Essay

What Plans?

1The past couple weeks or have been pretty chaotic. I’ve been busy at church, we went on an almost vacation over the holiday weekend to the lake, and I’ve had several assignments due at the same time. It all adds up to me not making time to write a little along the way like I should. But, this is a learning process, and hopefully no one is offended. Hopefully.

So, something that has been on my heart recently is career decisions/plans! (Ooh! Scary) I’m about to be a senior in college and I keep getting all these questions about what I want to do once I graduate. There is absolutely nothing wrong with people asking me, if I were them I’d ask me too; but, I think those same questions that are innocent and reasonable to someone who isn’t in college are sometimes the ones that strike fear into the heart of college students.

When confronted with those questions you need to have an answer because college is expensive, you’re putting forth a lot of effort to do well in your classes, and you should have a plan. Still, these questions can be nerve-wracking. What if someone thinks your plans are dumb? What if your plans are underdeveloped and too idealistic? What if you don’t really know and don’t have a plan in a conventional sense? *cue hair pulling and maybe some weeping and gnashing of teeth*

There is a lot of importance placed on choosing the right career, knowing that you’re going to bring in the money, having benefits, working somewhere where you have opportunities for promotion and a pay raise, all that jazz. You’ve really gotta nail this part down and then have some idea when you’re going to get engaged, plan the wedding, honeymoon, how long it’s going to be before you have those 2.5 children, how you’ll pay for their college and, by the way, how you’ve been saving up for your retirement (if you actually can retire) and obviously you’ve already got life insurance so your funeral doesn’t put those 2.5 kids and any resulting grandchildren into debt. That’s all by the time you’re in your early-twenties or so.

(Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration of the truth)

Even though these are important things, and often older adults and parents bring this up because they know it’s important to plan ahead, sometimes it can get a little overwhelming. Why are we so worried with planning out every detail of our life so quickly? No wonder so many people seem to be talking about having anxiety or depression these days. Typing all of that out makes my head spin. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big advocate for planning. I’m not really about the whole ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ life—I need at least a general outline of what’s going to happen. (A detailed bulleted itinerary for each day would be even better) Everything seems to be pressuring us—at any stage in life—to be superhuman and have everything secured firmly in place, which doesn’t leave much room to actually live life and make human mistakes.

Still, there’s another question that can cause even more worry when we’re in this mindset: what is God calling me to do?

I’m going to level with you and say that I have *some* idea—a very broad general idea—of what I want to do for my career, but when I think about that last question it really makes me worry that I don’t have it together.

How do we know what God is calling us to? And if we don’t get it right can we still pass “go,” collect our $200 and start back around the board? If we miss out on our ‘calling,’ because we’re human and prone to missing things or messing up, have we completely missed our purpose?

I think this is one area where it becomes a little clearer to me that there is a spiritual battle taking place around me. All of these worries make me feel so stuck, so inadequate, that it’s difficult to move. But, what does the enemy want? “To steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). And does instilling doubt about our future and what we should ‘really be doing’ for our career seem like a good strategy to steal our joy, kill our hopes, and destroy the opportunity for us to grow spiritually? Oh, yeah. When we have these doubts, and don’t deal with them properly, they strangle us.

When I am focused on ‘what I should know/have planned’ I get so bogged down with insecurity. It sucks the joy out of me. This comes when I have the “second thing first” like my pastor discussed on Sunday. Obviously, if we put the cart before the horse we can’t get very far, but the point he made during service was also that it can make us lose both the first and second things when we, say, put finding our career before our relationship with God (this was based on a quote by C.S. Lewis).

I really feel like this age group, from youth in middle school to people in college, is a group that the Devil targets a lot. When you look at how much that age group influences the world it seems like a strategic move to fill them with doubts about their own identity and purpose as they’re growing up and making critical decisions that impact the rest of their life. I know I hear a lot of comments about “well, when ‘real life’ hits you…’’ but that is so deceptive. These are often comments that are meant to be helpful, but this phrase can cause us to think that we have more time than we do, in a sense. ‘Real life’ is your entire life and everything we do matters. Yes, it’s different when you’re more dependent on adult help than later in life when you are an adult yourself, but we need to stop thinking that life ‘begins’ after school, after a certain age, when you get married, or after you get a good job.

We frequently see God going after young people in the Bible, and I don’t think I’ve read where He tells them “well, after you get this job…” or “once you’re this age…that’s when your ‘real life’ begins. You can hit me up then and we’ll chat about what I want you to do. Until then, enjoy hanging out!”  No! Every aspect of our life has purpose and intention in God’s eyes. With Joseph, we see God using the abuse he took from his brothers, the way he was a slave, when he was thrown in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, etc. Every detail of his life was used for God’s glory and ultimately to save the Israelites from starving during the time of famine (Joseph’s story is in Genesis 37-50). What I mean is, when it comes to our purpose on this earth, as Christians, it is not tied to a career. Our purpose is something that is held in God’s hands and it’s not just one single thing. I’m sure Joseph thought his career was just going to involve herding sheep and managing his household and that was it. He sure had a shocking change of plans.

Even though it’s easy to get caught up in worries about what we should do for our career on this earth, that’s not going to change our ultimate purpose—like He tells Jeremiah, something God knew before we were ever born (Jeremiah 1:5).

