved by grace is an individual loved and called by the Lord, hands and feet and noses and toes in the body of Christ.  We are each created and redeemed for a purpose, and it’s not unspiritual to believe that we have an identity of our own.  We are one in Christ, and our identity is in Him – but we are not a hive mind.

Yet I cannot allow “who I am” to rest on who I think I am.  I am being sanctified into Christ’s image.  I’m a work in progress!  Maybe I think I’m a quick piece of flash fiction allegory, but I’m really a long, symbolic, high fantasy paranormal romance short-story/novella thing – who knows? 😉

That story I’m writing is still in progress.  I know how it ends, and I know how it began, but I still have no idea what’s in the middle!  My own life is not too different.

Unlike God, I’m not unchangeable.  And praise Him for that! – I am tiny, blind, flawed, sinful.

If I’m going to fly to unknowns where God wants me to fly – if I’m going to grow to new heights that God wills me to grow – then I have to stop telling myself that my limits end at the four corners of some tiny box that I’ve used to define myself.

Why be satisfied with a basic, simple explanation of what I’m made for, when He made me for Himself – for absolute infinity?

Not only is He vast, but He is constant, un-altering, and trustworthy.  In this world, He is the only thing we can rely on to define our souls.  Looking to anything less than Him to be our all-in-all is locking ourselves in a cage.

I am a child of an infinite, all-powerful God, an ever-growing work-in-progress by His grace.  I should never be content to live inside a box.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. – 1 John 3:1-3 (emphasis mine)

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Simmer Starters – July 15, 2016

July 15, 2016

Brace yourselves!  After missing it last week, I have a ton of Simmers to catch up on. 😀

Hospitality and the Holy Imagination (Zach Franzen) – Some fascinating, worthy thoughts here (it takes a bit for the article to really get going, so stay with it). “Artists should be good hosts. At the very least they should serve a meal they are willing to eat themselves.”

How Worry Steals Your Magic (K.M. Carroll) – “I’ve spent the last decade learning to be afraid. Learning to worry. Learning all those dark, negative things that help you survive adulthood–but they cut off your shining Neverland. In its place, I built a narrow, dystopian world of darkness and fear.”

Thinking Biblically About Worry (Paul David Tripp) – Speaking of worry… “Worry and rest always reveal the true treasures of your heart. You will rest the most when what you treasure the most is secure, and you will worry the most when what you treasure the most is at risk. What does your world of worry reveal about the true treasures of your heart?”

Teaching Jaded Characters How to Trust (Angela Ackerman) – “[Our characters] have suffered pain, emotional wounds that leave them paralyzed when it comes to trust. Somehow, we must help them move past their pain. We must convince them that a willingness to being vulnerable by trusting another will lead to something deeper and more meaningful than they ever imagined.”

Homosexuality in Christian Fiction (Elijah David) – Whether you agree with this post or not, I believe this is a very important conversation for Christian writers to have. “Thus we approach this issue as we approach any other delicate issue regarding a character’s traits and motivations. We write them with excellence and complexity. We show these people are not forced to represent all women, all people of color, all blind people, all the LGBT movement. Stereotypes and generalizations get us nowhere as writers, as storytellers, as students of human nature.”

When Motherhood Squashes Your Talent (Courtney Allison) – This is applicable beyond the topic of motherhood! Comforting words for those who yearn to write but are “stuck” in a difficult phase of life for it. “In the middle of my nausea. When my life was reeling with surprise and sickness. When my chief avenue of processing, thinking, and meditating (i.e. writing), was cut off to me. God knew that would happen. So, I quietly closed my journal, logged out of my blog, and walked into my every day.”

Women, Trade Self-Worth for Wonder and Awe (Jen Wilkin) – YES! “You can tell me that I stir the heart of God, that I am sung over and delighted in, that I am beautiful in his eyes, that I am set apart for a sacred purpose. You can tell me these things, and you should. But I beg you: Don’t tell me who I am until you have caused me to gaze in awe at ‘I Am.’

Why Single is Not the Same as Lonely (Sam Allberry) – Because friendships are a blessing! “A friend is someone who knows your soul. Someone who doesn’t just know lots about you, but knows you. And, Proverbs shows us, we cannot hope to live wisely in God’s world without such soul-to-soul friendships. All of us need them, not just those who are single.”

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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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Simmer Starters – June 24, 2016

June 24, 2016

Today we’ve got some writing articles, a culture/faith article, and two marriage articles. Enjoy!

Why You Should Stop Searching For Your Authentic Voice (Enchanting Marketing) – This is a fascinating and refreshing look at the topic of finding your writing voice.  “What if you liberate yourself from your search for authenticity? Could you find a voice resonating strongly with your audience because you focus on your readers instead of yourself?”

What’s Your Third Book? (Dan Bal0w) – Why it’s important to have more than one idea stashed away if you want to write professionally.  Also, good advice on finding your writing niche.

In Lieu of ‘In Lieu of Flowers’ (David Greusel) – Love this article for its defense of beauty and why beauty is necessary. “Have you ever sat in a funeral and looked at a big flower arrangement at the front of the sanctuary, and thought, ‘Wow, that must be $300 worth of flowers — that money could have been used to feed a whole lot of hungry people?’ Congratulations. You think just like Judas.”

What the World Needs Now is Better Wine (Lori Roeleveld) – Beautiful article about marriage. “There is a better love than the one I originally offered my spouse. I am now eternally grateful that I ran out of my own watered-down version of love because when I did, I turned to Jesus for a miracle.”

Why Sex Isn’t the Best Thing Ever (Lore Ferguson Wilbert) – This is especially good for singles, but a great reminder for marrieds as well. “When I hear those who are not married say ‘But at least you get to have sex! And live with your best friend!’ Well, first, I’d warn against saying at least in regard to much. But second I want to say your words betray a much, much deeper need…”