GOD'S NOT FINISHED WITH ME YET
Today's guest post is by Jennifer Maggio, author of the new book Peace and the Single Mom. Her story blows me away and is a beautiful testament, that no matter where you are, no matter how much you wish you were somewhere else or someone else, there is hope. God has a beautiful plan for you. He's not finished with you yet.
And as a bonus of having Jennifer guest post here, we'll give away a copy of her new book. Just leave a comment on a way God has shown you He's not finished with you yet below for a chance to enter the drawing. And now, here's Jennifer's story.
I would love to tell you I had a “normal” childhood – whatever that is – but I didn’t. I didn’t frolic in the snow, drink hot cocoa, and enjoy snuggles with my parents on the sofa as we watched our favorite television program. Truth is, most of my childhood and teen years were spent in utter chaos.
My mother was killed when I was just a baby. Consequently, I was raised by my dad who used alcohol and women to mask the pain of losing my mother so unexpectedly. My dad married a total of six times, not including girlfriends in between the marriages. (Yep, you read that right!) I spent years suffering through sexual and physical abuse at the hands of many. My dad was not one of those abusers. He lived in a cloud for years, devastated by the pain he had endured.
Although I graduated high school valedictorian and class president (and was probably considered an overachiever by most), I became pregnant at only seventeen years old. I was desperate for someone to love me. I was desperate to have this hole in my heart filled. Maybe this new baby would create a bond between his father and me that would give me my “happily ever after.” As you may have guessed, it didn’t. I was a teen mom who had two children by the time I was nineteen. I was severely abused, chasing after a dead-end relationship that would have never worked. I lived in government housing using food stamps and welfare to help make ends meet with my low-paying job. I felt hopeless.
It was in my darkest hour that I found God. I hadn’t attended church in years, but my life was so dark, so lonely…maybe the church could help me. I made a decision to give the church thing a try again. I started attending regularly with my two small children. God slowly began to transform my heart. He healed the old wounds that had left me broken and bitter. He mended a heart that no longer chased after the temporary happiness this world offers. I finally had the strength to leave my old life behind. My Heavenly Father transformed my life, inside and out.
(as I read Jennifer's guest blog here, I can't help but sing Brandon Heath's song, "Wait and See" in my head. In case you are too, here you go ~Laura L. Smith)
Okay, sorry for the interruption. Now back to Jennifer --
Today, I spend my days encouraging single moms that they can make it. They can overcome. They can press through and press on. I work with youth to encourage sexual purity. I encourage hurting women with the love that only Jesus brings. I never thought I could be used by God for anything. When I was a kid, I just wanted to be normal. But God has shown me that none of us were called to be normal. We were called to be an extraordinary light for His glory.
Jennifer Maggio is the award-winning author of four books, including her latest release Peace and the Single Mom: 50 Moments of Calm in the Chaos. Her story has been featured in countless media venues. She is the founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries, a global nonprofit committed to empowering single mothers. For more information, visit www.thelifeofasinglemom.com.
Don't forget to leave a comment below about how God has given you hope for a chance to win an autographed copy of Peace & The Single Mom.
WORK IN PROGRESS
Ask any writer about their WIP and you’ll be sure to spark a conversation. Even if the author is protective of their WIP’s identity, they’ll at least comment about how far along they are with their WIP, what genre it is, if it has a home, etc.
WIP is writer speak for Work In Progress.
Writers are always writing. Even if we’re taking a hiatus from our next novel. We might be working on our blog, an article, a forward or endorsement for a friend’s book. We could be in a rewrite stage or awaiting edits or using our writing to help a family member with their website or our church with a newsletter. Or maybe we’re in the mulling over stage--the plotting, researching or character development stage. But I guarantee, writers always have a WIP.
I was recently chatting with a writer friend (*ahem* Stephanie) about getting edits back from our editors, and no matter how much we write and how many times we go over our own work, editors find so many ways (major and minor) to improve our writing.