What I believe is really important throughout our lives, and especially needs to be instilled in us from a young age regardless of religious beliefs, is that we need to be faithful in the little things. In addition to Joseph’s story, the Bible presents the parable of the “bags of gold” (it might be different depending on which version you’re reading) and describes that those who most pleased their master were the ones who were considerate in the way they dealt with investments of the “few things,” or in the ‘little’ things (Matthew 25:21). In the end, the master tells them because they were obedient with the ‘little’ things, he was going to put them in charge of “many” things (Matthew 25:21).

I think, when it comes to our careers, we can apply the same principle. This starts with the right focus: putting the first thing first and starting from a relationship with God. This should always be number one. That doesn’t mean we won’t mess up, but it does mean that we keep pressing on in always trying to make it our first focus (Philippians 3:12-4). When we do start with the right focus, everything else starts to fall into place.

For example: when we start with our relationship with God, when we’re disciplined in the ‘little things’ like consistently reading God’s word and spending time in prayer, it becomes easier to understand God’s will for our lives (…which can sometimes include career plans). I’m not going to claim that if we always read our bible and pray God is going to mark out our designated career with a big X, because I don’t think that’s so. What I am trying to say is that, through a relationship with God, it becomes easier to discern where God is working, and how we can best serve Him (Ephesians 5:8-17). Maybe the options for a career are still wide open, but our perspective changes from one of worry to one of trust, and maybe just that change in attitude can make it easier to see where our talents/gifts/abilities and our passions intersect so that we can seek out a place to work for God’s glory.

Sometimes we place so much importance on choosing the right career that we begin to think that there is only one job for us, and, if we miss it, we won’t be any good to anyone. Well, not only is this not true, the fact of the matter is that regardless of where you are career-wise God can use you. Be faithful in the little things and keep the first things first and the bigger and second things start to be added in as we continue on (Matthew 6:33-4).

Does this mean that we should not place any sense of urgency on searching for that place that God is calling us to? No. When you’re at a point in your life where you need to be concerned with choosing a career this should be something we prioritize to some extent. Big decisions like your career are something to take seriously and consider with prayer, fasting, and godly council from others, but, it starts with your relationship with God and not from a place of panic.

So, if you’re like me and at a point that you don’t have all your i’s dotted and t’s crossed on your career plans, remember to be faithful in the little things and that God has not forgotten the plans (notice the ‘s’ in plans!) He has for you.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” Philippians 1:6

—Liz

Poetry

Encounter with Death in a Hallway

(This poem is in honor of my friend’s grandmother who has a knack for walking silently and scaring her granddaughter because of it)


 

Grandmother. She walks like death.

She could slip past the

Reaper and he wouldn’t hear.

The reticence of her steps

lets her

sneak around,

traveling the opposite direction,

without me noticing

as I drift towards the kitchen.

Ten out of twelve steps

to the kitchen,

down the hallway’s

(perfectly dusted)

hardwood floors—

on autopilot—I shift

to turn right through

the kitchen doorway.

Blindsided by Grandmother.

Almost colliding with her,

the sudden flash of her

pink blouse and

white hair is

abrupt and

startling,

scaring me to my bones.

I jump

out of my skin!

Screaming

then laughter splits our silence.

“Always watch the corners,”

she giggles her old saying to me

with a placating hug

as usual.

I have never fully grasped her

art for stealth;

only hoped for a future when

I can surprise

my own grandchildren

with the same mastery.

Chuckling, she pads away,

her house shoes

as quiet as death.

Essay

Count It Pure Joy

2Has anyone else had a bad experience with losing a friend? (I mean “losing” as in a non-death related loss) I feel like most people go through this several times in their life, but if there is someone out there who hasn’t, I think everyone else can agree that it isn’t fun.

Sometimes this isn’t even a ‘conscious’ thing, so to speak. Often what can happen is that your schedule and your friend’s simply doesn’t intersect anymore and you gradually drift apart. That doesn’t mean that you don’t still love that person or you have harsh feelings toward them, you just kinda lost them in the mix.

Other times, this can be the equivalent of a bad breakup. I can still remember some middle-school friendships that fell apart. I felt totally lost and broken-hearted. Now I look back and I feel like those “friendship breakups” were a blessing in disguise for various reasons.

There is still another way this sort of thing can happen, and sometimes it hurts worse than the other two situations. Sometimes God calls your friend/mentor/someone you are close to to somewhere/something that is not in your plans. Sometimes God impresses upon the heart of your loved one to move to another county, another country, another solar system it feels like. What can be frustrating is the way you seem to have been blindsided by “God’s Will.” I don’t put that in quotation to seem like I’m trying to second guess that those decisions are following God’s will, but that’s the phrase we always hear when these things happen.

As a Christian, at the same time that you want this person to follow God’s calling, His will, you can feel upset that God didn’t let you in on the memo, He didn’t call you to the same place, and it seems like He’s going to be leaving you in a difficult situation without them. I think all these feelings are valid stages of dealing with that loss, but they are hurtful when we don’t rest on what God promises, and on who God is.

First of all, let’s talk about ‘fairness.’ Sometimes I think I get the wrong idea about God because I have the idea that God only allows good things for His children. But I don’t think that’s entirely true. Let me explain why I think this.

