The Protection of Love

As I said, this has been a rough year, in part because of lots of interpersonal conflict. So I’ve been thinking a lot about love lately, specifically about loving my enemies. There have been days when it’s pretty hard to even ask God to give me love for them. In fact, the amount of hurt and anger I’ve felt this year have left me so tempted to jump headlong into bitterness and hatred. And there are days when I can feel my heart start to grow hard and cold. It’s a terrifying feeling. If you’ve read my book, Tales from a Spacious Place, you know that I firmly believe bitterness only hurts the person who’s bitter–not the one they’re bitter towards. I’ve been bitter before. I’ve seen what it does to my heart, how it cuts me off from experiencing God’s best, how it leaves me alone. I know that being bitter only hands someone the power to wreck my life. So I know that I don’t want to be bitter. But love my enemies? It feels like I’m giving them something, despite the fact that my “enemies” are people who have taken and taken and taken from me already. It’s paradoxical that God asks me to give even more to them. It seems extreme.

In the past when I’ve thought about loving my enemies, I’ve always felt resentful about what they get out of it–even if it’s just love from afar (e.g., praying for people I don’t have contact with anymore). But recently, my view has changed. I know that loving others benefits the others, but I’d never looked at the other side of the equation: I started thinking about what loving my enemies does for me. And I realized that it acts like a shield that protects me from the corrosive power of hatred and bitterness, which destroy you physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. If I don’t love my enemies, I’m liable to end up eaten alive by those things. It’s sort of that whole adage about how you can’t ever stand still in life, only move forwards or backwards. Loving my enemies keeps me free to move forward. Hate and bitterness toward them drags me backward. Love is this shield that creates space for me to live my life. I may not like loving my enemies, but it’s definitely in my best interest to do so. And when I think about it that way, it’s much easier to want to do things God’s way.


Sovereignty and the Betrayal of the gods

When I was at Moody Bible Institute, I used to hear students talk about how they couldn’t understand folks’ problems with “the problem of evil.” “Just have more faith.” “It’s just an excuse to rebel against God.” I will say that there are different versions of the problem of evil–the purely logical/mental one and then that deep, down anguish that comes from experiencing evil. To a girl coming face to face with the depth of brokenness in my own childhood, their naivete was almost obscene–but maybe those students were inexperienced or perhaps running from the reality of their own lives. Who knows?

The past several years as I’ve tried to come to grips with being chronically ill, I’ve found myself coming back to God’s sovereignty, His love, the pattern He’s working–one that I’m often too close to see. One of the books that always brings me back to myself is The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner. If you haven’t read it yet (or her other books), you should check it out!

**Spoiler Alert**

The series revolves around Eugenides, the royal Thief of Eddis. Eddis is a mountainous country smack dab between two other countries: Attolia and Sounis. The Medes are a larger country who are trying to absorb these three countries into their empire. The Queen of Attolia opens with Eugenides in Attolia on a fact-finding mission: has Attolia allied herself with the Medes? Unbeknownst to Queen Attolia, Eugenides has been in love with her for many years, ever since he saw her dancing in a garden alone and watched her go from being a lonely, shadow princess to a queen, apparently with a heart of stone. While in Attolia, however, the Queen somehow discovers his presence and captures him. She enacts the traditional punishment upon the Thief, cutting off his right hand. Eugenides is then returned to Eddis. Eddis promptly goes to war with Attolia (and eventually with Sounis). The Medes continue to press Queen Attolia for a treaty, providing a gift of gold to fund her war while busily subverting her barons. Eddis is about to lose the war when Eugenides devises a daring plan–he can steal Queen Attolia and marry her, thus providing Attolia with a stable, friendly-to-Eddis government. He steals Queen Attolia, but the Mede ambassador somehow hears of his plan and is able to retrieve the queen. The Mede also captures Eugenides and kills the last of Attolia’s loyal barons. Attolia is forced to either ally herself with the Medes or with the Eddisians. She chooses to marry Eugenides, and together the Eddisians and the Attolians drive the Medes from the continent. Marriage preparations are underway when Attolia informs Eugenides that she wants no involvement of the Eddisian gods in their ceremony because they were the ones who betrayed his location to her and to the Mede ambassador. Eugenides sets up an impromptu altar to the gods and demands to know why:

“You betrayed me,” he shouted, his voice muffled  by his arms. He remembered the Mede who had appeared on the mountainside without any explanation. “Twice,” he wailed. “You betrayed me twice. What are the Medes, that you support them? Am I not your supplicant? Have I not sacrificed at your altars all my life?…Have I offended the gods?” he asked in despair before rage burned the despair away. “And if I have offended the gods,” he yelled, almost unable to hear his own words, “then why didn’t I fall? It is the curse of thieves and their right to fall to their deaths, not–not–” He folded his arms across his chest, tucking the crippled one under and curling over it, unable to go on.