I am a Work In Progress.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Eph 2:10 ESV
God had this idea for me from the get go. He created me and predestined specific works I would do – how cool is that? But my story constantly changes. I need to listen to my editor (God) about some of my choices, and how to learn from my mistakes. My patience needs a rewrite. Paragraphs and even chapters of my life should go in the “trash” at the bottom of my screen with a satisfying “crumpling”. I am constantly searching for a better way to write myself, a more precise word, a truer reaction. As Robert Fulguhm (author of Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten) says, "I could do better. The president and the pope and all the rest of humanity. We could do better."
The awesome thing about me as a WIP, is I know my ending. Because I believe in Jesus Christ and His unending love for me, I know my ending is actually just my beginning.
But how I get there, what I say along the way, how I interact with those around me, the decisions I make, what I do with the talents and troubles and experiences that come my way… well, that’s a story I’ll always be refining.
Sometimes I think I’m a piece of work. Sometimes I think I’m progressing. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever work things out. But I always know that I am progressing toward the last beautiful chapter. And that the Author of my story is my Savior. He’ll never ever delete me. I’m not any old WIP. I’m His.
My current writing WIP is the third book in the Status Updates series. What are you working on?
Be still. The words had not been shouted to the furious wind or issued to the sky, but spoken as though directly to my heart.
This line from the book Iscariot by Tosca Lee keeps repeating in my heart like a track on a scratched CD.
Have you ever been caught in a storm? Maybe not with actual raindrops falling from the sky, but with life blowing past you so fast you can feel it? With concerns and worries like thunder pounding through your heart and flashes of fear or sorrow like lightening sparking when you least expect or want them?
When the disciples were caught in a squall they felt helpless, hopeless. Jesus lay asleep while their boat pitched and flooded in the dark, turbulent sea.
But Jesus awoke and with composure said, “Be still.” The waves calmed and the clouds parted. What if He wasn’t just telling the waters and the heavens to chill? What if Jesus was telling the disciples, and in turn, us, to relax and find peace in Him?
I just went through a personal stormy season. Someone I loved died. And although I know he is now at peace and in heaven, it was an exhausting, disorienting and sorrowful journey. I had sleepless nights and anxious moments and heartbreaking sobs. Yet, as my family and I returned home from a week of ICU and Hospice and Visitation and Funeral, Jesus kept telling me, “Be still.”
I went on an early morning run hoping to clear some of the cobwebs crowding my brain. But as I turned a corner, I saw I wasn’t the only one in the neighborhood up before dawn. A mama fox with her two babies sat in the grass, enjoying daybreak and each other’s company. I stopped mid-step, pausing my run, surprised by their presence, their grace. We watched each other as the grayness of morning accepted the golden mist of an awakening sun. Be still.
Rushing out the house to get one of my four kiddos to their soccer practice, clicking off a checklist out loud, “Do you have your cleats? Water bottle? Shin guards?” a perfume halted my mouth and my feet. Sweet and ethereal I stopped and inhaled. The vase of lilies on the counter was sending off its fragrance as a reminder of all that is pure and honest and pretty. It was the opposite of hurrying, the antithesis of juggling and remembering. It was God’s creation—perfect exactly how it was made. Be still.
Clearing dishes off our porch on a steamy summer evening, the wind rattled through the branches in the woods behind our house. The predicted downpour crashed against the roof and leaked through the screens, and yet, at the same time sun gleamed on the wet leaves. How was this possible? I put down my stack of plates and forks and dashed out the front door, letting the rain pelt against my bare arms while the sun shone on my face. I searched the sky for a rainbow, turning in circles in our front yard. I never caught glimpse of the arch of colors I knew must be somewhere close, but the miracle of simultaneous rain and sun was enough to get me to cease my business and indulge my senses. Be still.
There is awe in tranquility, and yet we so often flounder, letting life’s concerns and to do’s swirl around us, sometimes developing into uncontrollable storms. Sometimes we hide from the thunder, cover our eyes from the lightening, or just put our wipers on full blast and try to plow through the rain. How beautiful that Jesus is always there, no matter what, no matter where, no matter how, reminding us to, “Be still.”
