Working out in God’s Gym

I had a nice happy bunny-fluffy kind of post ready for today. But as I sat down to write this post, I felt bruised, tired, and exhausted inside. I felt like I had worked out in God’s gym this week.

It began with an email that left me feeling as though I had gone through a hurricane. Ever had one of those? But through the torrent of emotions, God spoke to me. And he reminded me that nothing catches him by surprise, including this email. He would take care of it; my job was to love this person. After years of doing this particular rep on the “dumbbell”, it didn’t take me long to turn it over to God and pray for this person.

Then I locked myself out of my house not once, but twice on the same day. That was actually kind of funny. Its like tripping on the mat on my way over to do my power sweeps.

Ah, power sweeps. Anyone who has ever lifted weights knows the power sweeps.

Guess what? I hate them! Back when my version of lifting weights was actually lifting weights (opposed to now which is lifting kids, dogs and boxes of things I need to unpack) the dumbbell would leave bruises along my hipbones because unlike men, I have hips and the dumbbell would catch on its way up. Yeah, ouch!

My power sweeps this week were a broken washing machine and a husband with a pulled muscle in his back. Bad, bad, bad! If I miss one day of laundry, it multiplies like bunnies and the next morning I find the laundry has made its way out of the hamper, eager to take over the rest of the house.

Husband with a pulled back? Feels like the family is gimping along without their fearless leader. No tackling dad, no practical jokes, and no going anywhere 😦

So as I sat down to write my happy post, I could think of nothing to say. All I felt was exhausted. I prayed for God to show me something to say. Then I felt God tell me to share my week. Because we all have those kinds of weeks. A week where it feels like we are working out in God’s gym. But you know the good thing about working out in God’s gym? Its good for us! Our faith muscles grow stronger.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.” James 1:2-3 (NLT)

So bring on the dumbbells! Bring on the power sweeps! And don’t forget the Gatorade 🙂

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My First Rejection

I am a stubborn woman (I think my husband just said amen to that :P). I figure out my goal then throw myself at it. I strategize, plan down to the minute detail and calculate my odds at achieving that which I want most. I subconsciously live by the belief that if I just work hard enough at it, I can have it.

But sometimes what I want and what God wants for me are two different things.

Sometimes he says wait.

I just received my first book rejection two weeks ago. Now at first read, that would seem like a bummer. No one likes to be rejected. However, this person had a lot of nice things to say about my manuscript. As a writer, I needed to hear that. But she let me know, in the end, that the Christian book market at this point is not looking for a book like mine.

Anything else I could work with. If my manuscript needed more work, I could do that. Better writing, a thorough grammar check, a stronger main character: those are things I have control over. But the market? No matter how hard I work, I cannot change the market.

I stared at the email a couple more times, elated that someone liked my work and yet disheartened about the state of the market. Why write then? I thought. Then God pointed out two things:

He is not confined by the market. He can do what he wants when he wants. If God wants my book out there, then he has the power to do it (that if is a scary word).

And

Only he can make it happen. I can write the best book I can, but only God can bring together the market and the people to make it happen. That is out of my hands.  Believe me, the stubborn side of me wants to. But I can’t.

So what do I do now? I write and wait on Him. Waiting is not easy, but it produces patience and self control. Instead of barreling on ahead with my own agenda, I am learning to quiet myself and wait for God to move. That might be months or it might be years. I might not see it in my lifetime. But I believe that I am supposed to write. So therefore I will continue down the path God has shown me and trust him with the ending to my own life story.

Investing in True Beauty Part 2

Last week I shared my thoughts on true beauty. This week I would like to share how I put that into practice.

I love to make New Years Resolutions. I may not keep them for long, but the thought of pursuing a goal for an entire year appeals to a checklist person like me :). As I approached the year 2007, I was physically a different person. I had given birth to twins that summer (6lbs, 3oz and 8lbs, 2oz) and let me tell you, having that much baby changes a woman forever!