“Who are you to speak of rights to the gods?” the voice asked, gentle still.

The room was dark around Eugenides, and the darkness pressed him until he couldn’t breathe, until he was aware of nothing but the pressure. He was nothing, the smallest particle of dust surrounded by a myriad of other particles of dust, and put all together, they were…nothing but dust. Alone, separated from the others, in the eye of the gods he may have been, but he remained, still, dust. He struggled to inhale and whispered, “Have I offended the gods?”

“No,” said the voice.

“Then why?” he sobbed, clutching his arm tighter, though the blisters under the cuff were individual pains as sharp as knives. “Why?”

…”Little Thief,” [the goddess] said, “what would you give to have your hand back?”

Eugenides almost lifted his head.

“Oh, no,” said the goddess. “It is beyond my power and that of the Great Goddess as well. What’s done is done, even with the gods. But if the hand could be restored, what would you give? Your eyesight?” The voice paused, and Eugenides remembered begging Galen, the physician, to let him die before he was blind. “Your freedom?” The goddess went on. “Your sanity? Think, Eugenides, before you question the gods. You have much  still to lose.”

Softly Eugenides asked, “Why did my gods betray me?”

“Have they?” asked the goddess as softly.

“To Attolia, to the Mede…” Eugenides stuttered.

“Would you have your hand back, Eugenides? And lose Attolia? And see Attolia lost to the Mede?”

Eugenides’s eyes were open. In front of his face the floor was littered with tiny bits of glass that glittered in the candlelight.

“You have your answer, Little Thief.” And she was gone.


I love this passage! You have to read the whole series (The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, and A Conspiracy of Kings) to see how the tapestry of events plays out–the gods use Eugenides to save Eddis, Attolia, and even Sounis; Eugenides and Attolia end up with a happy marriage; and the whole chain of events is triggered by the cutting off of his hand.

Whenever I find myself starting to feel betrayed by God I come back to this. Did God want me to go through suffering and to be hurt by others’ (and my own) sin? No, He designed the world to be perfect, without pain and without sin (see Genesis 1-3). One day He will return it to that condition (Revelation 21:1-5). In the meantime, He has allowed difficult things for my good (Romans 8:28). What would I trade to have my health back? Would I give up writing? What about those people who have told me God used my book, Tales from a Spacious Place, to change their lives? Would I trade the good He’s worked in their lives? Would I trade the growth He’s worked in my life through my illness?

No. Those are things I’m not willing to give up, despite the anguish of being here. I have my answer: God hasn’t betrayed me; He’s brought me out into a spacious place.

He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. ~ Psa 18:16-19 NIV


This Is Not a Detour: Finding Mental Rest

I don’t know about you, but mental rest is something I really struggle with. I am a worrier and a planner–just *slightly* on the control-freakish side. My husband likens my brain to a computer with 100+ windows open at all times.

The past several weeks I’ve had increased pain levels… mostly it’s been exhausting because I haven’t been able to find a position where I have less pain. And in case you’ve somehow forgotten, we just had Easter. This is significant in my life because the day after Easter three years ago was when my joint symptoms began, the day I started exploring this world of auto-immune disease.

I’ve also been re-reading one of my favorite series’: The Mallorean by David Eddings. And as I’ve been fussing a little to God about how I don’t like where I’m at right now, I happened to read through these passages:

Garion suddenly banged his fist on the rail in frustration. “Supposed to!” he burst out. “I don’t care about what we’re supposed to do. I want my son back. I’m tired of creeping around trying to satisfy all the clever little twists and turns of the Prophecy. What’s wrong with just ignoring it and going right straight to the point?”
Belgarath’s face was calm as he looked out at the rust-colored cliffs half-hidden in the gray drizzle. “I’ve tried that a few times myself,” he admitted, “but it never worked–and usually it put me even further behind. I know you’re impatient, Garion, and sometimes it’s hard to accept the idea that following the Prophecy is really the fastest way to get where you want to go, but that’s the way it always seems to work out.” (Vol. 1, 475)
“Let’s look at things from a practical point of view, though. When we started out, we were half a year behind Zandramas and we were planning a very tedious and time-consuming trek across Cthol Murgos–but we kept getting interrupted.”
“Tell me about it,” Silk said sardonically.
“Isn’t it curious that after all these interruptions, we’ve reached the eastern side of the continent ahead of schedule and cut Zandramas’ lead down to a few weeks?”
Silk blinked, and then his eyes narrowed.
“Gives you something to think about, doesn’t it?” (Vol. 1, 563)

When my plans get re-arranged, it’s easy to huff and puff about how this isn’t what I wanted to be doing, what I planned to be doing. But mental rest means that I can trust God to lead me wherever I’m supposed to go, therefore I can stop worrying and obsessing over the future. I can trust that He knows the way ahead and that my loving Father will provide for whatever is ahead. (See “The Resting Place” in Tales from a Spacious Place for more expounding.) No matter how it looks, whatever I’m going through is not a detour, it’s part of the plan.

Does this mean I should stop planning? Um, no, that would fall into the category of laziness, like the Proverbial sluggard. The ant plans, without obsessing over the future.

And finally, there’s a profound mental rest that comes from knowing things turn out all right in the end. I need that reassurance, especially on days when it feels like nothing is turning out all right.

So what does this look like on a practical level? I’m sure it varies from person to person, but these are three things I try to practice for myself and with my kids whenever I’m worried/scared/giving in to despair.

1) I whip out my verse cards (actually, I try to whip them out preventatively–keeping one set on the kitchen counter and one in the bathroom). I have passages like Matthew 6:25-34 and Isaiah 40:27-31 there. Worry is based on an unreality and takes your mind to places that don’t yet exist (and may never do so). Truth is our ammunition to get rid of those lies.

2) I slow down, take deep breaths, and explore the moment I’m in. Pretend you’re looking at wildlife. Don’t judge what’s there, just examine what’s around. What does this moment look like? What are the good things in this moment? What are the not-so-good things? More often than not, the positive things outweigh the negatives, but I can’t see them when I’m focused on the negative. Slowing down forces me to re-evaluate whether my worries actually match reality.

3) I read through old journals or talk to a friend to remember the ways God has come through for me in the past, whether that’s Him getting rid of the stressor or using it in my life to work something amazing.

What are some practical ways you pursue mental rest?


Spiritual Rest

As we’ve just finished Easter, I thought this would be a good place to start. I don’t know about in your own spiritual journey, but I tried following rules before I succumbed to grace. If you’ve never tried earning your own salvation, let me tell you, it’s an exhausting prospect. It’s literally impossible to do right things with right motives all the time. And even if you could, any wrong things you’d done (or right things with wrong motives) would still be around proclaiming your sinful state (if you want to read more on this subject, I addressed it pretty thoroughly in my book Tales from a Spacious Place, pp 187-208). I spent quite a lot of time trying to cross all my t’s and dot all my i’s, and then I just gave up because nothing I did or didn’t do seemed to make any difference.

And that is when grace came in. God taught me that what I was incapable of doing on my own, He had done. Jesus lived a perfect life and died for me. He traded records with me. When God looks at me, He sees Jesus’ righteousness, rather than my sin.

It’s easy to come to an understanding of the Gospel and apply it at a single moment in time. I still find myself caught in a performance trap with God at times. But that isn’t who I truly am. The Gospel still applies to every moment of my life, not just that moment of salvation. Spiritual rest means that I stop trying to earn God’s favor, stop trying to live a right life on my own, stop putting on a show for God. Instead I rest in what Jesus has already done. I was so wicked that God had to die for me. I am so loved that He did it willingly and joyfully. Once the Gospel has permeated every facet of our existence there is such peace. No need to impress. No need to muster up love or any other part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Just relying on Him to work in and through and for me.

This kind of rest can’t be forced. And it can’t be faked. It can only be given by God. Where are you at with God? Are you spending all your time striving? Do you wear a mask with Him? He is so ready to rescue you from your own perfectionism. He is so ready to love you for who you are.

