You've got to get yourself together. You're stuck in a rut. And you can't get out of it.
Ever feel that itch, that urge, that tug inside to change something? It could be your scenery, your haircut, maybe you crave a new identity, even a new phone cover would help at this point. Ever been bored, or exhausted or numb, from your current set of circumstances?
Maybe you just finished up your school year and you’re not sure what summer has in store for you. Or the school year seems to be dragging out thanks to all the snow days this past winter.
Well, you don’t need to be Jason Bourne and grab a different passport from your safety deposit box to jazz things up. But it is up to you to get out of your rut. Sitting around wishing things would change won’t do the trick.
Now some of you change your address or hair color as often as others of us change our socks. To you, there’s no need to make drastic changes, you already do that, daily. But for the rest of us there’s something refreshing, maybe even daring about trying something new. Summer can be a lazy time to fall into old routines, OR a chance to change your perspective and relight your inner spark. It’s up to you. Which one is it going to be?
Here are a few ideas to get jump-started:
What about you? Any other ideas on how to spice things up?
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17
Wise men. Kings. Magi. The story of these men amazes me. But as with anyone, what truly blows me away is not what they did, but what God did through them.
What do we know about these majestic gift bearers? We refer to them as kings. They were revered like kings and wealthy like kings. They dressed and traveled like kings, but truthfully, they were of the scholarly order of Magi. This means they were highly educated men in the field of astrology, revered in their towns. When they came and spoke, large crowds gathered. Their nuggets of wisdom would have been tweeted and retweeted and posted and pinned.
We depict them as a trio. But the Bible only states three gifts; it doesn’t mention how many people brought them. Who’s to say a few of them didn’t go in on the gold? It was pretty pricey, after all. We’ve even assigned names to them; Gaspar, Balthazar, and Melchior, which if your going to give great men names, why not give them great names?
These magi left their families and friends and the communities that looked up to them to travel for what scholars say took up to two years. They invested riches to hire the caravan necessary to tend to their animals, prepare their meals and travel with them. They didn’t have a map. They didn’t even have Siri to tell them to turn left at the third sand dune. That’s one heck of a road trip. All to see a new king, they’d never even met.
Their faith is awe-inspiring.
But as I said, it’s not what the magi did that blows me away, but what God did through them.
1000 years before they tied their saddlebags on their camels, the Psalmist in Psalm 72:10 -11 wrote: May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands render him tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts! May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him!
And 700 years before they gift-wrapped the frankincense with the perfect bow, the prophet Isaiah wrote in 60:6 A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord.
That means God had it all planned out. Down to the most intricate detail. He knew where the wise men needed to come from, where they would be going, what they would need to pack and how they would get there. All they had to do was follow the star.
This is so mind boggling; because it means God does the same thing for you and for me. Centuries before we were born He had created plans for us. Not just any plans, but plans to prosper. Like the prophet Jeremiah says.
What lies ahead for you in 2014? What uncertainties lay in your heart? Are you freaking out about how you did on exams? Trying to decide what to major in? Wondering if you’ll start in your next game? Are you in a relationship and wondering if it’s time to take it to a higher level, or maybe to end it all together? Are you not in a relationship and wondering if you’ll ever find a soul mate? Maybe you’re moving and frightened of the unknown? Or panicked about an internship or job search?
No worries. God’s got this. All of it.
And not just the big picture stuff, but all of the intricate details.
He’s had it all planned out for hundreds of years. He knows where you’re coming from, where you’re going, what you need to bring with you and how you’ll get there. He’ll even give you all of the resources you need to make the journey.
All you have to do is follow the star.
The star that is Christ Jesus.
I’ve been playing various evolutions of Hide and Go Seek all of my life.
My kids and I played the other day. I was elected IT, of course. They hid. I didn’t see them. Any of them. And I have four kids. I ducked my head in tunnels and under picnic tables. I peered behind park benches and around the sculpture I love of a deconstructed bicycle. We’d set boundaries, so they couldn’t be too far. We’d played at this park hundreds of times, so I felt they must be safe. Right? Still, I felt momentary panic—that shuffle in my heart.