As you can imagine, the types of resolutions I considered that year were diets, exercise, any method I could follow to get my body back to what it was. Then God spoke. When he speaks, I have learned you better listen up!

He showed me that what I really needed to pursue that year was learn to like myself. But God, I wailed, have you seen what I look like in the mirror? God pointed out that those thoughts were poisoning me. When I complained about what I looked like, I was in essence saying, “God, you made a mistake!”

That sobered me up. And I came up with my New Year’s resolution. I chose for an entire year not to criticize the way I looked. Every time I looked in the mirror and wanted to find fault, I stopped. That was not allowed. Instead I would look at myself and see what God had made.

I also hid the scale. I was not allowed to weigh myself. Too many times I would become obsessed with numbers. Instead, I chose to be fine with my new mommy body.

And lastly, I threw out my pre-pregnancy clothes (I think every woman has a box of them hiding in her closet, hoping one day she might fit them again). They were my past, not my present. I needed to move on.

And my friends, it worked! After about six months, I found I no longer looked in the mirror and found fault. All I found was Morgan. I was not tied to the digital number that registered down at my feet. And I went and bought clothes that fit me right now.

That New Year’s resolution changed my life. I learned that a mommy body was okay. I learned that what I was on the inside mattered more than what I was on the outside. I learned to like the person God had made me.

Investing in True Beauty

This is a post I wrote a couple years ago, shortly after I had the twins. I’m revisiting this because lately I’ve been struggling with my outer appearance (yes, I actually do sometimes) and it helped to reread something I wrote years ago. Hopefully you will find it encouraging too.

If your morning is anything like mine, you do the following: look into a mirror, evaluate the work that needs to be done and start pulling out the necessary equipment needed to transform the ugly duckling into a beautiful swan. And there’s nothing wrong with that (trust me, after being up all night with twins, I would scare people by the way I look in the morning). But a thought hit me the other day that I would like to share with you.

How many of us wish we could change one part of the way we look? Perhaps it’s your hair, your legs, your face, fill in the blank… Unless you’re really rich and can afford plastic surgery, the best makeup, and constant visits to the beauty salon, you’re stuck with what you were born with (and for those of us with short legs, science has yet to figure out how to make them longer).

But there is a part of you that you can change. It’s what’s inside of you. God calls it “unfading beauty”. Eventually your outer body is going to age. You can color your hair, but someday it will be white. You can wear color contacts to get the eye color you always wanted, but someday those eyes will be hidden behind a pair of glasses or whiten with cataracts. You use every cream that promises to forestall wrinkles, but eventually they catch up. And your weight will change, especially if you have children (trust me, I know; been there, done that). Our bodies are fading beauties. Like flowers, we bloom. But then the petals droop and eventually fall off.

So since we really can’t change what we look like on the outside, we should start investing in that which we can change: our inside. Anyone woman can do it. It doesn’t require a lot of money. Just time with God, time in the Bible, and a change in our perspective of what true beauty is.

So what is this true beauty that every woman can possess? God calls it a “gentle and quiet spirit” which is so precious to Him. That’s right, this kind of spirit is precious to God. And it’s available to every woman, whether she is freckly, has frizzy hair, or weighs more than she did in high school. And it will never fade. When your outer body starts to succumb to the ravages of time, you can control what your insides look like. In fact, you can posses it now.

Jesus is the prime example of this kind of beauty. The Bible says “there was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him.” (Isaiah 53:2b NLT). Yet as we read the gospels, Jesus is one of the most beautiful people who walked the earth. His “gentle and quiet” spirit shone through to the point that people ceased to see his physical appearance and saw his true beauty within. He served others selflessly, healed those no one else would come near, and loved the world to the point of dying for it.