The Bible says that “every good and perfect gift comes from above” which is something everyone is totally okay with (James 1:17). God gives the best gifts. Forget Santa, it’s God. Santa may ‘see us when we’re sleeping…” etc., but God looks into the hearts of man, and He knows exactly what we need, when we need it, and where (Romans 8:27). God is the only provider we really need—‘sorry not sorry’ to all the cellphone, tv, and internet providers. He also says that He “ works all things to the good of them that love Him,” which is another verse everyone likes (Romans 8:28). Perks of having an omnipotent Heavenly Father who orchestrates the events of the entire universe, am I right?

But, none of this means that our life will be ‘all honey and no bees.’ As a slight digression, my parent’s actually keep bees and I can tell you those girls are frustrating at times. If there was a way to have just honey I think they’d appreciate a little less work, but it might seem a little too easy. When it comes to our life, I think we can almost lose our focus and forget that God had Jesus go through a really difficult life here on earth–quite a lot of metaphorical bees to get to the metaphorical honey.

Even if His life hadn’t been marked by a lot of persecution, just think about how frustrating it would be to know that you have the only thing that can prevent people you love from eternal punishment but you knew no matter what you did they wouldn’t believe you. Nevertheless, His life and the horrific death He endured worked to bring about salvation for everyone who believes in Christ and follows Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

If God allowed His own son to go through horrible things to bring about the reconciliation between God and man, it seems silly that we should think we shouldn’t go through trials in this life to bring about His purpose (John 15:20; 16:33). Even if only one person is reached from me go through a very difficult trial in my life, it’s worth it.

God says He is not willing that anyone should perish, He desires a relationship with everyone—He has created every person on this earth—but, He gives us the ability to choose for ourselves (Matthew 18:12-4; Psalm 139:13-8). We have to decide for ourselves what we will love. (This is why it is so important to continue to share the truth, because people need to hear it in order to make an informed decision about being saved!)

In those trials or difficult periods, we are imitating Christ. Obviously we won’t be perfect, but if we continue to press on and seek God’s will, we’re imitating the life Christ lived. Paul talks about his life in his letters, and expresses that his own gains are “garbage” compared to knowing Christ (Philippians 3:7-9). He even says that to die for Christ would be a gain (Philippians 1:21). This totally flips worldly logic on its head. While the world says take all you can get out of this life for yourself; Paul is saying give up your attachment to this world, die to that desire to look out for ‘me, me, me,’ and live for Christ because that’s the only thing that matters. I think he’s got the same passion God has for people. It’s a sacrificial love that endures trials and persecution. While God sent His son, and His son gave His life, Paul wants to reach them at the expense of the ‘good life’ he could live for himself. In doing that he’s serving God and imitating Christ.

Another thing I think about when considering this kind of loss is that sometimes God wants us alone.

I don’t know when the term ‘self-care’ started to become popular, but it seems like it’s everywhere now. Self-care has a lot of connotations, but I think ultimately the goal is just what it says: to take care of yourself.

In the present culture, there seems to be a major contrast with self-care. On one side there are people who work too hard and don’t take care of themselves, while on the opposite side there’s too much ‘self-care’ (which sometimes actually turns out to be laziness masquerading as good mental health/general well-being practices) and not any good stresses that push people to work. (I don’t say this to pick a fight with people who have legitimate mental health concerns or struggles with self-care).

I think the same contrast applies to our spiritual health, but it’s a little different. Sometimes we seem to push aside spiritual matters for the sake of ‘work.’ “I’ll have my quiet time when I get done with ___,” “I pray the whole time I’m driving to work so I’m good for the day,” or “If I can just get through___, then I think it’ll be easier to____.” There are a lot of excuses. Most of the time I don’t think we intentionally try to ‘push God out.’ We just get absorbed in ‘work,’ in the ‘here and now.’ We start to lose our focus.

Or, other times, we get lax in the discipline of spending time with God. In any relationship there is an element of discipline. After a certain point, when the newness wears off and we aren’t so captivated by our significant other, it becomes more of a matter of commitment. You are disciplined in practicing things that you started out doing because you loved it. That sounds really awful in some ways.

“Honey, I’m going to keep asking you about your day because I love you despite the fact that I’m kind of over talking to you now. You’ve lost the exciting newness you once had.”

(Someone write a romance novel about that!)

But, what I mean is, it takes a commitment to make any relationship work, even friendships and with your work. You aren’t always going to be excited about what it takes to maintain a good relationship or work ethic.

I know that I’m guilty of this, but there’s a lot more focus on doing ‘what feels right’ or ‘what you’re passionate about’ instead of being disciplined. Why? Discipline is not fun. It’s boring. It’s being consistent and purposeful, and seriously where’s the fun in that? In our spiritual life, we aren’t going to be ‘on fire’ every single day. Some days we’re going to want to sleep in those extra few minutes we meant to get up and spend some time in God’s word. Some days we’re going to want to watch tv instead or go out to dinner. Those things begin to look like the laziness I mentioned earlier.

In either case, sometimes God allows those times of trials, difficulties and/or loneliness to happen in order to wake us up. It’s not exactly a nice wakeup call.

In my own life, I feel like I get to a point where I put too much focus on other people. I start trying to get their approval and tie my worth to who they think I am instead of trying to gain God’s approval and viewing myself through his eyes. When those relationships ultimately crumble, it hurts, but God always uses that loneliness to speak to my heart.