I put my hand over my eyes like a shield, as if it would give me x-ray vision. It didn’t. I took a deep yoga breath. I even opened the door to the port-a-potty, no lie. I’d do anything at this point to find them. I caved and started calling their names. One by one they revealed themselves. One was folded behind a trashcan. Another was crammed under bushes. A third splayed flat against a corn hole board. The last had been darting from spot to spot. But that anxiety of not being able to find them, unsettled me for a while.
My daughter’s asked, “What took you so long? I wondered where you were.” The tension goes both ways – not finding and not being found.
For the hider there’s the thrill of looking for the perfect hiding place and the pressure to find one before the IT gets to twenty. Finding a spot is exciting at first. The whole no-one-knows-where-I-am-freedom. And then, your mind wanders. And the peaceful imagining is blissful for a while. But eventually, there is that wonder—what if nobody finds me? What if they forget I was playing? Or can’t get the door behind me open? What if they think I went home? Or get distracted and move on to something else?
I’ve been playing various evolutions of Hide and Go Seek with God my whole life.
I hate to admit it, but there have been times when I’ve hidden from Him. And when I hide from my Father, it sometimes feels adventurous at first. There is a weird buzz of rebellion. But not for long. When I attempt to do something He hasn’t planned for me, or something I truly need Him for, but I’m trying to do it alone, it doesn’t take long before I find myself not as excited as I thought I would be. Not as fulfilled. And soon, I feel lacking, empty, excluded. I ache for Him to find me.
Gratefully, He is the ultimate IT. He always finds me. Sometimes He comes right up to the wall I’ve backed myself up against, or the façade I’m hiding behind. Other times, I realize how badly I need Him and crawl out of my hiding place, back to His open arms and the love He always offers.
But the best times of my life are when I seek Christ. Because when I seek Him, He’s always there. He never, ever hides from me. He simply loves me, because I am seeking Him.
Are you hiding or seeking today?
When I was on my high school’s dance team, our motto was “Teamwork Makes It Happen”. Not very catchy, but there’s a lot of truth in that phrase. On dance team it wasn’t about an individual’s abilities, it was about dancing in sync, together. The perfect example was the kick line. Everyone’s kicks had to be the exact same height, so it appeared as if one giant leg was going up then down, while the other giant leg followed suit. Shorter girls had to stand on tiptoes to make their legs reach. Uber flexible girls actually had to lower their kicks to line up with the team.
Have you ever been part of a softball team? A play? A fundraiser? If so, you know the risks of putting yourself out there. You’ve had to rely on others. You understand the challenges of working collectively for a common good.
I haven’t been in a kick line for a looooonnnnggg time, but this past fall I was invited to be on a team to launch a new line of young adult fiction books. By now, you’ve probably heard me chat about Playlist Fiction. Ever wonder what authors talk about when they get together? Everything, really. But recently, one of the other Playlist authors, Laura Kurk, and I were chatting about the excitement and uncertainty of banding together to create something new. Here’s an inside peek at our conversation.
LS: I remember when our agent suggested forming a team of authors to launch a new line, to include your novels, my novels, Jennifer Murgia’s latest title, Stephanie Morrill’s newest book and debut author Rajdeep Paulus. I know what was going through my mind. What was on yours?
LK: Writing is a lonely profession. It takes physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries to maintain the integrity of our thoughts and ideas while we work.
I’m usually okay with this, being an introverted soul. But sometimes I feel too alone. I’ve dreamed of having a team of like-minded people who would offer support, guidance, and friendship. I said yes, without hesitation.
LS: Me too. It was an incredible idea to have a support network within the solitude, to not have to go these books alone. But there was still a major unknown. None of us had worked together. All of our writing styles were a little different. What were your concerns?
LK: The same all students have when they hear the dreaded words, “Group Project.” I was always the kid who took on the biggest part—because I wanted the project done right. But, it turns out, I think we were all the kids who took on the majority of the work for group projects.