How about you? How is God telling you to be still?
SUMMER SWITCH OUT
It’s that time of year. I’m switching out everything.
First stop, my closet. I’ve packed up my boots and thick sweaters and swapped their spots on my shelves with shorts, sandals and swimsuits. It’s amazing how much less crowded my closet appears—how much lighter and less burdensome my summer clothes look all laid out and feel when they’re on my body. There’s an effortlessness of tossing on a cotton sundress and flip-flops and being ready for the day. There’s a comfort that army shorts and a black tank always look and feel great. If it were warmer in Ohio, I’d dress like this all the time.
I’ve also given up my morning cup of steaming coffee. Don’t’ worry, it’s not what you think. But in the summer I drink iced coffee with mocha, a little milk, and preferably a green straw. Straws are fun, like a giant sippy cup. And my morning caffeine fix tastes almost like a milkshake for me to savor each morning.
I’ve also traded eating in the kitchen to dining al fresco. Even what I eat transitions in the summer from soups and pastas to salads and grilled shrimp. I am more relaxed on my screened in porch. Woodpeckers lightly tap our trees, searching for their dinner. The warmth of summer seeps into my skin. Last night we got a typical summer evening thunderstorm. The cadence of raindrops on the porch roof lulled my soul. And with a table laden with tomatoes and corn on the cob, alongside wedges of watermelon all from the farmer’s market down the road, my taste buds wake up from their winter slumber.
As I look around my house, my life, and make modifications for summer, I wonder what else I need to trade out. What’s weighing me down? What’s slowing me, crowding me, stifling me? What do I need to say “no” to or get going on? Is there anything I need to change, maybe just for a season? Do I need to wake up earlier or sleep in more often? Is there something in my work out routine that could use a boost – a new playlist? A different trail to run? How about in my family life? Is there someone I need to spend more time with? More quality time?
And in my faith walk? Where does God want me to go this summer? How does He want me to allocate my time, set my priorities? What does He want me to learn? I’ll need to spend some time chatting with Him about that, and then I’ll get back to you.
In the meantime, what changes do you make when the temperatures rise?
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?
I don't know everything
and I don't have all the answers.
But God knows just what I need,
and He keeps on showing me.
“Don’t Have Love” by Holly Starr
Holly Starr is an up and coming star in the Christian music industry with a God-given voice, soulful songs and a passion for music and Christ that are contagious. To hear her sing is a chance to focus on the Lord’s love. To watch her perform is an opportunity to escape the busyness of daily life and take time to focus on Christ. While on her current tour, I had the blessing to meet and interview Holly.
Laura: You write most of your own songs, what inspires you?
Holly: God is always the reason I write and the purpose I do what I’m doing. But my focus changes all the time. My first CD was based on my relationships. My second CD was more about my relationship with God. My new CD, Focus, has been about my desire to focus on Christ in the midst of every day life. How do I balance family, friendship, ministry, studying and praying and still find focus in Christ?
Laura: So have you found a way to find focus?
Holly: Life on the road is crazy. But, I need to trust God and beat down negative thoughts with the truth, remembering God created me. And since He created me, He knows everything about me. Focusing on that allows me to rest, knowing He’s in control.
Laura: What part of the process is your favorite; the writing, rehearsing, recording, performing?
Holly: As far as the music goes, my favorite part is when the initial idea for a song comes. That moment of, “Oh my gosh I think I’ve found something! I can’t wait to see what it turns into!” But even more than music, I love telling people about Jesus. I’m fulfilled because my concerts are my vehicle to direct people towards God. I love the fact that I get to write these songs, so when I’m on stage, I worship Him to show others how awesome He is.
Laura: Thanks for the tour of your RV. Describe life on the tour bus?
Holly: Smelly at times (laughing). Although challenging, living on the bus with the rest of the band is the best part of my life right now. It’s very small and simple. You can’t take a lot with you. There isn’t room for it. You can’t buy a lot. It makes us live on just enough all the time. The small space is hard sometimes, but it helps the band communicate and work through issues – it’s hard and rewarding. Everything comes from His hand.