I think Hosea perfectly captures this dynamic in our relationship with God. If you haven’t read it, basically God tells Hosea to “marry a promiscuous woman” (Hosea 1:2). Gomer is extremely unfaithful, but Hosea still loves her and he takes her back (just to clarify, we’re Gomer, the unfaithful woman, in that analogy). But, there’s a part of this book that always really stands out to me: when God talks about her being abandoned by her lovers and she is drawn out alone in the wilderness (Hosea 2:7; 2:14-23). God uses that time to reach her and remind her that the lovers she’s spending all her time on are not really loving her. He shows his own faithful love toward her in forgiving her and taking her back. He displays the real love she craves and needs.

In our own lives, sometimes we love the things of this world and get carried away from God. Sometimes it can even be things related to church. When we start getting more devoted to, say, the songs we sing in church than we do to Who we’re worshipping, it starts to become like those ‘lovers.’

So, God will draw us out and isolate us in the wilderness to ‘speak to us tenderly.’ He offers us a different kind of ‘self-care’ by pointing us to Himself and His word (see! I didn’t leave you hanging with that comparison!). Maybe my views are not popular, but I honestly believe we are not going to find a ‘stable’ identity outside of God. Without God’s love and grace I would find it very hard to love and forgive myself, and I know I would have almost no hope when it comes to the need to seek other’s approval. God allows those hard times, sometimes, so that we confront those issues. Often in those circumstance, we can’t do anything else. We may have literally no one else to turn to.

Jesus went into the wilderness Himself where He endured temptation and fasted for 40 days (Luke 4:1-13), and He seems to have frequently isolated Himself to spend time with God (Mark 14:32 for example). Sometimes we need to feel that loneliness. As much as it hurts, it’s never without purpose and God can always use it to your good and His glory. After Jesus was tempted alone in the wilderness, the Bible says He “returned to Galilee in the power of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:14). When we are at our weakest, that’s when God reveals Himself to be strong (2 Corinthians 12:9). And, sometimes those times of loneliness are when we are reassured of His love for us–we get revived.

I’ll close by quoting James:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  James 1:2-3

God has a purpose for whatever loss you may be going through. Let it pull you closer to Him and His promises. Don’t forget that He promises to be with you always (Matthew 28:20).

—Liz

 

 

Poetry

Vital Signs

You are composed of

a series of beeps and wavy lines

on a screen.

 

You have grown accustomed to

the fact that even when you’re stationary

you’re like a rippling pond.

 

Every time someone walks through

your borrowed door, the little

pulsations speed up slightly.

 

And, when you sigh, or when you’re snoring,

every line gets incrementally slower

as the numbers count down.

 

A big breath in for the lukewarm

stethoscope pressing to your chest

materializes as a cresting swell.

 

You play games

just to pass the time:

how can you manipulate these figures?

 

But, you say, it’s most comforting

to see the middle-ness.

You don’t get too high or too low.

 

A nurse explained the sum of you:

respiration, heart rate, and

at least two other terms

 

you can’t remember.

Isn’t it funny how simple you are

and how fragile—

 

how everyone here doesn’t see

you except

as some beeps and wavy lines?

 

Essay

Not Your Battle

7.JPG   Maybe it’s just a Monday thing, but somedays it seems like I have a huge amount of ground to cover in not a lot of time. Even if it’s not that much to do, sometimes it seems like a lot. Hello week! So nice to see you! *bam!* Monday morning. *Deadline deadline deadline* I mean, I’m just picturing those POW signs from comics, but instead of “pow” they say “adult-ing!” “get a job!” “you’re already in your twenties and look what you haven’t done!” Not the most concise or feasible signs I admit, but maybe you see where I’m coming from. Mondays are wonderful because another Monday is another day of life, but, goodness, Mondays are ugly, too.

So, in honor of the feeling Mondays give me, I give to them (ALL the Mondays!) 2 Chronicles 20:1-30. I think this passage speaks for itself, but I’m always ready to hear how scripture applies to my life, so maybe you’re like me.

Anyhow, I think I personally spend a lot of time in my head trying to work things out. People who know me well are probably laughing at how much of an understatement this is. But, that’s just to say, I’m kind of introverted and sometimes that can be a negative for me. I want to fix things for myself and anticipate problems so I can stop them from happening, right?

Sort of right. I want to be in control. I want to know what’s going to happen and I want to know specifically. That means I have a tendency to overthink and that in itself can lead to a lot of stress, anxieties, frustration, etc. It’s not good. It’s putting yourself in a constant fight with things that may or may not happen. That’s an enemy you anticipate coming from one direction, and then suddenly it hits you where you weren’t looking. And, in that situation you’re probably Rocky Balboa takin’ a lotta hits to the face—wait, you don’t block with your face?

So, where the passage of scripture comes in is: the big fight has already been won, and the fights that we find ourselves in constantly are often battles we don’t have to fight.

Let’s look at the text. (If you haven’t read it, there are some great apps—I use YouVersion—and, obviously, nothing beats an actual copy of the Bible. So, read it! because this is such a cool story).