LS: So, was that because we were overachievers, or because we enjoyed writing essays?
LK: Ha! Both. But the great thing about our team is we overachieve for each other. I’ve never really been on a team, so this is my first experience with seeing other people sacrifice their time and talent for each other. It’s overwhelming. Makes me wish I had played t-ball or something.
LS: T-ball was not my best experience. Let’s just say I sat the bench. A writing team uniform fits me way better. I think the two major factors that have led to the success of our team are communication and a common desire to succeed as a whole.
LK: We’ve avoided any of us carrying all the weight.
L S: Right. We share it. Our communication from the get-go was key. Remember the dozens of emails about expectations and content for the line?
LK: Back and forth, plus the conference calls. We agreed on a mission and a feel. We agreed our books would be unique, real, and match the rhythm of our readers’ lives. We incorporated that into everything from our plot lines to the Playlist Fiction website.
LS: And once we identified ourselves, we all took responsibilities based on our strengths. You developed our Twitter account. Jennifer worked with the designer. Rajdeep created the count down graphics and manages our Playlist fan mail. And what would we do without Stephanie who writes the newsletter and runs all the spreadsheets? It was remarkable to watch everyone play to her areas of expertise. We had all poured ourselves into our novels. We longed for them to reach readers who would identify with our characters and gravitate to our plots. The more readers engaged with the Playlist Fiction brand overall, the more opportunities we had to touch those readers.
LK: We were all invested.
LS: All for one and one for all. What hopes did you have for the team?
LK: I hoped I would develop relationships with people who shared my faith and my goals. I hoped for friends who would understand why writing is spiritually fulfilling for me, and who would hold me accountable with the words I choose. We’re not just a team. We’ve found friendship, validation, accountability, a louder voice, a bigger splash. We’re even prayer warriors.
LS: It’s awesome isn’t it? It’s powerful for me to see how much stronger we are together than alone. But when you gain something, you tend to give something up. What did you sacrifice to be part of a team verses publishing your novels under a solo contract?
LK: I think there’s a misconception that publishing solo with an existing publisher means you can sit back. Authors have to market themselves constantly, so the team has been a blessing. The sacrifices I’ve made have been easy. The amount of work we’ve done to build recognition for this debut line of fiction has been mind-blowing. We’ve worked a lot of late nights.
LS: Which resulted in a lot of late night e-mails. Some of them made me laugh so hard I almost peed my pants. Others brought tears to my eyes. We swapped lyrics from everything from the Mickey Mouse Club House theme song to old Depeche Mode tunes. We shared stories about our siblings and children, admitted indulgences and weaknesses. We became good friends.
LK: I love how we support one another. Often you see writers who grab attention, because attention translates into sales. Our team members are more concerned with making sure we all find success. We work like this because we believe in the message of hope and healing we each have for our audience. We write for young adults. We found each other because we all felt there was a lack of hopeful fiction for teens.
LS: I’m praying we’ll provide some of that much needed hope.
LK: I believe we are. But despite the encouragement from one another, it does take maturity to keep this team in tact.
LS: Definitely. All teams do. None of us can be scorekeepers. We can’t say, “she did this and she didn’t do that while I did this.” Just like soccer player can’t say, “I scored and she missed my pass and she should have stolen that ball.” Each author has the integrity to give our team her personal best. As a team, we respect and honor the time and way we each achieve this. On any given day one author could be promoting the line, while another is dealing with family issues and yet another is frantically editing her next novel. The following week those roles can and do switch. What’s beautiful is how much we lean on one another, draw from one another, learn from one another. Like you said at the beginning, writing can be a lonely endeavor. But our team offers a community to share the writing journey.
Jesus didn’t leave one disciple high and dry to share the gospel. He introduced them to one another, had them dine together, travel together, so when it was time for Him to ascend, the disciples were prepared to work as a team. I believe God brought our Playlist Fiction team together to share the stories He’s put in our hearts.
Are you part of a team? How do you think God’s equipped you to be an important team member?