God, thank You for making rest impossible apart from You! Thank You for creating that need, so that we wouldn’t wander through our lives oblivious to You. Jesus, thank You for dying to bring us true rest. Change our hearts. Lord, we need spiritual rest and You are the only one who has it. Root us and ground us in Your love, so that we are never tempted to be anything less than real with You. We come to You as broken, tired people. Teach us the truth of Your Gospel in all the rest of the moments we have. In Jesus’ Name, amen.


Small Choices

A week after publishing I’m finally getting glimpses of that kid-on-summer-holiday feeling. It’s weird not doing any writing/editing on Tales. I mean, I’ve spent longer than the past two years on it, pretty much daily. And thus, I’ve spent the past month or so praying for clarity regarding which project to focus on next (I have several irons in the fire, writing-wise). I want something that feels like Tales–driven, called, crystal-clear–but maybe nothing will… maybe something will later. Tales didn’t even feel like that until I was elbow-deep into it.

In the midst of crying out for guidance, I’ve found myself being convicted over the small things–projects on a daily level. Why don’t I pray about them? I pray on a general level in the morning and haphazardly throughout my day, but not specifically. What would happen if I asked God, “Is now the right time to do the dishes or should I be doing laundry instead or just playing with my kids?” What if I truly believed that He cares about everything and loves me enough to help in the small things?

I have this idea I’m on my own for making the “piddly” decisions, but at the end of the day, they matter. The small things add up to a lifetime of obsessing over my house cleaning or pouring into my children. Small things are the stuff of life and position us for making the big decisions.

So maybe, rather than hunting for a new major project to jump into, I need to stop worrying about the big things and see what God wants to do in the “small.”


“Tales from a Spacious Place” is finished!!!!

I am thrilled to announce Tales from a Spacious Place is finally finished and available on amazon here: http://t.co/iR3iljCM. It’s such a huge testimony to God’s grace and provision. I love watching His plan unfold!

And in case you haven’t had a chance to check out chapter one on scribd (http://www.scribd.com/doc/111264426/Tales-from-a-Spacious-Place-Chapter-1), here’s a teaser (there’s more available on Scribd now and Amazon’s LookInside feature should be coming in the next couple weeks):


And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. ~ Ephesians 4:30–32

I tapped my foot, waiting for the elevator. It’s just a day. Get through it and tomorrow will be better.

The doors opened—thank God the elevator was empty! I sagged into a corner, then risked a glance at my reflection in the mirrored walls. I grimaced. Even with every hair in place and one of my favorite outfits, something about me still screamed my distress. The elevator dinged and stopped at the 10th floor.

Mrs. Dodd stepped in. She was a kind, motherly neighbor. I knew her in passing and couldn’t just ignore her. I forced my pale features into a semblance of a smile.

“Morning,” I said. One could hardly call it a good morning.

She smiled, her laugh lines creasing. “Good morning. How are you today?”

“Oh, fine. How about you?” I glanced back at the floor indicator, willing it to hurry.

“Good! I’m so glad the weather is supposed to be nice this weekend.”

I nodded.

“Are you sure you’re all right?” she asked, her brow furrowed.

I opened my eyes wider and turned to face her. “Why yes, thank you for asking. What are your plans for the weekend?”

“We’re not sure. My son will be in town visiting. Perhaps we’ll go sailing if the weather holds.”

“That’ll be nice.”

I turned back to study the indicator. How much longer could this elevator take?

She took a half-step towards me, then put a hand on my arm. “I hear you’re still alone these days. Would you like to join us if we go sailing?”

I stiffened. Still alone? I hate living in such a small building! I glared at her. “No, thank you.”

Mrs. Dodd retired to her side of the elevator. “Is something wrong? You don’t seem yourself at all today.”

“I’m fine,” I snapped.

Her eyes widened, and the elevator doors opened. I smiled a sickly sweet smile and made my voice as light as possible. “Thank you ever so much for your kind invitation. Perhaps another time. I must be going now or I’ll be late for work. Have a perfectly wonderful day!”

Without waiting for an answer, I slammed out the front door and barreled towards the train station.

Stupid woman for messing about in my personal business! Stupid neighbors for gossiping! So what if I chose to live alone?

“De-struc-tion,” “de-struc-tion,” my footsteps pounded out on the pavement. I had once termed this day “The Anniversary of Destruction”; the name had stuck, even though I longed to forget.