I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of beauty I want. I want a gentle spirit (this word can also be translated “meek” which means power under control and I don’t know anyone who has more power than Jesus, yet his was always under control). I want a quiet spirit (this does not mean never speak; rather it means in all situations, we are quiet before God and allow Him to direct the way we respond to the situation). I want to serve selflessly, love unconditionally, and let kindness seep out of my pores. This is the kind of beauty that will never fade. This is the kind of beauty you can possess now.

Now don’t start throwing out your curling iron or mascara. It’s okay to make yourself look nice (I love to look nice for my husband). But consider how much time you are investing in your outer appearance and your inner self. One is going to fade, nothing can really stop that. But the other will last to the day you die. Not everyone can be a super model, but every woman has the opportunity to be the most beautiful woman on the inside. It’s not hard to realize which one is worth investing in more, is it?

“You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” 1 Peter 3:4 (NLT)

August 2010 CSFF Blog Tour: Your Favorite, Day 2

After visiting many of the participating blogs during this tour, it would seem both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were a big influence in our love of Science Fiction and Fantasy. I also discovered some other books while perusing other bloggers’ sites. One I had forgotten was Taliesin by Stephen Lawhead (Phyllis Wheeler posted about this book http://christian-fantasy-book-reviews.com/blog). Great rendering of the story of Merlin (or more accurately, his parents).

I also discovered a book by C.S. Lewis that I have not yet read. Curious? Yeah, so am I. The title is Till We Have Faces. If you want to find out more, Becky dropped hints about it within her post http://rebeccaluellamiller.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/csff-blog-tour-your-favorite-day-1/comment-page-1/#comment-2964

For my regular readers, do any of you have a favorite Christian science fiction or fantasy book? Love to hear from you 🙂

August 2010 CSFF Blog Tour: Your Favorite, Day 1

First of all, for those of you who follow my blog and know that I only blog on Fridays, you may be wondering why I’m blogging on Monday. Today is my first day with the CSFF Blog Tour (no, not Christians Saving Furry Friends although I’d probably be all over that :p). It’s the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Tour!

Usually as part of the blog tour, I would read one of latest Christian speculative novels out, then review it along with my colleagues on each of our blogs. But this month is a bit different. We have been asked to share our favorite Christian speculative novel or author.

So I’m going to share the ones that ignited my love for Fantasy: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Yep, oldies but goodies. My dad first introduced me to fantasy with The Hobbit. I loved it! Thirteen dwarves, one hobbit, and one wizard on a wild journey to the Lonely Mountain (just writing that makes me want to go read it again :)). Its book filled with dragons, larger than life spiders, trolls and orcs.

My second exposure to fantasy was C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. My mom began reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to my family when I was in second grade. I’ll never forget finding the book the next day, hiding in a corner of my room and finishing it. Then reading the next one and the next one and the next one :).

My last favorite is one rarely read. The Silmarillion. It’s basically a history textbook for all of Tolkien’s world. For those who have not read it, you’re missing out. One of the best fantasy romances (in my opinion) lays hidden within its pages. The story of Beren and Lúthien.

Want to find more Christian Speculative novels? Check out the links below. Each of these people will be sharing their favorites. Maybe you’ll find a new one too!

Brandon Barr

Thomas Clayton Booher

Keanan Brand

Grace Bridges

Beckie Burnham

Jeff Chapman

CSFF Blog Tour

Stacey Dale

D.G.D. Davidson

Jeff Draper

George Duncan

April Erwin

Andrea Graham

Tori Greene

Ryan Heart

Timothy Hicks

Becky Jesse

Jason Joyner

Julie

Carol Keen

Krystine Kercher

Mike Lynch

Rebecca LuElla Miller

New Authors Fellowship

John W. Otte

Donita K. Paul

Sarah Sawyer

Chawna Schroeder

James Somers

Speculative Faith

Rachel Starr Thomson

Steve Trower

Jason Waguespac

Fred Warren

Dona Watson

Phyllis Wheeler

KM Wilsher

One more thing. The Clive Staples Award voting will be coming to a close this week. Some of you might be going what? It is an award recognizing Christian Speculative writing excellence. To find out more, click here: http://clivestaplesaward.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/2010-clive-staples-award-voting/.