“I can begin again.” New Year’s Day by U2
I spent New Year’s Day 2013 soaking in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
Barely visible amidst Elvis’ outlandish purple Cadillac with “EP” blazed on every seat cushion, tire and door (no lie), John Lennon’s neon green silk Sergeant Pepper’s uniform and Katy Perry’s memorable peppermint dress were my two favorite artifacts in the multi level, glass pyramid of a museum (a copy of the Louvre in Paris).
My favorites weren’t bright or shiny or glitzy or even psychedelic, like all the items I believe rock stars own and save and cherish. They were small and flat and plain. They were rejection letters.
As a writer I get my share of rejection letters. You might think looking at others’ rejections would be torture. But, actually it’s the opposite. You see, these weren’t random rejection letters written to bands you’ve never heard of like Carl and the Crazies or the Keyboard Lizards, these were rejection letters written to U2.
In 1979 RSO sent a letter to P. Hewson, Bono’s real name, stating the demo tape he mailed “titled U2 is not suitable for us at present". The letter was written on Bono’s 19th birthday. I hope he got a decent cake.
Around the same time Arista Records sent U2 a form rejection letter, the kind they sent to hundreds of bands with just a preprinted signature, and without details of why the band was being turned down.
But those rejections did not make U2 quit. It gave them fodder to begin again. To make another tape, to send it to another label, to try again.
One year later, Island Records signed U2. They went on to become one of the biggest selling bands in the world. Over 7.2 million fans attended U2’s 360 Tour, more than any other fans attending any other tour - ever. U2 has won more Grammy awards than any other band, ever. 22.
But what if Bono and the boys had listened to RSO or Arista? What if they took those rejections as signs they didn’t have what it takes? That they weren’t good enough? That their sound wouldn’t resonate? That they should give up?
What hill are you climbing today? Who’s told you “no” recently? What roadblocks are you encountering?
What if instead of listening to the negativity, you tried one more time – took the SAT or LSAT one more time to improve your score, auditioned for one more play, ran one more race, applied to one more internship or job, sent one more song to a record label?
Hills are rarely easy to climb. Sometimes they reveal themselves as careening mountains.
But the view from the top of the mountain is glorious.
I waited patiently for the Lord
He inclined and heard my cry
He lift me up out of the pit
Out of the miry clay
I will sing, sing a new song
Psalm 40 by King David and revamped by U2 in their song “40”
What new song can you sing today? Where can you begin again?
I heard author, Bill Myers, speak at a Christian writer's conference in California. His voice mesmerized me. His message captivated me. At the end of the conference I purchased his book, Eli, for my husband and had Bill sign it for him, secretly knowing I would also benefit from this "gift". I let it sit on my hubby's shelf with his other "to be read" books. I plowed through my pile of "to be read" books, until December, a month off book club, fewer school days, fewer activities, more nights by the fire.
I pulled Eli off my husband's shelf and dove in.
Eli is the retelling of the gospel (in novel form), like you've never heard it before. It's twisted out of its familiar settings and verses into today's terms. I take such comfort in my tried and true Bible, but I must admit, I sometimes take for granted or skim over the deep lying messages within. What if Christ had been born in Santa Monica in the early 70's and a bunch of hippies were told by some glowing dudes they would find a new king, someone to change the world, in the laundry room of a motel, wrapped in motel towels? Bill Myers describes down to the beads and scent of smoke what it would be like. If I were in that motel, would I believe?
The nativity presented in this manner drew me in as I gazed at the stockings hanging by our fireplace. As I read on, Eli helped me reposition front and center in my mind what Christmas is all about.
Follow Eli Shepherd as he heals the lame, feeds the hungry, gives sight to the blind and raises the dead - all with twentieth century paparazzi, politics and media.
Read this book.
Hear his message of love.
Ponder if you would follow him.
Today's blog is a guest blog by fellow YA author, Jill Williamson. Jill is a chocolate loving (see why I love her?), daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens. She’s a Jesus follower, a Whovian, and a recovering fashion design assistant, who was raised in Alaska. She now lives in Eastern Oregon with her family and a whole lot of deer (and cows).
