Coming back to center

Hi All,

So, this post, I’m going to chat quick about a few strides I’ve been making towards better health in my life in a few different areas.

Scheduling

So this one is still a work in progress, but basically it’s recently become clear to me that my schedule is way too busy. On an average week when I’m being healthy, between writing, social life, and family, I try not to do more than two to three extra activities (hanging out with friends, going to events, etc.) a week.

Recently, well, let’s just say I’ve been going way over that, with obligations that affect my life on a weekly basis about as numerous as the days of the week, to say nothing of activities beyond that.

Needless to say, I’ve been starting to get a little burnt out.

Which is why, of course, I’m starting to realize that something needs to change. I’m still working on the “how” of doing this, including going over the different obligations I have to see if there are any to change/remove, setting better boundaries for myself, or, in some cases, just sticking it out until things settle down, but progress is being made. I’ll admit I haven’t been doing great at it yet, but I’m confident that with time, or the inevitable burn out that will happen if I don’t, that things will change/get better.

Forgiveness

Another huge stride I’ve been making is in forgiveness. As you may know, I recently had some really difficult things to work through, and while I’ve been trying to make progress in moving on/through those things, one huge area I was struggling with was forgiveness. Thankfully though, God has been helping me a TON and I am really hopeful/optimistic towards moving forward and continuing to walk in forgiveness, with the eventual hopes of full reconciliation, to His glory.

Boundaries

This has been another big area of growth for me lately, with God firmly, gently, and lovingly pushing me to grow. The problem is that usually when I set boundaries, I feel guilty. Like if I were more loving or better or whatever, I would be able to handle more/be more available emotionally or physically (as in, in person)/etc. But something God has really been working on with me lately has been getting better at setting reasonable, healthy, God-given boundaries, particularly in areas where, if I didn’t set them, I could get unhealthy, physically, emotionally, spiritually, or otherwise.

And honestly, it’s been good. I’ve been noticing an uptick in my health in pretty much all areas, and while it hasn’t always been pleasant, God has been reminding me how important those boundaries are.

Relationships

Another big one, I think God’s really been working with me on how to navigate more complex relationships, be that in the complexity of the relationships themselves, difficult situations, or even just calling me to higher and deeper levels of relationship. It’s been hard and painful, but also, really good.

Trust

One of the more recent developments, I think this has also been one of the most helpful, mainly in that it’s basically just been coming back to God, or what I would call center. To be more specific, in areas where I’ve started to realize I’ve been drifting, I’ve been working to get back to healthier, more God-centered places. For example, being more watchful of what and how much media I’ve been taking in, re-examining my thought patterns and where I spend my time, spending more time in worship or prayer, and grounding myself in more spiritual truths. I mentioned last post that in some ways it’s felt like trying to get back to shore. This is a big part of that process.

As to trust and how that fits in, I think the main ways that has been manifesting has been in re-remembering things I already know and re-centering around them. For example, trusting God with my schedule (and that he’ll give me all the time I need to do the things He asks me to do), believing in the love and good plans he has for me, and trusting in spiritual truths I already know.

So that’s where I’ve been growing lately. Thank you for reading.


So, now that you know how I’ve been growing, what about you? What are you learning about/what strategies have you been using to implement it? Any new hobbies, tips, or practices you’ve been using to live a healthier, more centered life? Let me know in the comments below, and if you want more content like this about my life, faith, journey, or writing, please feel free to follow me here or on social media (currently on a break) using the links in the sidebar or below. Thanks for reading!

Opening the Jesus box

Recently, I’ve been courting God.

Or rather, I’ve been letting Him court me.

This comes out of a few things.

First, an increasing realization that my relationship with God is the most important thing.

Second, the realization that I still need to push into that relationship and need very practical ways to do that.

Third, some ruminations on the more practical side of what a relationship with Jesus looks like, based on reflections on God’s role as good Father, Jesus’ role as husband/head of the church, and the day to day interactions he had with his disciples/those he encountered during his travels.

Fourth, a suggestion from the book ReJesus: A Wild Messiah for a Missional Church to use our imaginations/meditations to remember that God is alive and active and that our relationship with Him is an alive, active, intimate, and real relationship with daily guiding and loving interactions rather than some abstracted ideological experience.

The sum revelation of all these reflections has been this: God loves me and wants to have a relationship with me, but since I can still be a little bit of a scaredy-cat when it comes to letting him fully into my life/deepest places, I need very real and practical ways to open myself up to that relationship/push into it.

Enter: The Jesus box.

The basic premise is this: Given the above truths, there must certainly be at least one thing that God wants communicate to me either about Him, myself, or anything really, every day.

And since it’s precious, it’s a gift.

And if it’s a gift, then using some imagination, it can go in a box. Or bag. Or some kind of other container.

Which means, every single day, there is at least one gift or “Jesus box” that He has for me to open every day. I just need to be quiet, humble, and open enough to receive it.

Here’s how it works.