To see the list of nominees, click here: http://clivestaplesaward.wordpress.com/2010-nominations-complete-list/

Greed

There once was a little deformed creature that lived inside my heart. I rarely saw him; he preferred to live in a tiny out-of-the way hole inside my chest. He was smaller than his other brothers and therefore was usually able to perform his wicked deeds below my radar.

His name was Greed.

He seemed harmless enough. He never bit my hand and he actually made me feel secure. He told me if I had money in my savings, then I could face anything life threw at me. He whispered how nice that new shirt would feel or how cool I would be with that cell phone over there. When money issues were brought up at church, he would remind me that I had responsibilities first and needed to pay the bills at home. Besides, God doesn’t need my money? Right?

I began realize just how dangerous he was when I found my heart attaching to the things around me. My house, my car, the new dishware. He had thrown out ropes from my heart and wrapped them around the objects around me… and I never knew. Until those things were taken away.

And then I felt the pain of Greed.

Have you ever felt that? The roaring inside your heart when something you like is taken away or destroyed? The car gets scratched, the kids draw all over the walls, the dog throws up on the couch. My heartstrings were attached to the things of this world. And it was time for God to get out the scissors.

Snip. Snip. There went the house. Snip. There went the savings account. Snip. Snip. There went the TV, the furniture, the dishware. God took everything away (or put it in a storage shed) those few months my husband was unemployed. I was stripped down to nothing but the clothes I had and my computer (God didn’t take that away lol). But I learned a huge lesson those couple of months:

Greed lied to me. And Greed hurt me.

Nice salaries, a large bank accounts, a hefty retirement (or even being debt free) is not a security in life. God is.

A beautiful home, nice cars, the latest cell phone, designer clothes only bring temporary pleasure. But God brings a fullness to life that nothing in this world can give.

But I don’t have any of those things, you might think. Yeah, actually, neither did I. But you don’t need things in order for Greed to move in and start attaching your heart to this world. You just need to want them, hold them tightly when you finally do, and roar when someone or something takes them away.

The poorest person in the world can still have Greed living in their heart. And the richest person can be free of the bondage of Greed. Why? Greed has nothing to do with possessions or money, it has to do with the heart (where Greed likes to live).

So how do you kick Greed out of its hidey-hole?

Well, you could get rid of everything you have! I wonder if Jesus saw a major infestation of Greed when the rich young man ran up to him and asked how he could inherit eternal life (Mark 10:17-27). Greed may be small, but the ropes it uses to tie us to the world can be iron solid. I love how Mark says, “Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him”. God doesn’t want Greed to stay in our hearts. In fact, Greed can keep us from experiencing the true fullness God wants to give us. Mark ends with saying, “At this, the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Getting rid of everything may be a bit farfetched, but here a couple more doable ideas:

1)   Ask God to reveal Greed. Like I said, he’s small and seems relatively harmless. So we need God to shine light on his little hole and expose him for what he really is.

2)   Give away stuff. There is nothing like thinking about giving away something to get Greed to come tearing out of his hole and shouting why you should keep it.

3)   Tithe. Yep, tithe. I have come to believe that tithing is like taking a pill to keep the Greed away. You give to God and his church every week with joy and Greed just can’t stand that. Why? Because I believe giving then trickles into the rest of your life. You start giving stuff away. You give money to other things. And the ropes Greed was using to attach you to this world strain under that weight until they snap and you find yourself free.

And lastly, think about a big fire. When Greed comes knocking on my door, I imagine everything burning up (ok, yeah, there is a bit of a pyro in me). But the truth is, everything is going to burn in the end. And we can’t take the stuff of this world with us when we die. So then why let Greed have his way and tie me to things that are not going to last? I’d rather have the freedom God gives and His fullness and pleasure. So snip away God, snip away. And Greed be gone!

In Darkness there is Light

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