People spend more and give more in the month of December than in any other month. I love seeing how generous people are at this time of year. But there is so much need in the world. Do you ever feel like there’s just no way to give enough? And if money is tight, how can you afford to give to charities when you’re concerned with paying your bills and putting food on the table?
Fret no more! Here are ten ways to give to great causes that are close to your heart and on the other side of the world. And if you have kids or want to do these with a group of friends, that works too.
1. Clean House- Set aside a day to clean house. Go through your clothing, dishes, books, food—everything!—and find items to donate to charity. Get your kids involved by asking them to choose five to ten toys from their rooms too. It will be a great lesson in sacrifice. Ask yourself: When was the last time I wore this/used this? If it was gone, would I really miss it? Then take your donations where they can be used: the local food banks, coats for kids, a charity-owned thrift store, or a local church that ministers to the needy.
2. Clean Up- Set aside an afternoon to clean up the trash in a certain part of town. (If it’s snowy where you live, this might have to wait until spring.) But you (and your family or friends) could also volunteer to clean a community location like a park or a church. If the location has a janitor, see if they’d be willing to give the janitor a paid day off if you did his work. And if you do work out on the roads, be sure to wear bright colors or reflective vests for safety.
3. Sign Up- There are many worthy causes that people are fighting for. Sometimes no blessing is greater than giving your signature. Follow this link (http://donatelife.net/) and click the “Register Now” button to sign up to be an organ donor. You could also sign various petitions for causes. See what causes you can find to join at http://www.change.org/.
4. Click- Did you know that associate links force advertisers to pay a little something, even if you don’t make a purchase? If you have a have a friend that uses Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or other store links on her blog, click through that link before you go shopping on that site, even if you don’t buy the item your friend was advertising. You could be giving her five or ten cents, or several dollars, depending on what you purchase. The same is true for organizations that use associate links.
Here is a site where you can click for worldly causes like hunger, animal rescue, veterans, autism, child health, literacy, and the rainforest. They also have products for sale that donate to these causes. Visit here to click: http://thehungersite.com. This site works the same as The Hunger Site. Visit http://ripple.org/ to click for water, food, education, or home loans.
And how about playing games to make donations? Free Rice is a lot of fun (http://freerice.com). On this site, you guess the correct definition of words, and each correct answer shows the amount of rice you’ve donated just by playing. I admit, I got hooked and wanted to keep playing!
At http://www.clickforyourcharity.org/ you simply choose which commercial to watch and that company will pay for seven days of clean water. Easy peasy. If you find a clickable page you love, make it your homepage so you’ll always remember to click each day.
5. Random Acts of Kindness- William James said, “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” Some simple ways you can show appreciation are:
-Smile. This is the fastest way to show others you like them.
-Give a compliment. Saying something nice is an easy way to make someone’s day.
-Ask a question. And don’t stop at “How are you?” Questions are a simple way to start a conversation. And people feel good when you’re interested in their life.
-Listen. Everyone likes to be heard, and listening lets a person know you care.
-Offer to help. If you see someone struggling, jump in and lend a hand! Get the door for a stranger. Give up your seat on the bus. Slow down and let a pedestrian pass—even if they’re jaywalking! And don’t honk at them.
Check out the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation for more ideas.http://www.randomactsofkindness.org/
6. Volunteer- Charities always need volunteers–sometimes more so during the holidays. See what organizations in your town could use a helping hand. Some ideas are: soup kitchens, churches, Habitat for Humanity, homeless shelters, lunch buddy programs, your local schools, retirement homes… You could even go Christmas caroling!
7. Pocket Change- Every time you see a bell ringer outside a store, empty your pocket change. Every little bit helps. And ask the bell ringer a question or two, as well. It’s hard work volunteering to stand on your feet all day while people avoid making eye contact with you. Make their day a little brighter by making a donation of pocket change and saying something kind.