I slowed, trying to change the pattern of my steps. Mrs. Dodd was right: the weather was lovely. The early spring sun shone in a gleaming sky. Blooming flowers had been set out along the sidewalk, and the air felt deliciously clean after last night’s rainstorm. It would normally be the sort of day that made me love living in the city.

But not today. If I couldn’t spend today in bed, the weather should at least be miserable. But no, it had to be a lift-your-spirits kind of day. Mrs. Dodd wouldn’t be the only cheery soul out and about.

Her look of hurt flashed through my mind. Why hadn’t I just held my tongue? Stupid day!

I sighed. Would I ever be happy again on this infamous date? Every year it came along and ripped the veil off my hurt and anger. The twin prongs of my own pain and his lack of punishment held me captive.

I hope he’s having a horrible day. He needs something to give him a good kick in the pants. That man refuses to change, despite his desperate need to do so.

I pictured giving him said kick if I saw him today, then shuddered. I didn’t think I could bear to see him today of all days. All these years and he hadn’t even apologized. It certainly wasn’t for lack of opportunity. The big lout hadn’t had the decency to go back to where he’d come from—never mind he’d moved here for me.

I started down the stairs to the subway, praying I’d be able to find a seat. Then I could feign sleep or absorption in a book. It never failed: on the one day of the year I most wanted to avoid conversation, random strangers hounded me. If I saw someone looking like a ticking time bomb, I would have the decency to leave them alone.

All at once I realized not a soul was in sight. I checked the clock, worried I was late. 7:16 a.m. Right on time. Strange for this time of day, but definitely welcome. “They really need to check the lamps down here,” I muttered. The one in front of me was putting out a heat haze. I wheeled ’round the corner, then stopped abruptly.

The concrete steps had been replaced by a steep, wooden staircase. Narrow and uneven, it was not the sort of route to take at breakneck speed. However, the lanterns that hung at regular intervals revealed it was in good repair. The walls, too, had changed. I now stood in some sort of sloping, stone tunnel. It didn’t look like the subway at all.

I looked back up the way I had come. A wrought iron door barred my way. It was secured with a padlock, which seemed silly; I couldn’t see anything except blackness on the other side.

I gritted my teeth. Why, of all days, does this have to happen today?I picked my way down, one hand on the rough stone wall. Icy fingers crept down my spine as I noticed that the worn places in the steps fit my own petite feet. What is this place? It seemed so familiar, but like something from a recurrent dream.

The stairs ended in a narrow, stone passageway. I grabbed one of the lanterns at the bottom and proceeded cautiously into the dark space. At least thereweren’t any giant cobwebs festooned about. Still, it was like being transported back into medieval times.A path had been worn into the large, rough stones that formed the floor, and the stone walls seemed almost unworked. The air was humid and still.

Before long the passageway widened and I stepped forward into a large cave. Rows of glowing bottles lined the walls, and a wine rack stretched down the middle of the cellar. The strange greenish light filled the cavern.

I set the lantern down, then pulled out one of the closer vintages and examined the label: Hurt and anger from the driver who almost hit me—I hope you get pulled over soon. It had been bottled only yesterday and barely even glowed. Looking at it, I remembered the event and even recognized my handwriting on the label.

As I inspected the bottles, I noted the severity of the offense grew with the age of the vintage. I doubted the one from yesterday would receive the necessary care to preserve it for long. It wasn’t worth my time and energy.

I walked to the end of the rack and removed the oldest vintage. This one was labeled with only the date—today’s date, years ago. The pain had been too sharp for me to even put the incident on paper, as though, by leaving the label blank, I could make the ache disappear.

I sighed, wishing for the thousandth time that things could be different. If only it hadn’t happened. If only someone would do something to fix it. Despite the empty label, my pain remained as deep as the day it had occurred. If anything, it was worse, sharpened by the intervening years barren of judgment and recompense.

I’d lost count of the times I’d been told to forgive and forget. But how could I forgive if he refused to admit he was wrong? One would think God Himself would be offended by his continued lack of punishment, but evidently not. He was yet another person who hadn’t lifted a finger.

I examined the vintage again. My hurt and anger had fermented into a well-aged bitterness. It had become a thing of beauty, a silver lining in the midst of my cloudy existence.

Suddenly I realized why I was here. I lifted a thin chain over my head. It had a small, recently-emptied vial hanging from it. Both the chain and the vial were silver, dull and tarnished. I uncorked the bottle and unstoppered the vial. Just as I was about to fill it, I heard a man’s voice say, “I wouldn’t do that.”

