I surrender (sorta) all

Have you ever heard the song “I surrender all?” If you haven’t, before we get started, here’s a link.

I’ve always really liked this song. I like the idea of giving everything up to Him, and on the “good” (Mt. 19:17) days of my faith walk, feel as though I’m doing a not entirely awful job at it.

But let me ask you another question. Have you ever worshiped or prayed something really bold and then have God call you on it?

Cause that’s kind of my life right now. It’s like this:

Me: I surrender all, I surrender all, all to thee my blessed savior, here’s the stuff I’ve already trusted you with…

And then God is like:

God: Great! Thank you for these things. I love and appreciate them very much. Now I’m going to take this, this, this, this aaaaand this into my own hands. Okay?

And I’m all:

Me: THOSE ARE MY FRAGILE THINGS!! BE CAREFUL!!!!

Cause here’s the battle I’m struggling with right now. As much as I “like the idea of” giving everything to God, in reality, there’s a big difference between saying I’ve surrendered everything and really doing it. I’ve been giving a lot of consideration to where I’m going next in life lately, and with some of the things that have been prayed over me and my own thoughts and prayers, I feel as though the next step might include putting not just one or two things (as I’ve been doing now, I suppose) but nearly all of them into God’s hands. And it’s not as though I’ve felt like I’ve been keeping them from God up to this point, but the more I think about it, the more I wonder if maybe I have. As an example, I have back problems. Especially lately. And if I were to, say, switch to a different job, I wouldn’t be somewhere where I could wear my Dr. Scholls shoes every day. I’d be somewhere where I have to wear heels. And be on my feet. A lot. That, for someone with back pain, is a concern. If God is really calling me there, I’d have to really trust that (along with me being careful to do my due diligence in taking care of it, of course) He’s going to sustain my back. By not trusting Him to do that if He’s really calling me to this next thing, well, that wouldn’t really be surrendering all now, would it?

Back problems aren’t my only “fragile thing” in this situation.

What startles me is not the fact that God is (I think) calling me to place something in His care. He’s certainly done that before with my writing, jobs, health problems, dance. It’s not that, it’s, well, it’s the fact that He’s calling me to place so many things in His care at once. And how surprisingly untrusting I’m being about it. Like, “Oh yeah, God. I know you made the universe and gave me all these things and want good things for me and could really technically take any of these back whenever you want, but did you consider this? I don’t think You’ve realized quite exactly what and whom you’re asking, so why don’t I just hold on to these a little bit longer.”

But really, all of my fragile things really are already His. And it’s not a matter of me not knowing that they are or not believing He exists or is in control or anything. It’s a matter of trust. I am willing to trust God with a few things. Am I willing to trust him with many? Dear me, guess what? You aren’t the master in the talents parable (Mt. 25:14-30). You’re supposed to be the servant.

I think I know which direction I’m headed, and if God is really calling me there, I know He’ll help me get there and hold me up through it. If you have a second for a quick prayer that I would have the right attitude through that time, I’d really, really appreciate it.

Anyway, thanks for reading!

P.S. Do you have any stories where you had to put a lot on the line all at once? What happened? Tell me below!

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A shout out to my betas

As my family can surely attest, traditionally speaking, I have not been the best at taking criticism, particularly about my work. My mom in particular can probably remember countless occurrences of me on the verge of tears, lamenting the cruelties of being misunderstood, of my readers not understanding the greatness and eloquence of the latest paper I’d written for school.

Thankfully, I have grown in my ability to take criticism since those days.

More thankfully still, I have stumbled upon the beauty rather than terror of having others read my work.

Having recently sent my novel out to several beta readers, several more getting a chapter by chapter read through in a writers’ group I’ve joined, I must admit that, at first, I was nervous about how they’d respond. I’m confident in my ability as a writer and in the work itself, but I have also been working on this project for about seven years in a near vacuum of a bubble, with only a very select few besides myself reading the work, and not in an officially editorial capacity. Knowing how poor I’ve fared at taking criticism in the past, I was also worried that should they not like the work–besides being heart-broken on a personal level–I would handle the situation less than civilly, getting overly defensive and moody as I have in the past.