Laura: What keeps you energized and sane on the road?
Holly: I need to recognize that I need down time, alone time, and that’s okay. I need personal space to regroup and stay in The Word – to focus. That keeps me sane.
Laura: Your new CD releases October 2. Explain how it came about.
Holly: As soon as Tapestry released in October 2010, I started writing for this new CD. My heart is to write whatever’s going on in my life, then look over the songs and find a theme. All of the forty or so songs I wrote in this time period were about me needing to stop and Focus, the theme rises out of the songs. We picked the ten that worked best together to record.
Laura: What’s your favorite song you’ve ever recorded?
Holly: There are two. Psalm 23 – Obviously I didn’t have anything to do with the lyrics, but my senior year of high school, God was showing me how real the book of God is - that He is literally in those words, that reading the Bible is spending time with The Creator of the Universe. So I knew I wanted to write a song to just scripture, and I opened the Bible to Psalm 23. I started recording different melodies on the computer. Days later, the Hallelujah chorus just popped in my head. God just gave me this song.
You can download Holly's song, “Psalm 23” FREE here: https://www.facebook.com/hollystarrmusiconline/app_190322544333196
I Love You Anyway is the third song I ever wrote. It’s not correctly written according to song writing guidelines. I was just a fourteen year-old farmer’s daughter when I wrote it, but that song has had more ministry than any song I’ve ever written.
Laura: What’s on your iPod?
Holly: I love Shawn McDonald. He’s super real. I love it when people are transparent. I also love Bethany Dillon, Matt Hammitt (lead singer of Sanctus Real), One Republic, Brooke Fraser (part of Hillsong), Jon Foreman (lead singer of Switchfoot), and Chris Tomlin inspires me.
Laura: Do you have any advice for a young musician?
Holly: Serve the best you can and invest yourself where you are. Take the opportunities you have, don’t wish for more. God will open the doors to what He wants you to do. You don’t have to worry about it. He’ll open them. Stay focused on Him.
MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU
Is there anyone in your life who makes you angry? You don’t want them to. You wish they wouldn’t. But either because of something they’ve done to you or someone you care about, they make you cringe or cry or both.
The answer for me is yes. There is someone in my life who loved me and betrayed me. Someone who cared for me and emotionally battered me. There is someone who has scarred one of the people I love most in this world, and in turn hurt me. I struggle with this. I pray about this, but I continue to tussle with this relationship. Jesus teaches us to love one another. So I try to continue to love despite the hurt and the fear of being hurt again. Jesus says to forgive someone seven times seventy times. So I try to forgive, but the memories still haunt me and the scars still ache.
While reading Everything by Mary De Muth I came across a passage that challenged me. It made me stop reading and get up and doodle around on Facebook. Not because her words made me think of a friend I needed to touch base with, but because I wasn’t ready to face what these words meant to me.
“In that painful space, we have a choice: punish those who hurt us through control, or lay our hurt at the feet of the One who understands. Our task shouldn’t be punishing the villains in our lives, but enlarging the God who heals us from all wounds.” Mary De Muth
Most of us are familiar with the Star Wars story. In the final episode Luke Skywalker faces his father, Darth Vader. Darth used to be a powerful Jedi fighting for good in the galaxy. Greed for power turned him into an evil leader using “the force” for wickedness. Luke has reason to be angry. Vader’s boss, Emperor Palpatine, urges Luke while watching this confrontation in Return of the Jedi, “Give in to your anger. With each passing moment you make yourself more my servant.”
Sounds like someone else I know. Someone nagging in my head, urging me to cave to anger to make bad choices, hoping I’ll turn away from Christ, the force, which brings me life and love. I find solace and strength in Luke Skywalker’s response.
“Never. I'll never turn to the Dark Side. You've failed, your highness. I am a Jedi.” Luke lowers his blade and chooses love.