I started and narrowly avoided dropping both the bottle and vial. I whirled about, trying to spot the intruder while juggling the vessels and their respective stoppers.

No one was there. Just my imagination. It’s the day. I’m extra jumpy today.

I resumed the exacting process of pouring my precious bitterness. This time I put the stoppers on the wine rack. Then, as I was about to tip my well-aged hurt and anger into the vial, the voice again warned, “I wouldn’t do that.”

“Who are you? And why are you in my cellar?” I called back, trying to sound stern and brave, but only managing to sound upset.

A tall man materialized out of the wall, like a whale breeching the ocean. I thrust my bottle behind me and backed into the wine rack.

“Someone who would help you. Why do you keep coming here?” he asked, as though I were a poor lost child.

I stiffened. “To fill my vial.”

“Why? Why keep it at all?”

“How else am I supposed to remember?”

He eyed my chain and grimaced. “Why do you need to remember?”

How honest did I want to be? I decided to focus on the righteousness of my anger, rather than plumb the depths of my pain—much easier to talk about. “Somebody has to! He ought to get what he deserves.”

He raised an eyebrow. “So you feel malice towards him? And you want to hang onto that?”

“No! I just want him to get what he deserves.”

“And drinking poison will accomplish that how?”

“It’s not poison! Do you have any idea how much work it takes to ferment such a fine bitterness? Just smell the bouquet.”

I handed him the cork, but it fell right through his palm onto the floor. A luminescent stain spread from where it landed. The stone floor began to hiss and smoke.

I stood aghast. “Look what you’ve done now! That’s going to be impossible to fix!”

“You seem very concerned about your cellar. What do you think that liquid is doing to you?”

I stammered incoherently, more enraged by his invasion of my privacy than anything else.

“Let’s look at your bitterness in a different light.” He held out his hand, then smiled, and his eyes sparkled with laughter. “This is your opportunity to prove me wrong.”

He really knew which buttons to push. I decided if nothing else, it was my duty to educate him on the importance of justice.I exhaled gustily. “All right, fine.” I refastened my chain around my neck, restoppered my bottle, then wiped my sweaty palms on the front of my pants and took his hand.


A Faithful Heart

Nehemiah 9:7-8 “You are the LORD God, who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and named him Abraham. You found his heart faithful to you, and you made a covenant with him to give to his descendants the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites and Girgashites. You have kept your promise because you are righteous.” (NIV)

I’m still in Nehemiah and this was the passage that struck me today. In her study Kelly Minter had us look at why God says Abraham is faithful. To make a long story short, he’s obedient–he leaves his home and travels to the land God shows him (Canaan) and he intends to sacrifice his son.

I love that Abraham isn’t perfectly faithful: He tries to fulfill God’s promise by taking matters into his own hands and having a son with Hagar. He gives in to fear and lies about Sarah’s identity, not once but twice. Who knows what his attitude was in the midst of the messiness of life? Yet God says that he had a faithful heart.

I was reminded of the obedient son in Matthew 21:28-30. He says he won’t do what his father wants, but then he changes his mind and obeys. But he’s the one who is held up as the better son (the other son says he’ll obey, but never does).

It was encouraging to think of faithful obedience in terms of actions vs. attitudes. I’m not saying attitudes don’t matter–obviously, they do. But sometimes my obedience is fearful or reluctant. I love that there’s something in the tiny kernel of faith propelling me forward that pleases God. I love that it’s possible for me to have “a faithful heart” even if it’s not always perfectly full of faith.

Romans 4:3b “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (NIV)


The Power of Witnessing

In early October we went to our church’s family camp and one of the verses that the speaker talked about was Isaiah 43:10: “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he.” (NIV, emphasis mine). The speaker, Tom Kraeuter emphasized a causal element–we witness not just because we want others to know who God is and what He’s done, but because WE want to know God better. Something happens in the process of sharing/witnessing: God changes us.

It’s an interesting perspective, isn’t it? I don’t think I’ve heard anyone else talk about witnessing as medicine for one’s own soul.