Luckily, with that concern at the forefront of my mind going into the feedback sessions I’ve had, I’ve been able to beat back any needless angst on my part in receiving negative feedback. Greater still, I have discovered the process not to be like the pendulum swing between excruciating negativity and joyous ebullition I’d expected, but rather more like walking a garden path with experienced groundskeepers, here pointing out a finery, here a lack of fertilizer. Not only have I been able to spend time discussing one of my absolute favorite topics with many of my good friends–as well as some new ones–I have been able to view my work through new lenses, that is to say, through theirs. I have seen how their different personalities mark my words, and the different places their minds go as they interpret. I have found places where they all agree improvement necessary–places where I am often of the same mind myself–and places where they all have found joint pleasure, places where I have also happily wandered. Rather also than having despaired where they have begged improvement, I have found a surprising excitement, an eagerness to improve a work that I had already deemed quite close to ready. Things that I had been willing to look past from exhaustion, closeness or even simple blindness, they have called to my attention, calling me to a greater level of quality in my work than I had suspected possible. Teasing the best out of my work and forcing me to re-imagine those weaknesses which I had thought solid, overall the process has been nothing short of pleasurable, an adventure which is breathing new life into my work.

I have always had an attitude which, being rather prideful, has made much of my writing for others very much for me. Me liking the way something reads, the poetry of some lines or the characters I know. Finding betas has changed much of that. With every read through and feedback session I learn more of what it means to write for your readers. To think of what they don’t know, to fill in the gaps you’ve created. I am learning the incredible value of community in something that both as reader and writer is traditionally lonesome, and I have to say that it is better than I could have hoped. I understand that some write only for themselves, which is as equally valid as writing for others, but for those who do write for others, if you do not have others reading your work, I cannot recommend it enough.

Thank you, my betas. When Machine comes to print, be assured of your place in my acknowledgements as surely as it is already engraved on my heart.

The humility of a jacked up back

On the last day of January, my back went off the deep end. I had been in some pain the night before at work, but having had chronic lower back problems since high school, when I went to the chiropractor the next day, I was expecting simply more of the same. A twist here, a few pops there and presto change-o, I’m back to okay.

Ha. Ha ha ha ha hahahahahaha. No.

Turns out, I had an aggravated disc, which for those of you not in the know means you basically have to lie on your back doing nothing for two whole days, ice your spine just about once an hour, and, if it’s really bad, get help walking around. Luckily, having a loving set of parents who are willing to take splendid care of me and watch ridiculous amounts of X-files with me (20 episodes plus a six part mini-series in two days), I was soon-ish on the mend! My chiropractor said I could even dance a little bit the following weekend, which, naturally, I did. Also naturally, I pushed myself too hard by dancing two days in a row followed by work, which landed me back on the couch, this time even worse, by the following Sunday, which, of course, just happened to be the day before my saint of a mother’s birthday (happy birthday! You get to help me walk to the bathroom!). Anyway, I’m on the mend again, hopefully for the last time, and, as a bonus, despite the suffering it’s caused, God has as usual been using this as a great opportunity for me to grow, primarily through what it’s showing me about humility and community.

Being forced to ask for help is a strange thing, particularly when you work retail. I have a busy job that requires a lot of lifting, twisting, crouching, etc., which essentially means if my back is having problems, there’s not a whole lot I can do. I hate feeling like I’m burdening people, and when you have performance issues like I do, this problem is only exacerbated by knowing that you are in fact, putting a great deal of burden on others.

Except, that’s kind of what community is. Not always burdening others, certainly, but helping them when they need it and letting them help you too. We all have a part to play, and without the others around us, we simply can’t survive. I am finding more and more just how true this is in my life. I can see the change that happens in me when I’m plugged in or when I’m starving for connection and, honestly, it’s kind of neat. I still hate that I feel like I’m letting people down, but what’s really cool is just how understanding people have been. Because a lot of people have had back problems. They know what it’s like. And that gives them compassion to help you. Community, again.

I’ve got a lot more to unpack about this whole back thing, and I may get to it someday soon or let it sit and stew and grow into something else, but for now, that’s where I am. Improving, getting better.

What about you? Have you ever had back problems? Did you learn anything from it or were you pleasantly surprised by the reactions of others? Let me know in the comments if you want! Thanks for reading!