Once a day, I calm my mind down, listening and imagining for how Jesus might be in the room with me. I try to think of what the present might look like, whether a box or bag or scroll case, envelope, or anything else. Then I think about how he might give it to me and what’s inside. Is it a letter? A gem? Or maybe a stuffed animal, kiss, or piece of jewelry. I think about what that specific item or phrase could be (and what it means), then write it down.

Now, before anyone starts thinking I’m going nuts or weird about this, there are a few parameters I do put around this.

  1. No entitlement. Though I believe God does have something He wants to share with me everyday, I by no means deserve it. In order to receive this rightly, it requires an attitude of humility and gratitude, which in itself usually requires a shift, reset, or re-orientation in my thinking.
  2. Quiet. Because God’s voice is often quiet, I try really hard to put all distractions aside when I do this. As a result, I usually open my box at night, though it doesn’t have to be then.
  3. Not every gift has to feel “good.” God disciplines those He loves. And while all of the gifts have been what we might traditionally call positive so far, I want to make sure that I am open to whatever the gift is. If that means someday I’m going to get a rebuke for my gift and for my good, so be it.
  4. No bias/wish lists. Okay, so this one is basically impossible, but insofar as I can, I do try to follow it. When people give you gifts, it’s up to them to decide what it is. I want to let God do the same and surprise me with what he wants. To the same end, while I do have prayers and prayer requests and He knows what they are, I have tried not to approach this as an ask for something. It’s a chance for Him to reveal Himself (or myself) to me, so if that includes answering a prayer, that’s great, but if it doesn’t, that’s equally as good.
  5. Nothing off limits. To a similar end, I also try not to have any off-limits topics. If he wants to talk to me about himself, me, my family, writing, or anything else, it’s all on the table.
  6. Depth. Because this takes time and focus, it would be really easy for me to go shallow on these, just grabbing some bit of wisdom or truth I know is always true and dashing out the door, but since the point of this is relationship, I try not to do that. That’s not to say that some days what I need or what God most wants to share won’t be simple, but the point is that if that’s what it is, I still need to be equally quiet, humble, and focused to receive it as if I were some complex vision for the rest of my life.
  7. Habit, but not routine. Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, I do want this to be a daily habit. To that end, I’ve actually added it to my daily to do list to make sure that I “check it off.” That being said, because I don’t want my relationship with God to be about a to do list (I only added it to my to do list to make sure I wasn’t chickening out about doing it in the first place), I also want to be careful about making it too much of a routine, taking shortcuts like hiding or running from God, skipping days, assuming I know what the gift is, or skipping time to really sit with Him to appreciate it, accept it, and be grateful.

So, I’m not going to tell you what’s been inside any of my boxes, but I will tell you about a few of the benefits I’ve seen so far.

  1. Daily interactions: So, one of the biggest takeaways I’ve gotten from ReJesus so far is the idea that interacting with God requires our imaginations. And that’s not to say that we make things up or He isn’t real, it just means that we need to actively engage our minds, interacting with Him in an active way instead of some abstraction that doesn’t touch our real lives and hearts. It means remembering and thinking about the fact that God is alive and interacting with us and His world, and considering what that looks like and what our responses should be in response. Since starting this practice, it’s forced me to train my mind to think in those ways, even for just a little bit at a time. And, since it’s on my to-do list everyday, it’s been helping me turn this into a daily habit instead of a rare reflection. And since I know God has more than just one thing to say to me everyday, as I get better with this and expand the practice, I expect my relationship with God will only grow and deepen the more I do this.
  2. Reframing my mental image: One of the reasons I chose to approach this this way was because I can fall pretty easily into a picture of God that is angry or disappointed (perfectionism. Boooooo.). I am often afraid of the stern, rebuking Jesus, and it is harder for me to imagine (or rather imagine I deserve) to interact with the kinder, loving Jesus we see elsewhere. But by remembering that His interactions with me are a gift, that He is giving me gifts as a loving husband, Father, or shepherd, it shifts how I receive Him and what He has for me. This is also why it’s been so important for me to do this everyday. Because even though I am unfaithful and fail daily, He is steadfast, and will always have things to say to me (and want to say to me and love in and about me) everyday, no matter how I am feeling or how I feel I’m doing. I hope that as I continue to do this, I’ll be able to grow in accepting those other sides of God, seeing them more and loving him and others more and better as I am loved.
  3. Changing my attitude: Because accepting these gifts requires me to get into a more attentive and grateful head space, it reminds me daily to be more grateful and receptive to and towards God and what He has given me, wants to give me, and is giving me. As with the other benefits, it is my hope that as I continue to do this, those attitudes will be easier and easier to slip into on a regular basis.

Now, I know this post is getting long, but there are a couple other quick things I want to add about this before I close.

First, I think it’s important to note that this is, in many ways, about letting God love me. That sounds selfish to me, but something I’ve been learning is just how true it is that we love because God loved us first (1 John 4:19). I often get frustrated by how bad I am at loving others, but am now realizing that if I’m not spending time letting myself experience love, if I’m not learning from Love Himself, how can I ever learn? In order for me to love others, I must first let God love me, no matter how selfish that sounds.