8. Hang Out- There are tons of kids, teens, and adults performing this time of year, whether it’s Christmas programs or sporting events. Support someone by attending their event. And be sure to speak to them while you’re there and give them a compliment to show them how much you care. You could also go visit someone who’s in the hospital or a retirement home, take them a treat or a book or movie. Or make plans to have coffee or a meal with an old friend you haven’t seen in a while. Make it a point to bless them with your conversation.
9. Recycle- Do you recycle your soda cans? If so, cash them in and give the money to the charity of your choice, or look for a place to donate them. Our town has several donation boxes for school teams or youth groups.
10. Buy a book (Jill’s shameless plug)- If you like to read, I recently published an enovella (book length: 120 pages) in which 100% of the proceeds go toward the adoption of a little girl from Eastern Europe. My friends need to raise over $40,000 to bring their daughter home, and they have a long way to go.
This is a fun story about a teen guy who has joined a Christian spy organization. I wrote it for teens, but adults enjoy it too. It follows the first book in the series, but you can enjoy it without having read book one. Check it out:
Chokepoint: Mini-Mission 1.5
Ever since I returned from Moscow, life is a full court press. Mission League field agents are everywhere. All the time. Watching. Waiting for me to fulfill a sixty-year-old prophecy. When some baddies try to guy-nap me, the field agents threaten to move me and Grandma Alice to some random hick town, to give us new fake identities until the prophecy is fulfilled.
Not going to happen.
I’ve got one chance to stay in Pilot Point. I have to prove to the agents that I can stay safe. Have to make this work. For basketball. For Kip. For Beth. So, bring it, baddies. It’s game on.
100% OF THE PROCEEDS FROM THIS ENOVELLA GO TOWARD THE ADOPTION OF LITTLE SYNDEY FROM EASTERN EUROPE. PLEASE, HELP BRING SYDNEY HOME.
How about you? Any other ideas for ways to give that don’t require donating money or buying a gift and wrapping it? Have you tried any of the above ideas? Share in the comment section.
Thump. Bump. Thump.
The familiar sound of Howard, my daughter’s pet tortoise, trying to escape his terrarium interrupted my writing. Deciding we both needed a breath of fresh air, I gathered him from his glass home and took him out into the yard. Howard marched over to the mulch to explore. As he rested under my rose bush, my phone rang. “Hi Mom,” I answered.
Mom chatted. I answered, then I scanned for Howard. Where was he? “Me too.” I responded, but my eyes were glued to the ground. Howard is various shades of brown with a tinge of green, perfect camouflage to keep him safe from predators and apparently to keep him hidden from me.
“Sorry, Mom, I have Howard outside and I can’t find him,” I confessed, since I wasn’t engaged in our conversation. We exchanged goodbyes, as I robotically lowered my phone. I really didn’t see him. I’ve lost sight of Howard before, but only for a few seconds, then his bumpy shell always comes back into view. But this time I didn’t see him -- anywhere.
I dropped to my knees and crawled around the flowerbed. “Howard” I called, knowing he couldn’t answer. Why couldn’t he be like a dog or cat who could make a sound, or who might even come to me when I call? Howard could be right next to me and I might not know, or he could be traversing into the woods. I searched the stem of every plant, rummaged through piles of leaves and ran my fingers along the base of the house. Nothing.
What if the whole time I’d been searching the landscaping, Howard was lumbering across the white gravel driveway into the woods? How would I ever find an eight-inch tortoise in the woods? How far could he have gone? That was the question. At full speed, Howard could cover quite a distance, and it had been half an hour. In the woods he could be anywhere. Or what if he’d curled up in his shell to take a snooze? How would I find him if he lay perfectly still?
I know. I know. It’s a tortoise I’m talking about here. But it’s not just a tortoise. Howard is my daughter’s pet, her first true love. She holds him and pets him and feeds him and nurtures him like a mama cares for a baby. My heart raced. Blood pumped to my brain, pulsing, drumming. My adrenaline surged with anxiety. If anything happened to Howard it would crush my daughter. Think of someone you love and the one thing most important to him or her. What if you lost it? That’s how I felt. I didn’t want to be the cause of her pain.