Do I have the strength to say it?
“Never. I’ll never turn to the dark side. Satan – you’ve failed. I am a Christian.”
Wow. That feels good. Just typing it here with you today. If you’re feeling gutsy say it out loud.
In Holly Starr’s song, I Love You Anyway, she sings, “There will be times I remember the things that you’ve done to me. But I will choose love and forgive you for everything.”
Words to live by. Choose love.
May God’s force be with you.
JESUS TO GO
You have it all taken care of, right?
You have a date with the Big Man scheduled in your Blackberry on recurring for every day. You have a regular prayer time, a routine for reading the Word, a group you meet with either on Sundays or during the week to talk about your relationship with Jesus.
It’s like clockwork. Until you go on summer vacation. And we all know vacation is a temporary thing, but time away from the Lord is bad any way you slice it. And sometimes, on vacation is when you need Him the most.
So, how do you keep up with your relationship with God when you’re on the road, at camp, at a relative’s house or as distant from real life as a foreign country? When everything about your normal schedule is out of whack, how do you stay in sync with Jesus?
In today’s electronic age it’s easier than ever before. You have a Smartphone. You have a laptop or access to a computer at your aunt’s house or hotel lobby. You have a sense of adventure. You’re all set.
Bible reading is a piece of cake online with www.biblegateway.com. You can look up any chapter or verse in almost any translation. Don’t have access to a computer? There’s an App for that – YouVersion – The Bible App – touts more translations than you’ll ever be able to read, bookmarks your spot for you, and has a search engine to help you find any chapter or verse on demand.
Churches are everywhere. So, it’s not your home church. So, it’s a little different. It’s still a group of Christians gathering together to proclaim God’s word, sing His praises and pray to Him. Find one with beautiful stained glass or an interesting history. Focus on the cross and the music and the readings for this week. If you’re out of the country, a church service in another language can still be amazingly spiritual and uplifting. The architecture and history of ancient European churches create a sense of awe, and help you realize how important God has been to generations upon generations.
Now, that you have the actual Word at your fingertips and at least a Sunday service to attend, how do you supplement it with discussion, advice, inspiration? There are so many cool opportunities on the web! Encounter Magazine has The Scene that takes a current event and tackles its relationship to scripture each week. You can download it at http://encounterface2face.com/category/the-scene/ and work through it personally. There are hundreds of churches that have podcasts of their sermons and inspirational speakers have podcasts for more online immersion in Jesus. Find one that meets your needs – male, female, sister, brother, athlete, musician, artist, dancer, bookworm, outgoing, shy, highschooler, homeschooler on-your-way-to-collegegoer -- there’s a website, a blog, a speaker on the internet who speaks directly to your heart via Jesus. Find them on your favorite search engine, plug in and make it part of your day.
You don’t have to stop with scripture and sermons. Download your favorite Christian tunes onto your iPod and an inspirational read onto your Kindle app, iBooks or e-reader for further immersion.
Just like at home where you had a set time of day, you need to commit to a daily date with God on the road. Do you wake up before the rest of the family or stay up past the rest of your crew – this alone time is perfect for you to hang out with Jesus. If your travels give you a little down time every day after lunch, make it then. Do you schedule a daily run? How about right before or after that workout?
But remember wherever you are, your Creator is there within your heart. He’s ready to chat, listen, comfort, encourage or just hang out whether you’re at home or on the road. Jesus wants to be your best friend wherever you go. So, even when you’re in new surroundings, you can still surround yourself with the Lord.
Where are you traveling this summer?
How do you like to incorporate your spirituality with your travels?
YOUR PLACE OR MINE?
When I walk out here, the first thing I hear is silence. In the midst of my crazy-wazy life filled with the ting of a text, the zing of a message, the chimes of a call, the voices of my family, the din of the TV, the to-do’s calling to me in my head, I walk out here and there is the absence of all that noise.
I can close the door from the house to the porch, so no on even knows I’m here. Nobody follows, and for a moment I am alone – alone with my thoughts, my heart, and my Creator.