Second, something that occurred to me the other day is that even though in this season, I believe this is first and foremost about letting God love me, someday I can also return the favor and leave boxes for him. Maybe it’s praise, maybe it’s inviting Him into a hangout with friends, maybe it’s just sharing a quiet cup of tea, but someday, in my own weak limited way, I do hope to pay some of this back. I want to give God Abby boxes, too.

Anyway, sorry again for the long post. I’m still working through how to do this in the best and most right fashion, so any thoughts you have to share are welcome. If this helps you, I hope you give it a try, and if not, may God bless you with your own ways to interact with and get to know and love him more.

Thanks for reading.


So, how about you? Have you ever had any kind of meditative or imaginative tools to help you relate to God? Are there any snares or pitfalls you see? What about benefits or other tools? Let me know in the comments below, and if you want more content about me, my personal journey, or all things nerdy, please feel free to follow me here or on social media at the links below or in the side bar, keeping in mind that I am currently on a social media break.

Writing is not the thing

Hi All,

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of getting two blog posts I wrote accepted by my favorite tea company, Adagio Teas. It was one of the first times I specifically remember being paid to write, even after over a decade of writing, and needless to say, I was pretty pumped.

But as I sit here in my beautiful home on this beautiful Easter Sunday, reflecting back on the last few weeks, I’m realizing something. Or rather, confirming something I’ve probably known and ignored for quite some time.

The other day, I had a half-day for Good Friday. After finishing work and watching a movie, I went on a long walk with Jesus on one of the first perfect days we’ve had this year. And as I took a break on a park bench halfway through, as I sat by our big glass door looking out on a gorgeous day with Thor and a bowlful of strawberries afterwards, I realized: I got more pleasure out of that walk with Jesus, out of having a free afternoon to enjoy with Him, than I did with all of the social media likes and pride and congratulations that came from becoming a paid writer, or for those who don’t follow this blog regularly, from fulfilling a life-long dream.

And that’s not to say I’m not grateful for the likes, the congratulations, and the support from family and friends. I am, and for the opportunity to write blog posts (or short stories or novels) that might help, entertain, or teach people.

But writing is not my root of joy. Writing is not the thing that gives me or my life meaning, and writing, as wonderful as it is, is not the most important thing.

Now this might sound simple or obvious to some, and of course if you asked me, I would say the same thing. We’ve all heard of The Christmas Carol, heard the tropes of businessmen who waste their lives making money for a family they never see, but that doesn’t change the fact that with this recent tea blog accomplishment it’s finally been hitting home for me in a more substantive and meaningful way.

And if you’re really smart/lucky, you know the best version of The Christmas Carol

One of the most profound changes I’ve had as a writer over the years has been recognizing that my writing is not the end of my goals, but rather the means. For the longest time, I thought that the best thing I had to give this world was my stories. If I could just get published, the lessons and messages inside my work could change the world, I’d think. If only I could get there.

Now that’s a recipe for severe stress and angst if ever there’s been one, of course, to say nothing of the fact its entirely untrue. But, as with all the untruths anyone ever struggles with, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t something I had to work and fight through.

Because the fact is, what I have to give the world isn’t just stories or blogs or short stories, but me, myself, completely as I am.

Nearly all of the significant things I’ve done in my life, and certainly the ones I have cared about the most and am most proud of, have had little–if not nothing–to do with writing. In fact, most of them haven’t even been big things at all. One of the biggest blessings and mercies of having gone unpublished for so long has been that I can now see that truth.

But even that isn’t the point.

Because the real point is that finding value in any form of doing is poison.

At the Good Friday service at church this week, we took communion. For those who aren’t familiar or might come from a different liturgical background, one of the things we’re supposed to do before taking the bread and cup (eating and drinking bread and “wine” that represent Christ’s body broken for us and our partaking of that sacrifice) is check ourselves (1 Cor. 11:28-29). I’m sure there’s a lot of deep theological work that’s been done on those verses beyond what I understand, but basically for me, I think of it as a sort of spiritual check-in, a reminder of the commitment I’ve made in my life to serve and follow God, to be in relationship with Him, and also an opportunity for me to ask and consider whether there are any areas in my life where I’m not doing so hot and need to repent.

But while I was reflecting this time, the only thing that came to mind, the thing I think the Holy Spirit most wanted to tell me, was this: I want you to accept my love.

I was, in a way, mortified.

But I’m prideful! I’m ungrateful! I’m unforgiving!

Accept my love.

I need ways to get better. I have to have ways to improve!

Accept my love.

I think the thing that scares me most in this world is God’s love.

To be so indebted, to be so undeserving, to have no way to pay it back or cover my debts. There’s nothing that scares me more.

And as a Christian that is, of course, hard to say. But it’s also true.

To admit that someone could, that someone does love me that much. That they love hearing about my interests, my days, my struggles to a degree so far beyond human limitations. That I could never tire them out or have them get tired of me.

Love that deep, that real, that faithful, frightens me. I’m good at performing. It’s safe. When that gets taken off the table, the walls go up. I don’t want God to leave.