For an hour and a half I did my Katniss Everdeen impersonation. I scanned the driveway for contrast of brown against white. I scoured the yard for bumps or movement. I strained my eyes for signs of Howard. And then I dashed into the woods. Down on all fours I crawled and dug and brushed away tree branches. I’m sure I looked crazy in my running clothes scaling rocky hills and digging through dirt and deteriorating leaves, but I didn’t care. I needed to find Howard for my daughter, for her heart. I pulled out clumps of weeds, hiked down to the creek and back. I strained my ears for the slightest rustle of a leaf, the smallest crunch of a twig and I prayed.
You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. Matthew 5:4
I begged God to help me find Howard, knowing God knew precisely the spot where Howard was. “Please show me, God!” I pleaded out loud. And as I heard my words, I knew there was more to them than the missing reptile.
“Please show me God!” I implored again. “Please show me what you need me to do. Please show me what I can give up for you.”
And as I begged God to help, He answered, “I don’t’ want you to give up something, one thing. I want you to give me EVERYTHING.”
I’ve been reading Mary De Muth’s new book, Everything, which focuses on dedicating 100% of ourselves to Jesus, but I’ve been in a place for quite a while where I’ve given Him about 80%. I love Jesus. I worship Him. I pray to Him. I trust Him. I read His word, and then I try to take control of things myself.
In the dirt, desperate to find a Russian tortoise, God reminded me, what He really wanted from me, was for me to give it all to Him. Not some, but all.
I crouched, strained, crawled like a cat. I swished another clump of leaves with my fingers. And then I saw it – two brownish, blackish, greenish bumps poked out from a pile of leaves.
“I found him!” I cried, easing Howard out of the earthen hole he’d dug for himself. Covered in dirt Howard was safe. He stretched out his neck and nodded, as if to say, “hello.” I held him up to the heavens, shouting, “Thank you God.”
“Thank you God!” I announced again breaking into sobs. I thanked God for His grace to help me find two brownish bumps in the woods, but even more so, for helping me find myself wrapped in Him and Him living in me 100%, for reminding me that He is my everything.
“God’s heart for us is that we would need Him; we’d lay our heads on His chest like a child needing a daddy after skinning a knee. We cannot experience this kind of relationship with Him if we are proud. We cannot grow to be more like Jesus without brokenness. Ironic, isn’t it? To grow, we give up. We rest. We give God control.” Mary DeMuth Everything
Is Jesus your EVERYTHING? Are you ready for Him to be?
What’s in your fall wardrobe? Have you picked up any cool pieces that will give you an updated look? Soft suede boots? Warm tunics? A cool tote? A military jacket? A bottle of Essie polish in warm fall hues? How about in the back – are there some outdated styles, something that never quite fit right?
Ever since I first read C.S. Lewis’ Narnia chronicles when I was about nine, I’ve been banging on the back of wardrobes, just in case. Just in case, I slip into someplace magical, just in case an adventure awaits me inside, just in case I could meet Aslan face to face. I’m currently reading The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe for maybe the twentieth time. I’m simultaneously reading Everything by Mary De Muth. Fate would have it as I reached page 100 on Everything, DeMuth begins talking about “the wardrobe”.
“Once they’ve (the Pevensie children) committed to Narnia, they embark on an entirely new journey that will change them from the inside out and readjust the way they look at the outside world. God-initiated healing is that way. He brings us, if we dare, to a new place, but it’s not a familiar place. And in that outside-of-our-comfort-zone spot, He woos our attention, shows us our past in light of His viewpoint, and sets us back on our feet again to have new adventures.” Everything by Mary DeMuth
What’s inside your wardrobe this fall? How about in the closet of your heart? Reach back far. What is smushed on bent hangers between the clothes you rarely wear? A broken friendship you were never able to heal? A conflict you’re avoiding? Regret? Self doubt? A decision you’d rather not make? Something you need to fess up about? Something you need to let go of?
What’s waiting in there that you need to face? Take it off the hanger and put in the donation pile. Hand it over to God. You do not need to wear it anymore. It doesn’t fit the you God created you to be, and it doesn’t flatter you.