It’s been a rough few weeks on the health front, which translates into lots of emotional stress. Happily, I’ve been able to share with some folks the amazing ways God has used/is using my illness. There was one day in particular that had been extra rough and that evening I got to talk about all the great things God’s been doing for me. It’s amazing how that kind of thing can really reset my perspective and open my eyes to the things I’ve missed… talking through my own history gives me new eyes to view the future and a clearer perspective on God’s character.

So, new goal for however long my health continues to challenge me: Whenever I feel at my wit’s end, go tell someone about God’s grace in my life.

And, since y’all are here, I’ve been so blessed to be almost done with my book. I love seeing how God has used my health problems. It’s such a tangible thing. I was piddling around with a fantasy novel. My joints went bad; I dislocated my fibulas and voila! Extra time sitting around with nothing to do. Tales just sort of fell into my lap. And over the past two years, we’ve seen God change people’s hearts through it, not to mention the way He’s changed me through writing it. So I love that when people tell me how sorry they are that I have health problems,  I can point to Tales and say, “But look, God has a plan and a purpose for this time. It’s not wasted. It’s not a mistake–it’s an incredible blessing that I would have missed out on if I’d been in tip top shape and I wouldn’t trade good health for where He’s brought us.” So, there you are. That’s my grace thought for the day. 🙂


The Pre-Work of Prayer

So I’m doing Kelly Minter’s Bible study on Nehemiah and it is kicking my butt! I’ve never really studied Nehemiah–well, I’m sure we did some kind of overview of the book in my Old Testament Survey class, but somehow whatever I learned dribbled out of my brain over the past few years. Anyway, his life is so encouraging and challenging.

If you’re not familiar with Nehemiah’s story, basically he was in a position of power/prestige (and most likely wealth) as the royal cupbearer to King Artaxerxes when he hears that Jerusalem is broken down. His countrymen’s plight breaks his heart and he cries out to God (Neh. 1). Artaxerxes asks Nehemiah why he looks depressed and Nehemiah asks permission to go rebuild the wall. This is a big deal because back in Ezra 4:8-23 the king forbids the building of the wall. Instead of demoting Nehemiah (or killing him), Artaxerxes gives him permission and lavishes building materials and letters of safe passage on him (Neh. 2). Nehemiah becomes governor of Judah for 12 years (Neh. 5:14) and rebuilds the wall amidst all kinds of persecution (Neh. 2:11-7:1).

One thing that struck me was how perfect God’s timing is: Nehemiah 1 says that Nehemiah heard about Jerusalem and began praying in the month of Kislev. However, it isn’t until the month of Nisan that Nehemiah talks to King Artaxerxes. That’s about four months later. Nehemiah prays for four months before the timing is right. What if he had just blundered into the situation instead? What if the king’s heart hadn’t been prepared to give Nehemiah far above what he’d asked for?

Last week we ended up reworking the Scripture Index four times. It was extremely frustrating and stressful to be so close and yet to keep re-doing work for various reasons… not to mention computer problems and the stress of knowing we were past our planned date for getting the proof. But, in the midst of all the teeth grinding, I was reminded that this is God’s book and His timing is perfect. What if I could somehow force publication apart from God’s timing? What if I missed something amazing because I was so eager to be done?

I want to do the pre-work of prayer and finish in God’s perfect time. Please pray for us during these last bits of finishing: Pray that God will take out anything that ought not to be in Tales. Pray that He’ll add in what He wants added. Pray that He’ll continue to provide the right people to give feedback and the eyes for them to spot needed changes. Pray for perseverance on my part, especially in the midst of increased health challenges. Pray that God will delay/speed publishing so that Tales is published in His perfect time. Pray that the right people will read Tales once it’s published and that God will use it to change hearts.


Book Update:

I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve updated on my book. This week marked two years of working on Tales. I can’t believe it’s been that long! I took a three-week break in June to try to get some distance from the manuscript. It seems to have worked pretty well. If nothing else, I was thrilled to get my hands on it again in July. I’ve been really happy with our edits. I’m still hesitant to give any kind of timeline since whatever I think is inevitably longer than it takes in real life. I am a rookie author.

Lately, I’ve been praying for extra time to work on the book. And lately, fortunately/unfortunately, my poor health has provided many hours of quiet in the middle of the night. I’m on the final round of edits, with three out of six stories to finish. The first three stories went quite smoothly and took less time than I expected. I would really like to be done by October at the latest, but I’ve also come to terms that my timing is not God’s timing. I would rather publish whenever it is God’s timing, so we’ll just see when that is!