But, when I let those same walls down, as I’ve learned (and am still learning) to open up and let Him in, it has also been the most rewarding, satisfying, life- and peace-giving experience imaginable. And He’s always there. He’ll NEVER leave. Do I always feel it, and do I always experience it the same way? No. But I can and do believe He’s there, and when I stop and listen, when I let myself relax enough to open up those cracks, His love comes rushing in.

God loves me more than I could ever comprehend. He knows everything about me and still loves, and He sent His Son to die just so I could be with Him and rise with Him at the end of the age.

I want to be a published author someday. Of course I do. But when I reach the end of my life, when I live it now, writing will not be the thing.


As I wrote this post, two songs came to mind. The first is “Love Like This” by Lauren Daigle from her album Look Up Child, which I think captures pretty well my feelings about God’s amazing love. The second is “Sabotage / Home” by King’s Kaleidoscope from their album Beyond Control, which I think fits the larger theme of this post, that our accomplishments can’t fulfill us the way we think we will and that God is really the only thing we want, even as we chase after and manhandle and offer up these other things–trying to prove to God we’re worth holding and loving when He’s already doing just that. You can listen to both below.


So, how about you? Have you had any experience with chasing the wrong thing? Chasing the right thing? Do you have any songs, stories, or quotes that you think about when you consider this? Let me know in the comments below and if you want more content like this, please follow me her or on social media using the links below or in the sidebar. Thank you for reading!

Changing perspectives, tips and tricks

Hi all,

As you all know, I’ve been working hard this year to change some perspectives, root out some lies, and get healing.

Now as I’ve said previously, I’ve been making progress in those areas, but today I wanted to focus not on the why or what, but the how. So while I’m still growing in all of these areas, here are some recent tools I’ve been using to gain and keep my ground.

Fill in the blanks

One of the most interesting exercises I’ve taken up recently has been examining how I “fill in the blanks” when reading my Bible.

I’ll give an example. Ephesians 1:17 starts “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may…”

Now, stop right there and fill in the blank. For me, up until recently, I probably would have said something along the lines of “discern His will” or “do the right thing.” But that’s not what the verse says. It finishes with “know him better.”

That’s right. The first point isn’t to have wisdom and revelation to know what to do, but to know Him. Similarly, where I would have finished verse 18, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may…” with something along similar doing or performance based works, what it actually says is “know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”

Note that what I can do for God, the tasks He’s somehow queued up for me to finish are not mentioned here. The focus isn’t on me at all, but on God, His authority, grace, mercy, and power, and works of any kind aren’t even brought up until halfway through chapter 2, 14 verses later.

Now, I could dive into what I think all that means, how works are a response to that knowledge and grace and such, but that’s not the point of this post. The point is that what I fill in tells me a lot about what I think about God–and what I think He thinks about me. And being able to recognize those things (and when the assumptions behind them aren’t true) has had and is having a profound effect on how I view what I do on a day to day basis and what I think God thinks about it.

Re-casting

Another recent addition to my tool kit has been re-casting, or what I like to call “Take 2.” The basic technique here is to think of a situation in which I was hurt (inadvertently or not), and then go through the situation again, swapping out whoever it was that hurt me for God.

For example, if someone was mean to me and I’m feeling down about myself, I replay the situation, replacing what that person said or did with what I think God would say or do.

The benefits of this are five-fold.

Firstly, because when so much of who I think God is/what I think he thinks/feels is shaped by my relational experience with others, this clears away that clutter and helps solidify the distinction. While others may have stepped on my value or the things I care about, God never will. While others might not see value in me, God does. By replaying these situations with God instead of people, I can reset my poorly constructed understanding of God, myself, who He is, and how He views, thinks, and feels about me.

Secondly, by going through the situation with God, it opens up a conversation. In having to think about what I think God would have done in that scenario, it opens me up to talking to Him about how he thought/felt about it in the first place, and by extension, our own relationship in and outside of it.

As a result, I can gain healing. I’ll give an example. When I was young, I had a friend walk away from me, basically saying she wanted to hang out with other people. That, though I’ve healed a great deal from it since then, had a profound impact. But when I rethink through that situation with God, when I imagine Him telling me He loves spending time with me, that He would love to play with me and will never leave, that heals something in me in a deep way. I’ve only had the courage to do this with a few things so far, as it can get a little intense (in that I am easily overwhelmed, not that I had any significant trauma, though I suspect this would be equally helpful if not more so if that were the case), but the benefits I’ve reaped from it have been amazing.

This technique also helps me to recognize that God has always been there, that He always has been saying those things, and that He was never far in the first place.

And, at least I assume, it’s going to help me forgive. To be honest, since this is all so new, I haven’t quite gotten there with any of these, but knowing that the other things people have done that have hurt me in the past don’t matter, that God has always loved me in the midst of all of those situations, I assume that forgiving them is going to be easier. Hopefully someday soon I’ll be able to share that fruit.

Fighting back

As a final strategy, I’d also like to highlight something I’ve been trying to master for a while now, which is simply having the courage to fight back.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that it is easy for me to be hard on myself. I can quickly get frustrated with myself or my seeming lack of progress, and when I do, it’s easy to fall under guilt or condemnation.