Let it go.
Open the door to God’s magical wardrobe and give him all the outdated, misfit garments of your soul. It’s necessary to clear them out to find the warm coat He has waiting just for you on the back peg. Now that there’s room, take a few more steps; breathe in the crisp smell of freshly fallen snow. Dare to trust a robin or a faun or anyone offering you genuine love and company and wisdom. Avoid those who seem too good to be true, who offer you power, status and all you can eat Turkish Delight. Instead journey further up and further in until you meet God right where He loves you the most. Ditch the things of the past that were never made for you, and enjoy the warm folds of his embrace. Come back recharged, realigned, ready to move forward in your real life, a little less concerned about this world, and feeling a little more self-stylish.
“Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it.” Ephesians 2:7-10 MSG
Trust in him. Open the door. Let go of the hurt. Let the healing begin. Your adventure awaits you.
What are you having a hard time donating to God?
We have a pet Russian tortoise. His name is Howard. Part of why Howard is our pet is because I’m tragically allergic to anything with fur. Part of why he’s our pet is because all he eats is lettuce (I couldn’t stomach the whole feed a lizard live crickets thing – ick!). We also chose Howard as our pet because with an average lifespan of 110, he’ll outlive all of us.
Howard is cute with his bumpy shell and neck that stretches out when we rub under his leathery chin. But Howard is not brave. Instinctively an overwhelming noise, or an unexpected movement frightens Howard. At those times he retracts into his protective shell.
When do you crawl into your shell? When you’re called on in class? When you enter a club or party or meeting or practice where you don’t know anyone, at least not well enough to join into the conversation?
Maybe it’s not a place. Maybe it’s a person. There are certain people who make me feel like I’m five years old. When I’m around them, I crawl back into my little girl shell, shy of sharing my opinions and experiences, fearing my insights are insignificant, uninformed or they’ll be laughed at.
Or it could be a circumstance. Do you pretend you’re texting to avoid a difficult question or socially awkward moment? Do you turn your phone over if the caller equals confrontation? Do you go along with the crowd rather than sticking your neck out and suggesting a different approach or standing up for who or what you believe in? I don’t want to be that person, but sometimes it’s easier to crawl into my shell. It feels safer.
I’m sure Howard is quite happy. The life of a tortoise in captivity is peaceful, docile and rather uneventful. He’s warm and well fed and safe, and for a tortoise that’s enough. We also long to be warm and fed and safe, but God created us craving so much more.
We crave love and acceptance and a sense of worth and knowledge and adventure and usefulness. Yet none of those things can be achieved in the safety of our shells.
In the wild, a tortoise’s shell is a survival mechanism. Instead of being viewed as a meal to animals of prey, they could pass as a rock. Sometimes it is necessary for us to protect ourselves, so we don’t get eaten by this world’s birds of prey. But most of the time, we’d find the things that frighten us – risk of being rejected, risk of being wrong, risk of not making the team or not getting invited or not meeting someone’s approval - are actually opportunities to grow and to shine – to meet someone new, to learn a new perspective, to use our talents, to contribute, to feel proud and satisfied that we gave it our all.
In her new book, EVERYTHING, Mary DeMuth says, “There is always another risk God asks us to take. Always another adventure around the corner. But if we stay in the “good old days,” (I’m inserting ‘shells’ here) we won’t take those risks or live that adventure today. Yet we crawl back there, don’t we?”
It’s true. We let fears overtake the possibilities of today. We crawl back into our shells, where it seems safe and dark and quiet and no one and nothing can find us. But shells are dark and lonely. If we reach out of them, stretch our limbs and our hearts and our very selves, we can move forward and learn and triumph and experience.
DeMuth goes on to say, “Dare to be brave today, and trust that when you extend your wings, you will fly.”
Mark 14: 6-8 But Jesus said, "She has just done something wonderfully significant for me…She did what she could when she could."
What could you do today? Where could you climb out of your shell, reach out your neck and let the adventure begin?
Laura L. Smith