At the beginning of this chapter we learn that a “vast army” is about to come against Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah (20:2). (I’m sure if this were a Monday, it was a pretty bad one for Jehoshaphat) Maybe it’s just me, but I think it’s funny that verse three begins with “Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord.” I haven’t looked up the Hebrew word there, but I think he was at least “very alarmed.” After all, this was a vast army!

But, even though he had a right to significant panic, he immediately cries out to God. That’s just one of the things I admire in this passage, because all too often I get wrapped up in what’s going wrong instead of reaching out.

Jehoshaphat declared a fast and everyone in Judah came to seek God for help. What really speaks to me is Jehoshaphat’s prayer. One part in particular in verse 12:

…For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.

I see myself in this verse a lot. Sometimes the obstacles in front of us just for that day feel like a vast army, not to mention almost every part of our life has some sort of vast army. But it doesn’t have to take us out. It doesn’t have to overcome us. We’re going to go through hard times in our life, Jesus promises us that we will be persecuted. No one who follows Him is going to be exempt from that (John 16:33; John 15:20; Matthew 5:10). But, God promises in Jeremiah 29:12-14 that if we seek Him with our whole heart that we will find him. On top of that, He promises that no temptation will come along that he won’t provide some way for us to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13). In any situation we can rely on God to be there (Matthew 28:20).

Here, Jehoshaphat seems to get it right. He admits that there is no other way except by God’s intervention that he and the people of Judah will make it out alive. Everyone knows this army is too big for them. So, Jehoshaphat prays, “we do not know what to do, but we look to You.”

This is one of the most humbling prayers that I’ve come across in the Bible, and I think that it is echoed across the entire story of mankind and its relationship with its Creator:

‘There’s a lot of persecution and a lot of trials, God, there’s a vast army; and, “we don’t know what to do, but we look to You.” We look to your promises, to your faithfulness, to your unchanging nature, to your love (James 1:17). There is no way we can handle this, but God we believe you provide and work all things to the good of those who love you and are called according to your purpose’ (Romans 8:28).

And with that earnest prayer, that’s when God proved himself faithful. He spoke to them through Jahaziel saying “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s” (15b)

Wow, again!

The verses go on to give them specific instructions about what they were to do to, but it all sums up to say that God answers their prayers in a huge way. This big, bad army comes to wipe them out, they earnestly seek God, and He answers their prayers by telling them He’s going to take care of it. It seems crazy.

As the chapter goes on it describes how the army of Judah assembles, the choir going in first, and, while the people are singing praises to God, the enemy armies wipe each other out. So, what happens with the people of Judah? They arrive to where these enemies should be menacingly marching towards them, and the armies are gone. No one is left alive. What is left is all the plunder from the armies. It took Jehoshaphat and his men three days to carry off all the goods leftover from the battle they didn’t have to fight. Not only did God put a stop to these fearsome advancing troops, but He also allowed the people of Judah to walk away with a lot of plunder. This just goes to say that God does exceedingly above what we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-1). I’m sure most of the people were hoping that somehow God would allow their army to be victorious even by a narrow margin, but that’s not the kind of God He is.

Towards the end the verses read:

On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Berakah, where they praised the Lord. This is why it is called the Valley of Berakah to this day. Then, led by Jehoshaphat, all the men of Judah and Jerusalem returned joyfully to Jerusalem, for the Lord had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies. They entered Jerusalem and went to the temple of the Lord with harps and lyres and trumpets. The fear of God came on all the surrounding kingdoms when they heard how the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace for his God had given him rest on every side. 26-30

Honestly, I think this story is totally incredible. I mean, God does something really amazing taking care of His people.

What I take away from this passage is that a lot of the battles I’m fighting in my own head are not ones that I should be trying to fight. That sounds weird, but what I mean is, God wants us to seek Him with our whole hearts first and foremost. He craves a relationship with us, and if we are seeking him with our whole hearts he is going to be found by us. He always keeps his promises. What I also know is that in that kind of relationship where we’re seeking God with our whole hearts we’re going to come to him with things that scare us and the things that cause us to worry. To which he tells us several times that we should not worry but tell him what we need, where we’re hurting, where we’re weak, and give it all to him (Psalm 55:22; Philippians 4:6; Matthew 11:28-30). He doesn’t promise to take all those things away, but he does offer a change of perspective.

He has fought and won the biggest battle in conquering the hold that sin had on us. Once we’ve been saved, our ‘best’ is not here on this earth, but in heaven where we’ll spend eternity with him. Which is amazing even if that were the only thing He did for us. But, on top of that, God assures us that through this kind of trust in him we can know peace that surpasses understanding and that he will never leave us or forsake us (Philippians 4:7). Even when we’re in the middle of extremely difficult circumstances, when we’re ‘alarmed,’ he’s there to assure us that we have not left his sight.

So, if there’s something you’re constantly wrestling with, I encourage you to earnestly seek him. That doesn’t mean a difficult circumstance will suddenly disappear, but when we look to Him, most of the time, that change of perspective—the assurance that He is still in control despite the ‘vast army’ we may be facing—is enough to remind us that He has overcome this fallen world,  and because we are coheirs with Christ so have we!

Maybe this ‘Monday’ message (on a Tuesday) is God’s reminder to you to let Him fight the battle for you as you continue in obedience to what He has called you to do.