But one of the things I’ve been trying to learn is to fight back against those thoughts and feelings. As the women’s pastor at our church recently pointed out, one of the easiest ways to do that is to arm myself with truth (specifically with scripture, though for me, it doesn’t have to be that).

For example, if I recognize that the negative voices in my head aren’t me, that they are the enemy, then when I notice them picking on me, I can recognize that they are all just lies. And when I know who I am, that I am a royal princess in the kingdom of God and a warrior princess at that, then those negative claims seem even more ridiculous. Add on to that the fact that the enemy has no right to be getting up in my business and telling one of God’s daughters that she’s unworthy and now we’re cooking with fire.

Awwwww yissssss.

So on a practical level when I start feeling down, when I remember that I am a child of God, that He loves me, and that I have value regardless of any circumstance or mistake I could make, my response to those voices quickly changes from “that’s true” to “get out.” When I know who I am, I can tell any of those demons or lies or whatever you want to call them to get lost, because I am a princess and they don’t have the right.

An analogy I’ve often used is being like a sleeping lion. Do I always make full use of my power? No. Do I still have it and do things get real rough if someone pulls on my tail long or hard enough? Oh yes.

I just need to get better at learning how not to fall asleep, or better yet, to rest in my Father’s shadow rather than my own.

Anyway, these are some of the strategies I’ve been using to take and hold ground in my own life. They’ve been really helpful to me in the last few months, and I hope they can help you too.


So, how about you? What are some strategies you’ve used to grow in your spiritual walk? What fruit have you seen? Let me know in the comments below, and if you want more content like this, feel free to follow me here on the blog or at the social media links below. Thanks for reading!

Daily bread

Hi Buddies,

I know it’s been a while, but with some travel and other activities, my schedule got away from me. In any case, I wanted to catch you all up on something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

It came to me while listening to a song called Daily Bread by the artist Strahan.

Now, I’ve loved this song for a while, focusing mostly on its attention to needing God daily and potential/power of restoration, but this time, I noticed something different.

Something I’ve been ruminating on for a while now is why it’s so hard to surrender things to God. I know God is good, I know He loves me, but when it comes down to brass tacks, surrendering my work, my time, and everything else is just hard.

That’s when this line came on: “Take everything that I have / Let it be multiplied as it’s broken in your hands.”

That’s amazing.

Because the fact is, what I have to give, ultimately, is very little. A few stories, kindness, lending a hand. In the grand scheme of all the world’s problems, what I have to offer is minuscule, almost nothing.

But if I give it to God, let him take it, break it, and give it away, it can become so much more, just like the loaves and fish that Jesus multiplied to feed thousands (Matthew 14:13-21, 15: 29-39).

Which brings me back to my first point: if I know God is good, if I know He can multiply, and if I know that that multiplication can more than meet the needs of the people I want to reach, why is it so hard for me to surrender and give him what I have?

The answer, of course, is that I’m afraid of losing. I’m afraid that if I give Him what I have, I will lose something that matters to me, and because I still have so much to learn about Him and His goodness, I’m afraid even more that I won’t get it back.

Except, when I know God is so amazing and good, what would I even be losing? If, for example, I know God is the ultimate author, and I’ve already learned that giving Him my writing will ultimately only make my writing better and more satisfying, what is it that I am so afraid of letting go?

The answer?

Well, nothing good. Because when I really think about it, the only things I’m really afraid of giving up are things I don’t even want: pride, ownership, control, glory. I’m afraid of losing the ability to say “I did this,” to get the credit, to have control over my own life. I’m afraid of losing the ability to say I know better, or to argue about what I think is right.

Now, of course, on the surface, I’ll admit that I still do want all of those things. In fact, I’ll admit I want them very much, more than I think I even like to admit.

But that’s also exactly what makes them such a poison.

Because God is good, His plans are for my good, and what He can do with whatever I let Him have could only be for good. And to withhold all of those things, the gifts and talents I have that could freely help others, just to have my own control, my own shadow of glory, is nothing short of a tragedy, especially when I recognize the irony that letting go is what would bring my own truest and deepest satisfaction in the first place.

So, what can I do about it?

Well, that’s something I’ve been wrestling with ever since I had this realization, and that was almost a month ago, maybe more.

Because the fact is, as long as I’m living here on Earth in this present age, it’s not going to be easy. Some of my favorite verses of all time, ones which I think most clearly and succinctly sum up the Christian’s condition on Earth are Romans 7:15-19.

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing.

Romans 7:15-19, NIV, emphasis mine

What I love about these verses is how clear they make the problem. Because I still wrestle with the flesh. I still fight the battle to give up my greedy sinful nature to embrace God’s, and because I still have that fleshly nature, it’s something I going to keep struggling with as long as I’m here.

But I also see hope, laid out neatly a few verses later in Romans 7: 24-25.

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Romans 7:24-25, NIV

Which brings us neatly back to our featured song.

“You are my daily, you are my daily, you are my daily bread.”

God, someday I want to get to the point where I can truly say that everything I have has been surrendered. Please walk closely with me, as is your good pleasure, and help me find the way.

Please, Jesus, I need you to be my daily bread.