And He has such incredible surprises for me. After a moment or two of me trying to regain a normal breathing pattern, one that isn’t stressed, or hurried or worried, I realize it isn’t silent out here at all.
I hear the rustle of a squirrel scampering through the woods. An unseen bird calls shrilly to a friend. The friend whistles back. A woodpecker rat-a-tats the bark of a tree.
The earthy smell of soil mixed with the sharp tart scent of leaves heated by sunlight fills the air. The warmth of natural sunlight soothes my skin after the mechanical blast of air conditioner running through my house, my car, the mall.
Here – away from the artificial noise and manufactured smells and machine powered air – there is peace. Reds and pinks and yellows and oranges shade the sky with spectacular sunsets. Light filters in dusty streams through branches. Greens so bright, they almost appear lit from within stagger along my line of sight.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m extremely attached to my iPhone and my Mac. I’m thankful for AC on a 93 degree steamy summer day. I love my car, my house, my family and the mall. But sometimes it’s all too much. Sometimes I need a retreat. And here it is, steps away from my life.
Here, I can contemplate what God’s calling me to do today – who He needs me to forgive, what He wants me to let go of, how He wants me to trust Him, how I can be an example of His love. Here, there appears to be a path right through the woods that leads to Him.
I cannot stay out on my porch forever. I need to live my life and do that forgiving, letting go, trusting and loving God calls me to do. Not to mention those to-do’s that still need to be to-done. But, I can find a moment to come out here and get refocused, refueled and refreshed.
Do you have a special place to find a moment of peace and clarity? Where is it?
Last summer, while checking into our hotel in Dresden, Germany I had the treat of meeting soccer legend, Brandi Chastain. She had her hair pulled into a ponytail was wearing a gray t-shirt, navy blue athletic shorts and cleats. She was kicking a pink Nike soccer ball in the hotel lobby. Yes, in the lobby. She is the woman known for kicking the winning penalty kick to win the U.S. Women’s National team the World Cup in 1999. She was in Dresden to be one of the lead ESPN announcers for the World Cup, speaking to tens of thousands of television viewers for two weeks straight.
When I asked Brandi what advice she had for young people who wanted to be soccer stars, she said,
“Do it everyday. Kick it, pass it, dribble it, every day. When I was young, I kicked the ball against the side of the house for an hour every day. I got to know the ball so well, and how it would bounce off the house and where it would go if I tapped it a certain way and how to kick it back if it came to me a certain way, that when I was on the field, when I was in a game, I never had to think. I knew exactly what to do.”
The same is true for whatever it is you want to achieve in life.
For writers, like me, it means writing something every day. Stephen King says it in his book, On Writing. Anne LaMott says it in Bird by Bird. Do it everyday. That doesn’t have to be writing five chapters of my next novel. It could be a blog or a character sketch or a review of someone else’s work. But each day, I need to be conscious of word choice, descriptions, rhythms and flows of words.
You want to learn how to cook? Chef up a meal every day. It could be scrambled eggs or a grilled cheese sandwich, but if you do it everyday, you’ll figure out too much salt makes your eggs taste like potato chips and how long to let your grilled cheese sizzle to get the cheese to melt to a perfect gooey consistency.
If you want to get closer to God, read a chapter of the Bible every day and contemplate it. I promise you’ll get closer to Him.
No matter what instrument you play, your instructor will ask you to practice every day. Play your scales. Work on the hardest part of your piece. Soon your ears will know the difference between a C sharp and a B flat. Your fingers will know how to move along the keys of a piano or the frets of a guitar.
If your goal is to become a teacher, explain something to someone every day. It could be how to take care of a tortoise or how to French braid hair or plant pansies, or anything, but the more you practice explaining things to people, the better you’ll be at it. I promise.
So, get going. Today, tomorrow and the day after that – do your thing. As Dr. Seuss said, “You’re off to great places, today is your day.” Today can be your day. You just need to get started.
What can you do on a daily basis to help you achieve your dream?
Laura L. Smith