Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Grumbles and Gratefuls

photo source
Upon releasing Regardless, I reached a dream, a lifelong goal.  And though I didn't expect to rush to the top of the bestseller's lists or get interview requests from major networks, I did somehow have some preconceived notions.  And when life went on as usual, I got a case of the grumbles.

But is that the attitude of someone resting in Christ?  It shouldn't be.  So here's an honest list of my grumbles of late and the matching "gratefuls," the turning of those grumbles into praise and thanksgiving.

1. Emergency root canal.  It ate my time, it ate my money, it ate my tooth.
2. Pookie is growing...an attitude.  She can be cranky, whiny, and selfish in completely new ways.
3. I've been behind on word count for NaNo this year and fear my story won't even be long enough to cross the 50,000 word finish line.
4. My house is always messy.  Always.  Messy.  After I clean, I'm afraid to blink because the Mess Fairies will move in the nanosecond my eyes are shut.

Phew.  That's enough grumbling.  How about some thanking?

1. I found a new dentist's office and love it: Christian music the moment I walked in, friendly people, fancy goody bag as I left, affordable pricing.  And my tooth feels waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay better.
2. Pookie is becoming more of herself; we are seeing more of her own personality.  I need to lean more on the Lord for guidance in training and bringing her up--which I didn't notice as much when she just cooed and ate and filled her diaper.
3. I caught up on my word count!  I genuinely like the direction my story is taking!  I have major editing in my future, but unlike last year, I can already see how to fix the major holes and how much stronger the narrative will be for it.  Plus, my characters are developing, so it's fun getting to meet them.
4.  I have dishes to watch because tummies are full.  I have laundry to wash because we are clothed.  I have rooms to tidy and floors to scrub/vacuum and tchotchkes to dust because God has given to us so abundantly.

Pookie says "ah-muh" (amen) at the end of prayers, meals, stories, and so on.  As I take time to be thankful for what I have, instead of the things that gnaw at my soul and make me grumble, I want to say it with her.

"Ah-muh" to you and yours.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hating the Word "Religious"

Some words just clang against my ears, like a singer way off pitch or feedback from a microphone.

Being called "religious" is one of those words.

courtesy of dictionary.reference.com

I used to be religious.  I used to be concerned with "exhibiting religion," showing others that I followed the rules and regulations and traditions of my church.

And then I met Jesus.  And Jesus wasn't religious.

Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" Matthew 9:14

Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat." Matthew 15:1-2

But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, "Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath." Matthew 12:2

 The religious Pharisees didn't like what Jesus was doing and He didn't bend to their will.

For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. John 6:38

Jesus did not come to pursue religion; He came to pursue the will of the Father, to do what the Father asked of Him.

So what does the father ask of us?

And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." Luke 10:27

Don't get lost in pursuing "religion"; pursue God, pursue loving your neighbors--that is, everyone you meet: your spouse, your kids, your family, your friends, the cashier at the grocery store, even your literal neighbors.

Love them because you are loved beyond measure, not to check something off a religious to-do list.

What about you?  Does the term "religious" bother you?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Scared like Moses

The morning I posted Regardless to Nook and Kindle, I was so anxious I took Pookie out thrift store shopping to take my mind off my impending publication.  A vintage tea cup and a diaper change later, it was naptime and I found myself glued to the computer for updates.

My book had gone live on Kindle.  As in, people could buy it.  But would anybody?  Would it sit, unwanted and rejected, making me look foolish?  Worse, would people buy it and hate it, demand their money back (possible) and their time (impossible)?

Steady breath.  Step back.

Remember all those prayers on bended knee?  Husband at side, praying "God's will be done"?  Who is this about, anyway?

Not me.

I think of Moses.  Moses was scared, maybe even heart-palpitating, close-to-vomiting scared like me.

Then Moses answered, "But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, 'The LORD did not appear to you.'" Exodus 4:1

Then God turned Moses' staff into a serpent.  He promised to be with Moses the whole way.  And Moses had just watched a bush burn without crumbling.  Wasn't that enough proof that God was with him?

But Moses said to the LORD, "Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue." Exodus 4:10

Moses has another excuse: I'm not good enough.  I can't do it.

Moses is missing here the word I miss when I rely on myself: I can't do it alone.  I want to, I want to rely on me, myself, and I, but I can't.

And I shouldn't.

None of us can do whatever it is we were called to do alone.  We must rely on God daily for grace and strength and growth and death of self.  Because only when we die to ourselves--our fears, our desires, our sins--can we see and do what the Lord has for us.

We know the rest of Moses' story, that he accomplished what God called him to...but he didn't do it alone.

What have you been trying to do alone?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Keeping Christ in Your Creativity

I recently heard an author speak about how easy it is to go through her day on her own, that she can write this chapter, edit that one, get dinner made, prepare for that speaking engagement--without really relying on God.

Don't we all?  Then I go one step further: I think that I'm doing a great job and that God doesn't really need to rule over X, Y, or Z.

And then He pitches me upside down, shakes the crazy out, and waits patiently for me to rest in Him in order to right my world again.

You would think after walking with Christ for going on six years, I would have learned a thing or two, but that's the thing about sanctification; there's always more to be done.

So how do I keep Christ in my creative pursuits when part of me says "I can do it alone"?  I do a few things:

1.  I pray.  When I sit down to write, I have to remind myself to turn to God first, to share with Him what I plan to write about or do, to ask Him to direct me where He has planned, and for the wisdom and humility to put my own plans aside.

2.  I sing.  This is a very new habit.  I've developed this nasty other habit of using TV to "transition" from mommying time to writing time but realize now that it's not beneficial.  Today I chose hymns instead...definitely a better use of my time.

3.  I pray.  Yeah, I already said it, but it bears repeating.

4.  I hold my desires loosely.  The Bible does not say that ambitions, dreams, or goals are bad...but there are plenty of places where we are warned that desires contrary to God's will or work can lead to sin.  So I keep the things I hope for in my head and heart, sharing them with God, knowing that some might be part of His plan and others will not.

5.  I pray.  Are you seeing a pattern here?

6.  I read the Good News.  This reminds me that I can do nothing of lasting value apart from Christ and His work to save my soul.  So why would I then choose to toil at writing this or that when it will only turn to chaff in the end?  That is both humbling and inspiring.

So, how do you keep your work Christ-focused?
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