So, how about you? What makes you afraid to surrender things? What strategies have you found to overcome those fears? Are there any verses or songs that have helped you on this journey? Let me know in the comments below, and if you want more content like this, please subscribe or follow me on social media at the links below.

Positive Progress

Hello everybody! Happy middle of February!

I am super excited to write this post because today I get to tell you about one of my favorite things: progress! Also, it was a beautiful, sunny, nippy day outside today, so spirits are high.

As per usual, I’ll try to chunk this out into pieces, so let’s go!

Kudos to anyone who knows who this is, btw. He’s my fav. “Leeet’s go!”

Writing

As anyone who has been keeping up with the blog knows, one of my big goals this year has been to learn a lot more about the craft of writing, specifically with plotting.

I mentioned this resource last time, but I’ll say it again, in finding The Story Grid, I have hit an absolute gold mine with this. At the risk of sounding like a fanatic (guilty), I’ll try not to talk too much about it (this post) but to say that in reading the book and checking out the podcast, I feel like I have been given a language, a way to talk about stories and writing that quantifies things I’ve felt for years only as vague intuition, and that having that language has been one of the most freeing experiences I’ve ever had as a writer and already feels like it’s helping me launch years ahead on my writing journey.

BUT, that isn’t the main point of this post. The main thing I want to mention is that, besides the progress I’ve seen just in being able to see and categorize what’s been in front of my face all these years, I’ve also been able to see how much of this I’ve already been doing right.

As a writer without a whole lot to my name in the realm of published work (this blog not withstanding, having just reached its two year anniversary of having two posts every month, and being mostly consistent for some time before that, woo woo!), it can be easy to assume that I’ve just been doing something wrong, that my writing just isn’t good enough. But in going through a lot of the steps of Story-gridding my book out, I’ve been pleased to discover that, hey, my stuff isn’t as bad as I thought!

As any artist can tell you, that is a huge relief. To know that I’ve actually been getting some things right, that I don’t have quite as far to go as I thought, is such a blessing. There’s nothing like a victory to keep you going. I thank God for all the times He’s come through with victories in the past (usually right when I was about to give up), and for the skills and time He’s given me to get as far as I’ve come. We’ll see where we go from here!

Spiritual Life

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, after a year of squidgy, lackluster squirming, another big goal of mine this year has been to grow in my faith. I’ve wanted to grow in digging up and healing old wounds, in believing His promises for me (both in God’s more global and personal promises), and in growing the love in me enough to extend it to others.

And, to my great pleasure, I have been making progress there too.

There are a couple of stages to this that have been really helpful. I outlined some of them in my original post about this, but I think it’s helpful to mention them again here, if only to talk about them from a place of greater experience than I did the first time.

First, identify the lies. One of the greatest weapons I’ve found (well, been given by my mentor, who in turn got it from God) against the enemy’s lies has simply been to know the truth. Digging into the Word (and actually thinking about it and how it’s true and what that means for my life instead of just checking a box off my to-do list) has been exceptionally helpful in this. For example, if the Bible says God loves me and that He loves mercy, then I can believe it. I don’t have to believe a lie that God is some Almighty Smite-r in the sky or that He doesn’t love to forgive me or show mercy. I can just choose to believe it.

Second, spend time with Him. One of the things that has really changed lately has been my willingness to seek out and spend time with God. As someone who is really goal-oriented, it can sometimes be hard for me to set aside time with/for God that could be “going towards something else.” But when I believe the things He says in His word, it takes away all of my excuses (work, busyness, striving, shame, fear, etc.). Not only that, but it makes me want to spend time with God (whether that’s while I’m at work, writing, hanging out, or just spending time with Him).

At my clearest, I understand that God loves me, that He’s wild about me, and that all of the things I care about, all the things I love, matter to Him and were put in me by Him. I understand that nothing could replace or be more valuable/important than spending time with Him; that letting that time heal and fill me is the only thing I really need; and that the only way to ever achieve any of the things I want in a way that will actually be satisfactory is through complete, joyful, and unrelenting surrender to Him.

Slowly, I am learning how much God loves me and how much He cares.

And when I understand that, how could I not open up? How could I not give Him my all?

Now, I’ll admit that I’ve still got a ways to go in this area. I certainly haven’t completely dug out all the junk in my basement, and I’m sure there are lies or areas of my life where I believe them that I don’t even know or recognize yet. But I can trust that God will be faithful in those areas, that He is and will be merciful as I learn to see and repent of them, and patient as I grow in sight to see them. Amen.

To a similar end, I have also been growing in joy.

Some of that, I suspect, is from an increase in sunshine and the fact that I have been gifted several large swaths of time to work on writing or working out or spending time with Him. But, I think God has also been changing my heart. Something I just read this morning was Ephesians 5:19-20 “…Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Note the phrase “for everything.” Not just blessings, not just progress, but everything, trials and struggles and annoying things or people too. I await with great anticipation the day where maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to do this. Maybe not in this lifetime, but if not, for sure the next!

Anyway, this post is starting to get a little long-winded, but I just wanted to share some of the fruit I’ve been seeing so far this year from both God’s mercies and my own co-labors with Him. I hope your year is going just as well!

