2019: Looking ahead

Hi All,

It’s that time of year again. After taking some time to process through 2018 in my last post, I wanted to talk about some of my hopes and dreams for 2019.

To avoid the rigmarole of a lengthy justification or explanation, we’ll just dive in.

Learn how to structure stories and/or how to plot

One of the most recent and freeing realizations that I’ve had as a writer is that I don’t really know how to plot. In one sense, of course, this is incredibly frustrating, as I already have the rough drafts of several larger stories completed.

On the other hand, to realize that one of the largest things holding me back as a writer is not lack of dedication or inherent skill, but knowledge, is incredibly freeing.

I’ve wasted a lot of time thinking that I just wasn’t good enough, that maybe writing wasn’t what God had for me, or that I simply wasn’t trying hard enough. But the fact is that a large portion of why I haven’t succeeded as a writer yet (commercially, anyway) is that I just don’t know how. And realizing this, just how much I still have to learn (arrogance, much?), has radically changed my understanding of how I write. Because now, I’m just learning. Now, I can make mistakes as I figure it out. Now, I can have grace, because it’s not that I’m not good enough, I’m just a student. Talk about taking the pressure off. In any case, I’ve been getting some books and podcasts on the topic, might look into some classes, and of course will be writing to practice, so I think that with those, this is an accomplishable task (or at least that I can start down the road).

Weed out the lies and seek healing

For this next one, something I’ve been realizing over the last few weeks and months is that I still have a lot of deep-seated wounds and lies to work through (don’t we all). And because I haven’t really taken the time and effort to dive deep and dig them out, they’ve had a lot of control in shaping how I think, feel, and ultimately live.

Now, I don’t want to dive into too deep of specifics here, mostly for the sake of space and partly because I’m still in the process of finding them myself, but I will say that most of them revolve around several key areas as listed below:

  • My writing, specifically its purpose and how God feels about it
  • How God feels about me
  • God’s character
  • My purpose
  • My value

So, now that I know what those pain points are, how do I deal with them?

Well, for one thing, identify what the specific lies are. Because some of these have been around so long, it’s not always easy to recognize that the things I think, perceive, or feel about myself, God, others, or the world aren’t actually true.

Secondly, try to trace back where the lies came from. A flippant comment from a loved one? A betrayal by a friend? Whispered lies from the enemy Himself? Any one of these could be the seed of these thoughts and perceptions, and if I can trace back where they came from, I can better fight their hold on my life.

Third, pursue healing, even if it’s scary. Because I struggle with perfectionism and performance, when I feel inadequate or think things about God that aren’t true, it can be really, really hard to bring things to Him. What if I take my uncertainty to him and only find it re-enforced? What if the lie really is true? These, as anyone who has ever had to take anything to God will tell you, are scary questions.

But the Truth is, God is love. He is good, perfect, and loving, and when I put these thoughts into that perspective, when I compare them to my experiences, in which God has never acted in accordance with any of the lies I have sometimes believed about Him, that’s when I can really be free, take up my courage, and get washed clean.

As far as practicable steps for those three things goes, so far it has looked like inviting God into things when I start recognizing the lies, firstly by asking Him where its coming from, and then by asking Him for healing. I’ll admit, I’ve still been running from Him a lot about it, and I haven’t worked up much courage yet, but I am on the road and will keep going!

Believe His promises for me

Tied in with all of the above is a goal I’ve really only come up with since last week, which is to believe that God’s promises are for me. Because of the aforementioned perfectionism and performance-mentality, it can be really hard for me to believe that the things God says in the Bible are true for me. Does God really love me unconditionally? Does He really have good plans for me? Did He send His son to die for me and does He really care about even the little things or writing or art?

The Bible says yes, and therefore, now, so do I.

I think, what it comes down to, is trust. A short story–vignette, really–that I wrote early on in my DTS has been coming to mind again and again lately. It’s about a wild fox that runs from a hunter, only to find out that the hunter loves the fox, and then becoming tame. I’ve thought of it on and off since leaving DTS because ultimately, this is one of the truest depictions I’ve ever been able to come up with to describe God’s and my relationship.

For a long time, I have been antagonistic towards God, dragging my hands against the rungs of His sanctifying ladder, but 2018, for all its distance, was also a great mercy in this, because despite all I’ve done against God, despite my unwillingness to surrender, to give up my wounds, to show Him the dark (even though its light to Him), He has been faithful. His mercy and His kindness in this are unfathomable. They are also what, in addition to letting me open up to heal, are going to allow me to believe. Having faith in the face of things you think you know or believe or feel is hard, but God is stronger, and His love and mercy, His patience as I learn to believe, will prevail.

As to specifics of how I will accomplish this, I think there are a couple of factors that are going to help: First, recognizing the lies that I believe and that contradict God’s word, character, or promises; and second, being in the Word and/or with Jesus enough to be able to prove they’re not true/speak truth against them. The Bible is God’s word, and I am one of His people. Therefore, if He promises it for His people, I can believe it for me. This is my new mantra, my next step in faith, and I’m going to, through Him, stick to it.

Side note, since starting, even though it hasn’t been easy, I have noticed that it’s easier than I thought. When I have the Word and simply choose to believe it, I’ve noticed that it really does make a difference. Even if I have to remind myself that these promises are different than how I feel, think, or perceive, if I can just remember His character and that this is the faith I ascribe to, what I do believe, it does get easier.

Extend faithfulness

To be honest, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to include this one, having really only surfaced in the last few days, but I think, in looking out past my very naval-gazing 2018 and not wanting to have such an inward-facing 2019, it is important to include.

One of my biggest frustrations last year was that I “didn’t know how to love.” Because of how quickly love forgives, protects, believes the best, well, as anyone can tell you, it’s hard.

But as I’ve wrestled with this and seen God’s faithfulness and patience in the midst of my wandering, I’ve realized that this is a really big area where I could grow. There are people in my life that, like everyone else, make mistakes. There are people I disagree with, people I don’t like, and even people who are just plain difficult. But God loves them, and calls me to love them, and I want to love them, too. And part of that, I think, involves faithfulness. Not agreeing that bad choices are good, not letting people walk all over me, but choosing, despite their mistakes, to be faithful in my love for them, whether that means placing boundaries, having hard talks, or being willing to forgive.

Now, of course there aren’t necessarily hard and fast rules about how this works or how to do this. Knowing when to use any of those above responses (or any myriad of other options) is a learning process that I think ultimately requires wisdom and a lot of God’s help over time, but I think meditating on it, on God’s own faithfulness to me both last year and even to the death of His son on the cross, will help.

So, how about you? What goals are you working towards in 2019 and what steps are you going to take to get there? Any tips for me? Let me know in the comments below and if you want more content like this, feel free to follow me here or on social media using the links below!

4 thoughts on “2019: Looking ahead

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