—Liz

Short Story

The New Girl

He picked up the ripped paper, sighed, and calmly asked, “How many things must you ruin?” Her tail thumped against the floor. Maybe thumped isn’t the right word, he thought, I would hardly call it a tail right now. She pawed at him in the way he expected a small child to reach for his attention, and she required a lot of that. He scratched her chest. She closed her chocolate brown eyes, her butt slid back across the hardwoods, and she sank to the floor. Finally, rolling over she exposed her warm, pale pink belly. She’s only eight weeks old. She’ll learn eventually. He had to admit that his patience had been tested, and many times he really contemplated taking her back to the Humane Society or finding her a new home. This was not going to be easy.

If someone had asked him, which a few friends had, why he decided to bring home a rambunctious puppy instead of an older dog or perhaps some fish that were more his type, he would have said that he had ‘a soft spot for puppies,’ or that she ‘just spoke to him’ at the pet store. The truth was, although those things were partially true, he felt like he needed to make a kind gesture to his wife. She had been disheartened recently. He knew that she loved her old dog, Turk, that had to be put to sleep a year before they got married. It seemed like a good idea to give her a companion and someone to take care of. She had such a heart for others, so it seemed like a good idea.

So far, this honey colored fluff ball had been a tornado of destruction. Not to mention she was the source of new arguments. Clark actions had been the previous source of arguments for the last few months. He had mentioned something about a grandchild to his mother-in-law—he knew it was going to be bad as soon as the words left his mouth. His mother-in-law hadn’t pushed the issue too much, but that was like saying the Taj Mahal wasn’t too extravagant. He was ready, or felt like he was at least, to start growing their family. He and Mattie—short for Martha which he often further shortened to M—wanted kids, but after losing her dad in the past year to dementia, she had been distant and depressed. He knew it would take time. She needed to heal, but he was worried that she might be losing hope that this was a hurt she could learn to function with. Clark, always the optimist felt that a little nudge in the right direction couldn’t hurt too much. She needed an outlet and a puppy was definitely a commitment along the same lines as having a kid. Maybe it could bring her out of it just a little.

Mattie’s reaction to the dog had been less than thrilled. She had actually very emphatically said “Clark, no!” But, first impressions are often bad. While they were sitting on the living room floor later that night discussing the fluff-ball’s fate, the puppy had—quite strategically Clark had to admit—crawled up into Mattie’s lap and nestled herself in the crook of her arm. Without even noticing, Mattie had started to stroke the sleepy puppy. As Clark sat there grinning at her (“like an idiot” she had said), she relented and confessed “it would be nice to have a new face around here.”

Naming this dog had been a challenge, but also somewhat embarrassing. When he found the dog, Clark assumed it was a male. “But you know what assuming does, Clark,” he told himself afterwards. He had gone through a long process of deciding a name. To him, the puppy looked like an Ewok, which was exciting to someone who was a huge fan of Star Wars. The dog had a stubby nose that looked like it had been dipped in tar, eyes that were (initially) a gray-blue color, and around its eyes were black triangles that made it look Egyptian. The rest of the dog was a honey color. Wicket, Chewy, and Louis had been the top three choices while he was driving the dog home, but inspired by Harrison Ford as Han Solo and the infamous Indiana Jones, he decided on Indiana. He proudly told his wife the name to which she had said “that is such a cute name for her!” Never, he vowed, never would he tell his wife that he hadn’t even bothered to check before picking a name.

They had planned out a meticulous schedule of walking and feeding since they both worked full time and had to keep her inside. Well, “they” was more Martha Stewart—his pet name for when Mattie went into her “alter ego” of “super organization mode”—than him. They bought Indiana treats, toys, a crate, a large pillow, and a massive bag of puppy chow. Indiana, however, paid no mind to the schedule and made their small house into her personal air conditioned outhouse. Clark laughed every time he thought about it, but more recently after being mostly housebroken, she had opted to decorate the house like the inside of a wood chipper. His wife, who always called Indy “your dog,” had taken to calling her “your little termite” due to this love for shredding sticks.

Today Indy was the source of another fight. It had been a bad day across the board. Clark had lost an important client, Mattie had been sick for a week now, and Indy had torn up two bills and peed on the living room rug. Clark, of course, had stepped right in the warm, damp oval growing on the carpet and loudly stated “well, this is just great!” Mattie, still looking pale, walked out wearing her blanket like a cape, her eyebrows furrowed.

“I have taken her out five times in the past hour,” she glared at the dog, “I take five minutes to go vomit because I’m sick with the stomach virus from hades and you decide to tinkle all over the rug?!”

“You shouldn’t have left her out of her cage,” Clark stated, “it isn’t her fault if she walks through a door when you leave it wide open.”

He knew it was a mistake, but he was mad. “And seriously, quit saying tinkle. It’s childish, and it makes me cringe.”

“Oh,” she said with a false calm, “I didn’t realize tinkle was so disturbing phonetically. I only exist to please you phonetically. And I should have taken the time to shut her up in the cage, staving off my need to regurgitate the toast and water I’ve eaten today, maybe sing her a lullaby, then, after I tucked her in, gone to puke my guts out.” She whipped her blanket train up and wrapped it more tightly around her as she dropped to the couch, “I’m sure your day at work was terribly exhausting sitting at a desk for hours but would you be a dear and clean up where the dainty flower has tinkled on the carpet?”

