Monday, June 24, 2013

It only takes one thing...

I don't know about you, but there have been times where I've allowed circumstances and the pain of said circumstances to pull me away from God, rather than tug me closer. We've all been there. 

In fact, I've ridden tidal waves between these two extremes (close with God, far from God) multiple times over the same circumstance I'm dealing with currently, and it is, in a word, exhausting

So what do we do when we're tired? Worn out? Tired of fighting to keep our head above water, tired of the back and forth in our hearts spiritually, tired of the battle and the struggle and the pretense and the mask and the "I'm ok" when you know you're really not? 

What do we DO when we can't find peace in any of it, when it seems like the issue is never going away...

when you feel like you can't find sure footing, even with God?

(yes, I just said that! And yes, its okay to be that honest. Sometimes, even as strong believers, even as Christians, we simply do not feel steady on God's foundation. It's okay to admit that out loud. Trust me, He can handle it! The good news is, just because we feel something doesn't make it true)

So what do we do to get out of that swampy mess of back and forth spiritually?

It only takes one thing. 

Psalm 51:17 "The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God."

A broken and repentant heart, or in other translations, a broken and contrite heart. 

When we're playing the dodging-reality game, or the blaming-others game, or the blaming-God game, or the steeped-in-pride-to-avoid-the-pain game, or any of those things we as humans do when we're struggling with our faith or with our life, we have to eventually get to the place we just stop. Confess our sin (because it's always there. If you're not able to be close to God, and you're a believer, odds are there's a reason there somewhere. Something sinful is very possibly blocking you), admit our failures, admit our fears (God CAN handle them!) and ask Him for help.

But it starts with that broken heart. 

We can't come to God and expect complete healing and freedom when we have sin in the way, or when we're denying the truth of our feelings and thoughts. Get it out before Him, deal with it, do whatever it takes, and get back in there next to Him. 

He hasn't left. 

Here's to no more tidal wave surfing.  :)   Who's with me?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Back Then . . .

Some times in writing, my first attempt is to take the easy way out. I was trying to do this with the book I’m currently writing, Blue Like Playdoh. This book shares much of my life journey, and I tried to tell it in sweet, devotional thoughts. My editor didn’t go for that. He wanted me to journey back. To revisit my questions and my fears. To be THERE, without the benefit of 20/20 vision.

It was crazy. I took myself back to the days when I had three little kids and no writing credentials. I didn’t spend much time with God, and I had no idea of where my life would be headed. There were more questions than answers, more worries than fulfilled dreams.

“There” (about fifteen years back) has been hanging around with me, and in my Bible Study I came across a great quote by Beth Moore, “Sometimes we don’t know why we’re on a certain road with God until miles have made their way to the soles of our feet.” Beth More, Stepping Up Workbook, p. 13.

Where is God taking you today? What road are you on? Eighteen years from now you might have a clue, but for now you too may have more questions than answers, more worries than fulfilled dreams. But keep walking God’s way. Keep moving your feet forward. Take one more step closer to Him today. There’s a purpose to the road, and a Savior who’s walking with you.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Good Gifts

"Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow" James 1:17 (NASB). 

Take a close look at the picture above because this is the only time you will see an image of my feet posted online. At least I say that now.

Today, my friend Samantha took me out for a belated birthday gift. She even paid extra for flowers. Now I have pretty feet for summer.

I know James did not have pedicures in mind when he wrote his letter, but that half hour in the salon chair when I soaked my feet in warm scented water, had them massages and cleared up, and let a sweet girl paint my toe nails felt like a gift from the Father. I did not need to tell the manicurist that it had been awhile since my last one. Just be happy I didn't post a before picture. The past couple years left little time or energy, let alone funds, for beauty treatments. I occasionally found time to paint my own toes, (I'll save my hidden talent as a contortionist for a later post.) or have my sister polish them, but most of the time I just wore closed-toed shoes. When sandal weather hit, I started feeling a bit unkept. After such a long season in a foggy state, I have felt a deep need to look nice, and God clearly understood that.

So, thank you, Samantha for providing a much needed lift. Your birthday gift did not feel late at all, in fact, it was perfectly timed. And thank You, Father, for knowing exactly what we need and when, and for seeing our desires as important, even a seemingly frivolous desire for professionally-polished toe nails.

What perfectly timed gifts have you received lately? How has God met your needs in creative ways?  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Giving away $150 to Celebrate the Release of My Book!

You can register here to try for a $150 Visa card in celebration of the release of The Bare Naked Truth: Dating, Waiting & God's Purity Plan! Then join us at our celebratory Facebook party to find out if you won on Thursday, 6/20!

Saturday, June 08, 2013

When Suicide Hits Home

There are some days when you wake up and have no idea your life is going to change. One of those moments was the day I first heard about a young woman named Kristen Anderson who tried to commit suicide by laying down in front of a train.