Thanks for reading!


So, how about you? Have you made progress towards your New Year’s goals this year? Given up? What areas have you been growing in and where would you like to see more, goal or not? Let me know in the comments below, and if you want to see more content like this, feel free to follow me here or on social media using the links below!

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!

Are you willing: A year of wandering

Hey friends,

It’s that time of year again, where we reflect on the past twelve months and look forward, perhaps with fear, perhaps with hope, to the next. And cliché as it might be, this post is no different.

This year, as I have said several times already, has been a strange one. It has been one of wandering, of distance, and in some ways, even resistance.

But, it has also in its slow, meandering fashion, been one of breakthrough. Because in many ways, it has been the year where–most profoundly since my DTS, I have been challenged in what I believe, precisely because of the attributes that have most felt like they were keeping me from God.

A gif of Baymax hugging Hiro from the movie Big Hero 6.
End of year feels.

A few key lessons learned:

  1. Love is not transactional.
  2. God loves me and won’t let go, even in my wandering.
  3. Until you are willing to give up performance, you will never be sure of the love you have.

Let me explain.

See, I have always been a perfectionist. I have also always had a sort of performance-based mentality. And because of both of those things, I have often been plagued by doubt throughout the years. Not of God or his goodness, per se, but of His love for me, that it really could and does extend to me. I am often hard on myself, and get frustrated that I’m not “better,” am still struggling with the same selfish- or childish-ness that I’ve been trying to shake for years. If I weren’t doing something wrong, if God really did love me and was with me in the way He says, surely I would be farther along by now, I’ve thought. Certainly things would be different.

So enter discouragement. Loss of focus. 2018.

Also enter why I so desperately needed 2018.

Because the problem with perfectionism is that until you’re willing to let it go, you can never really experience grace. And this year, after nearly a decade of working towards my dreams with what feels like little to show, of trying to be perfect and failing, of having institution after institution of stability in my life crumble and shake, I have had to admit, more fully and finally than ever, that I can’t do this on my own. I don’t understand life, I don’t understand love, and most of the time, I don’t even know what I should be doing in the moment.

White flag. Hands up. I surrender.

Which I think, as you might have guessed, is exactly what God has been waiting for.

Because it’s not about what I can do or perform, and God isn’t some tit for tat vending machine, throwing out candy for those who do good. He is a lover, fully devoted, and willing to chase and love and hold even when we’re straight up running away.

It is an attitude, a lifestyle, that if I’m being completely honest, most days I don’t feel I understand at all.

But, God is, as ever, faithful, and even in my wandering, He’s been chasing after me.

One of the questions I feel He’s been asking me a lot lately in light of all this, a question that I’ve been asking myself, is “Are you willing?”

Am I willing to admit I don’t know how to live or love? Am I willing to ask for help?

Am I willing to love those I’d rather not? To forgive where I’d rather hold a grudge?

Am I willing to trust God in the darkness? Am I willing to surrender my all?

And here, on the edge of 2019, I think I have my answer.

Yes, Father, I am willing. Please, help me to do it.


So, what about you? What lessons have you learned in 2018 and what are you looking ahead to in 2019? Are there lessons you are still learning? If so, what are they? Let me know in the comments below, and if you’d like to see more from my journey, feel free to follow me here on the blog or using the social media links. Happy New Year!

Write by faith: timing, pt. 2

Hey all,

It’s time to continue my “Write by faith” series, a series of blogs in which I talk about some of the practical repercussions or lessons I’ve learned about being a Christian artist. I’ve talked about timing before, but feel I’ve recently gotten more insight on the matter, and wanted to share.

Last time, I talked about letting God have control of my day to day schedule, trusting him that I’ll finish everything I need to finish if I let Him have control, and breaks, that I can trust God will bring things back in his timing even if I have to take a break–or extended break–from a project.

This time, I’d still like to talk about some of that, but from a different angle.

Recently I was talking to a friend about writing and some frustrations I’ve been having lately. One of the most surprising questions she asked me was: Why are you in such a hurry?

The question stopped me. I’m well aware I often put deadlines on myself that aren’t necessary, but it’s rare for me to stop and think about why.

The answers I gave were fairly common, I think. I want to help people, I want to provide something different than what’s out there, I can fill a gap, it’s what I feel called to do, etc.

And I think, by and large, those are all true. I do have big dreams for my writing and I think, most of the time and for the most part anyway, God does too (those times when I don’t being more from a lack of faith than what is actually true).

But what is easy for me to forget is that, ultimately, God doesn’t need me to do any of this.

I want to write because there are people out there that don’t know that God loves them. Because there are people who think God couldn’t love them. I write in a genre that is frequently flooded with darkness, and I want to do what I can to change that.

But, as much as I believe I can help those people, that I can spread God’s love, and that God chooses to love people primarily through other people, that still doesn’t mean that God needs me to do it.

God is huge. And powerful. And good.

If He wants those people to know Him, to know how wildly crazy about them He is, they’ll know. Even if I never publish a book or story in my life, God will make sure that His purposes are fulfilled and that, whether or not they choose to accept Him, everyone, everyone on the planet, will at some point know.