He looked her in the eyes, said “I’ve had enough of this. I try to help you out of the funk you’ve been in for so long, try to make you happy with this dog, and you just complain—”

Indy naturally picked the most inopportune moment to start barking that she needed to go out again.

Clark rounded on her “and you! You can’t even learn the right place to… ahh! just shut up!”

She barked once, whimpered, cowering under the table, and peed on herself.

“Oh! Look. You’ve done it again!” he bellowed, “why don’t you just go?” He flung open the front door.

“Clark! Don’t take this out on that dog! It’s not her fault that you’re on a ridiculous tirade” Mattie yelled back. “Go ahead and take it out on me, since that’s the real reason! I don’t get why you can’t just let me be,” she threw a pillow at his head. “I don’t need help out of this “funk” and this dog is not going to fix the fact that I’ve been depressed!”

Clark grabbed the pillow and pointed a corner at her “Oh, you don’t? All you’ve done for months is wander around this house like a ghost. You can’t stop living your life just because you’re upset about your Dad. He wouldn’t want you to.” He squeezed the pillow in his hands, “And what about us?”

“Us?” she spat at him.

“Yeah ‘us’,” he mimicked, “or did you forget someone else lived here?” He threw the pillow on the chair adjacent to the couch. “Mattie, I need you back! This is killing me to see you hurt, but you’re the one who has to decide to help yourself or get some help.” His voice softened a little “And what about our family? I’m trying—”

She stood up, “you ‘try’ watching your father lose his mind and see if you can come out of it fine. See if you can come ‘back.’ And see if you wouldn’t be a little upset with your husband talking to his mother-in-law about grandkids without your knowledge. You’re just—”

He started to say something, but stopped as her face went pale. She swayed a little bit and his retort dissolved as he took her arm and sat her on the couch. The argument fizzled out.

Mattie looked up at him, slightly teary. “I want to be okay, I really do. But, you’ve got to give me some grace.” She tucked her hair behind her ear. “I’m not going to ‘get over’ this. Losing a parent is not a hurt like when I lost Tuck or when more distant relatives have died. As much as I loved them, he was my dad, and it’s so not the same.”

“I know, but—.”

“No, you don’t know, and I hope you don’t for a long time. And, I really hope that you don’t have to watch either of your parents go through that.” Mattie ran her fingers over the blanket, watching the change from dark to light as the fibers flattened out. “You’re not going to lose me, but you’ve gotta let me have space to grieve when I need it and not try to fix me.” She wrapped her fingers between his, leaning into his shoulder. “It’s hard,” she breathed into his shirt, “I miss him, and today being sick… I just feel miserable.” They sat in the silence for a minute.

“I’m sorry you had a bad day at work…”

He wrapped the blanket back around her shoulders and held her, “No, don’t be. I’m sorry. It’s my fault. I was the one who was impatient, and mad… and brought the dog home to fix you.” He kissed her temple through the loose strands of oily hair. She probably hadn’t showered in three days, but if love is worth anything it’s willing to look past at least a few days without a shower.

“Honey,” he said cautiously, “I love you so much, but you’ve acquired a smell…”

She pulled away and punched his arm.

“Seriously,” he jumped off the couch and put up his hands to defend himself because she was reaching for one of the pillows. “I think you’ll feel less miserable after you take a bath. In fact,” he grabbed the pillow and poked her in the shoulder, “I will draw her majesty a bath and prepare an exquisite meal of chicken noodle soup.” Mattie was doing all she could to resist a smile. She wanted to stay mad, but he always made her smile somehow.

“I’ll even break out the nice stemware and the vintage 2016 Sprite.”

She rolled her eyes, and said “ah, you are too kind.”

He gently lifted her feet up onto the couch so she could lay down, and noticed her eyebrows drawing together as she glanced over at the door.

She started, “Will you shut the door, our power bill is going to be—oh my gosh, the dog!”

Clark rushed out and ran all over the yard and neighborhood looking for Indiana while Mattie stayed at home looking for her there. When he couldn’t find her in the neighborhood he got in their slightly beaten looking Volvo to drive out a little further looking for her. He could imagine her lost and hungry, probably happy to be out, but what about all the bad things that could happen to her?

It was getting dark and he was worried. He called his wife, “I just don’t know where she could be, M. I mean, we didn’t argue that long, did we? She’s got to be close. I just hope that nothing ha—” then there was a thud as his car collided with something in the road. “I’ll call you back,” he quickly hung up before she could ask.

As he got out of the car, praying that he hadn’t just run over his dog, he assumed the worst. It had already been a horrible day so it would almost be fitting. He looked around and spotted the dead body in the road. “…Poor squirrel never had a chance” he thought, sadly. He slumped against his car, sank to the ground and held his head in his hands. If he wasn’t tired before, he was tired now. It was his fault the dog was gone.

The phone rang. He didn’t even say hello. “Clark,” his wife’s voice sounded amused, “you can come home now. Your dog was hiding in our bathroom under some of your laundry” she giggled the words through a poorly stifled laugh.

“Thank God,” he sighed.

“Clark,” she snorted “she ate one of your favorite socks” and then she burst into one of her full-fledged laughs.

“Great” he muttered.