The first time I'd talked to Kristen on the phone, I knew I had to write her story. There was a time Kristen's life had sunk into darkness. She had four friends and her grandmother die, she started drinking and smoking, and then she was raped. Kristen felt like a zombie for about six months. She didn't want to die, but she didn't want to live with the pain, either. One January night she laid down in front of a train. Kristen survived, but lost her legs. For three years she struggled with depression and even went back and forth out of the psych ward. Kristen knew that to get beyond the depression she had to give herself to God completely. She started praying, reading her Bible, going to a dynamic church and she surrounded herself with Christian friends. Through the process of seeking Him, God changed everything. She's now one of the happiest people I know.

When I thought about writing the book, I knew that if people would see how Kristen's life did not remain in that dark place, they could have hope for their own journeys. My intentions were to help people “out there.” I had no idea that it would open up conversations within my own family.

When I first started working with Kristen on the book, I was intrigued. I'd seen Kristen on Oprah and I knew people were amazed how she survived. I was amazed too. There were numerous times in the interviewing process that I thought, “This is a miracle.”

As with all books, I often share what I'm writing with my family. I remember one afternoon when I was driving and my sixteen-year-old daughter Leslie was with me. I was talking about Kristen and Leslie looked at me, sadness in her eyes. “Mom, I have to tell you, I've considered suicide before.”

I felt my breath escape me. Tears sprang to my eyes. “What? When?”

Leslie went on to tell me it was when she was in junior high. She didn't have many friends and felt shunned at church. Worse than that, the girl she considered her best friend teased her all the time, telling her she wasn't pretty, wasn't smart, and would never have a boyfriend. “I was so sad inside. I didn't want to face that sadness anymore, but I didn't take my life because I knew how much it would hurt you and dad.”

Over the next couple of days Leslie and I continued to talk about how hard life seems sometimes. We also talked about how easy it is to pretend everything's fine when we're really hurting inside. It made me realize that as a mom there could be things my kids are struggling with that I have no clue about. How about you? Are there things you're struggling with that your parents don't know? I know it's hard to share sometimes ... but maybe you should tell them. It might be hard, but parents want to be there to help. They care.

When I talked with Kristen's mom, Jan, during the process of writing the book, she told me she'd been worried about Kristen's friends at time, but not about her daughter. “Kristen was the one everyone turned to for help. She seemed to be having a hard time, but I had no idea how bad it had gotten.”

I have to admit that when I was a teenager suicide crossed my mind, too, but I never took it seriously. While I was in high school, though, a friend of a friend did commit suicide after his girlfriend broke up with him. I remember how the whole community was saddened by this. We all wondered if there was more that we could have done to help him.

Here is Kristen's story about how God changed her life even after she lost her longs. Her mission in life is to help people who are in the same dark place she used to be in.

If you or someone you know has suicidal thoughts there is hope!

Contact Reaching You Ministries if you need help ... or just someone to talk to. 

For Kristen, her story turned out to have a happy ending, but for so many others it doesn't. More of Kristen's story can be found in Life, In Spite of Me.

There is hope!

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The Difference

A few weeks ago, I started a morning routine of getting up thirty minutes early to take a walk. Before moving I walked everywhere, and lately I have really missed the difference that those trips to church, the school, friends’ houses, and the store made. For the first time in ages I felt like I was gaining weight. I dreaded summer when my legs would show. I resented the entire swimsuit industry and every celebrity who I knew was only skinny because she had a personal trainer. Knowing that I most likely would not be willing to wear jeans all summer long, and that those Victorian bathing outfits (that suddenly looked very appealing) probably wouldn’t hit the runway anytime soon, I added the morning walk three days per week and built up to more.
I loved it immediately. I could think, pray, brainstorm writing ideas, and walk as fast and as long as I wanted to. Just as the experts predicted, I felt more energized, my body bounced back, my clothes fit like they should again, and I slept better. As an added bonus, I found many spiritual applications to work into devotionals later. (Nothing is wasted on a writer, including fitness programs.)        
So, with all this, you would think I sprang from my bed every morning at 5:30, ready to throw on my dated sweats and head out the door. Uh, not exactly. Yesterday, I woke up with a headache that seemed like the perfect excuse to sleep in. This morning, I just didn’t feel like it. 
Then, I thought about the benefits and how quickly they could be undone. I considered my son who’d caught on to my new routine and would ask, “So, did you go on your walk this morning?”
Did I really want to go back? How would I answer Nathan? Believe me, it would not be unlike him to say after hearing a serious of excuses, “So, in other words, you were just being lazy?”
Both times, I dragged myself out of bed, made a mental note to buy some new sweats, and took my walk, and both times I was glad I did. 
Why is it that even when we begin reaping the rewards of a beneficial routine, we want to slack off? We know the new thing leaves us feeling far more alive, healthy, and happy, yet the slacker in us still wants to skip it occasionally. I could probably spend my entire day exploring the answer, and we all have our set of reasons, but in the end, I guess it all comes down to choice. Do we want to go back to that icky place that inspired us to take action? Do we really want to explain ourselves to those who know us well enough to recognize when we are just being lazy? How badly do we really want to feel better, look better, be closer to God, or do fill-in-the-blank better? 
This morning taught me that the answer lies in what I ultimately choose to do, and that I will never regret doing the hard-but-right thing. 
What new routine has made a difference in your life lately? What keeps you from slacking off? What good things is God teaching you as you learn to be more disciplined?