So, why is this important?

Well, mostly because it takes the pressure off. I struggle a lot with how long the writing process has taken–and is taking–for me. When I know there are millions of people out there who don’t know Jesus, when I know my writing could help with that, it’s hard not to feel like a failure, like if I were really going to succeed with this, if I were good enough or working hard enough, something would have happened already.

But that, my friends, is a devil’s trap.

Because God does have work for me, I believe He has put this work and those people in my heart, but if I don’t do it, even if I never get there, that doesn’t mean that God won’t be able to do what He wants or that those people won’t know God. Nothing I could ever do or not do could ever keep anyone else from going to heaven.

One of the turning points I had as a writer was realizing that me getting to write these stories, to participate in God’s plans, is not a necessity. It is a mercy.

God is so generous in letting me help. I act, in so many ways, like an animal, a monster. But somewhere inside all this mess, all my mistakes and flaws and sins, there’s a little girl in there, holding up messy fingers and asking to help her Daddy. And though I can’t cut straight with my scissors and add way too much paint and glitter outside the lines, He still loves to let me help. And when I’m done, when we’re finished, my life will get to go up on His fridge, a masterpiece not because I’ll have made something beautiful, but because we’ve done it together, because His mercy and grace and love have made it beautiful.

So, do I still have a lot of work I feel God wants me to do? Of course. Do I still want to help people and believe my work could do that? Yes. But I don’t have to be in such a hurry anymore. Because even if it helps them, it can’t save them (or not, if I make mistakes). That’s God’s work.

My ultimate purpose, my top goal, is to do it together. To work with excellence and patience and a willingness to bend, surrender, and grow, until something beautiful is there, something real and good that He caused to grow. I can’t do it myself. I can only do it with His help, putting in the work until His timing.

John 15:5. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.


So, what about you? Have you ever put too much pressure on yourself or your work? Struggled with the process of time? How did you overcome those issues, and where could you still grow? Let me know in the comments below, and if you want more content like this, you can follow me here or on social media using the links below. Thanks for reading!

A phoenix for Christmas

Hey everyone,

As you may know from one of my last posts, I moved out of my parents’ house a little over a month ago. It was a big change, challenging a lot about what I thought about the concept of Home, my relationships with my friends, family, career, and more.

And while much of that has settled, now that the holidays are upon us, it seems I’m heading into round two.

We are a tradition family. The same faces, places, and activities have marked the passage of our Christmases for decades. And while there have been some years where those have shifted (I was abroad in 2016 for example), by and large, things have stayed mostly the same for the almost 30 years I’ve been alive.

Additionally, I have always loved Christmas. The songs, the lights, the presents, all of those things have always factored heavily into what I think of when I think of Christmas.

But the past few years, well, things have seemed…different. I don’t listen to Christmas music as non-stop as I used to. Family members have moved. The feelings I can still remember so distinctly from middle and high school have faded with time.

Something in me has changed.

And this year, with the move and several other significant changes, these differences have seemed more poignant than ever. It’s felt like chasing after something you already know is gone, a stone house crumbling to ash, waves washing away the sand.

And that’s very overdramatic, yes, but it’s also sometimes how I’ve felt.

But, something I’ve been learning–re-discovering maybe, is that true to almost every cliche Christmas movie you can think of, none of that is really what Christmas is about.

This year has felt a bit like a fox hunt, a taming and stripping back of what I think and know. So much of it has been me running from God, hiding in every little nook and cranny of what I think might provide me something when I know, really, that anything worth having, the only things that have meaning, can only come from Him.

And the truly amazing thing is how faithful He has been, how patient, how gentle. Wherever I have fled and ran, God has been faithful to pursue, not to yank things out of my hands, but to wait, hands outstretched, for me to lay them down.

So often I have run because I have been terrified of what He was going to say. “Let go of this. Stop doing that. You’re not good enough.” It’s the same fear I’ve fought for years, the fear it feels like I’ve always had.

But God tells a different story about my life, not one of crumbling ash, but of chipping stone, not of disaster and breaking, but of sculpting, freeing the living and exuberant from the drab and dead.

This year, it has been hard to face the reality that, as we all know, life, ultimately, changes. It’s been painful to have to set aside my faith in other things, to admit defeat, and welcome grace. It has not been easy to open myself, to open doors and walls to let Him in.

But let me tell you one thing.

It has been so worth it.

And as I look ahead to this next year, I want to face it fiercely, to tackle it head-on. I want to keep pushing forward, keep letting him in, and learn to trust my Father, that He loves me more than I could ever know. I want to let Him love me.

Because like cookies and lights and songs don’t make Christmas, none of those other things make me. For so long, I have been afraid of moving forward, of taking chances and letting go of what I already know I can do.

This year, I want to take those steps. I want to see what else I can learn.

This year for Christmas, I want to be a phoenix.


So, what about you? What challenges have you faced this year and how have you overcome them? Where do you still need to grow? Have you had times in your life where your understanding of major elements of your life have changed? How did that affect you and what did you do? 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 with the links below!