“Anyway, you owe me a bath and some soup so get back home! And I think it’s time we had another conversation about this little one, too” she chuckled.

“I know, but if you just give her a chance… she’s young and she—”

“Clark,” she stopped him.

“M?”

“I’m not talking about Indiana”

“oh…” his confusion cleared after a few seconds of silence, “oh!”

“Right,” he could hear her smile in the way she spoke. “So, get home. Don’t forget the bath. And walk your dog!”

IMG_6431
Indy at about 9 weeks old
Essay

Unconditional Love

IMG_5410Unconditional love. It’s really hard to wrap my head around. As a person who likes conditions, and as a people who are constantly bound up by terms and conditions (you get a gold star if you’ve actually read those) it is pretty much impossible to understand. Arguably, I don’t think we’ll ever understand God’s love because we are imperfect people and He is a perfect God.

Nevertheless, that’s exactly what He offers to us.

To continue with the “I don’t understand it, but…” line of thinking here: I don’t understand why God even shows us any grace and doesn’t just start over with new people. I’m thinking about all the writing projects I’ve started but couldn’t edit into submission that inevitably got scrapped.  From the very beginning of the world, when God spoke the universe into existence (“let there be light” and *bang* there it was!), He made people who had the ability to choose. Um? Is that a good idea, surely He should know, because He’s God… We all know how it went. God gave us the ability to choose and we said, “Well, You said not to do this thing, but maybe if I just did it it would work better” *cue the “Fall of Man” * (Genesis 3)

Now, I don’t understand all the workings of God’s plan and I never will, but I know in my imperfect mind that this ability for man to choose opens a lot of doors for perfect love to shine through. At this point I’m going to suggest that you read the Silmarillion, at least the part where Tolkien writes about the creation of Middle Earth, because Oh my goodness! it’s such a powerful testament to God’s plan. For those who haven’t read it (or won’t because Tolkien is not for everyone) basically: things are being created, but then the villain tries to throw things off and causes evil to enter the world; well, it’s after this that the “god-figure” says something to the tone of “even though you meant this for evil, what you’ve done is exactly what I knew would happen and I’m going to use it to bring about more good, and a much more beautiful story than you could ever imagine.” And then he metaphorically drops the mic.

In a real world/biblical context, this is still the truth (see Jeremiah 29:11, the story of Joseph especially in Genesis 45, and so many other verses throughout the Bible).

If love is programmed into us, and what I mean by that is not that we were all created to have a desire to love, but if we were created to robotically serve/obey God without any choice, what kind of relationship would that be? Even if you consider a relationship with another person where someone told you “this is your spouse and you have to love them and there’s no other option for as long as you live” without you having any choice in who your spouse is wouldn’t that feel more like a chore or a job than an actual loving relationship? Maybe that’s a rough analogy, but I think it covers what I’m trying to get across.

It is difficult, if not impossible to have the kind of relationship/fellowship God desires with us if we were without choice. Thinking on what David said in 2 Samuel 24:22-5, about not wanting to sacrifice to God something that costs him nothing, what kind of love would it be if it were simply automatic, effortless and not an active kind of love? Sacrifice and choice is a huge part of loving others!

Like I said, all that is kind of hard to grasp. One of my professors compared understanding literary theory to trying to hold water in your hands—while you may think you’ve got it down one minute, the next it seems to slip through your fingers. I don’t think this is too different, in fact, it’s probably harder because we’re trying to take God’s plans and put it into human terminology (Isaiah 55:9).  (Think explaining quantum physics to a toddler) But if God could be fully understood would He still be God? And wouldn’t skeptics throw that question around mockingly? While, now, they would question how or why people would serve a God who seems entirely too complicated? We still don’t understand everything about the human body and that’s the vessel we live in, so how can we point an accusing finger at the One who created the body? But, that’s a slight digression.

The fact that God can forgive us and extend grace to people who don’t deserve it amazes me.

Let’s start with  a couple things we know about God:

God is perfect.

God is love.

If that’s true, then God and evil can’t be together.

Think about those verses that say you can’t have good fruit from a bad tree (Matthew 7:16-20). Or, think about this: a piece of paper can’t be considered totally white/blank and have some sort of marking on it. Once even a small mark is on that paper, it changes that paper forever.

So, that’s where mankind runs into a problem. We can’t dwell with God who is perfect and holy if we have even a tiny ‘mark’ on us. Which is why Jesus had to step in for us so that we could be forgiven.

This is what makes that love seem so ridiculous. We should not be able to enter heaven because of our sinful nature. That’s what Adam and Eve chose—that’s what everyone probably would have chosen—because in order to have free will, God allowed them to choose it. But,

“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:16-8).

Those are radical verses.

Think now about the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). This son said (obviously, this is me paraphrasing): “Forget you, Dad! I’m tired of living here and the way things are run. I want my inheritance and I’m going to do what I want.” Basically, what Adam and Eve did (paraphrasing again): “We know you said this, God, but we kinda want to try it our way so we’re going to do what we want.” And, you know that broke God’s heart just like the father in that parable. But, God proves how much He loves us because He made a way for forgiveness.

Just like the son in the story, when we reach up to our Heavenly Father in repentance for our sins, like a child who has made a mistake and disobeyed his parents, we can be forgiven (Romans 10:9-13).

What’s really crazy is that God continues to forgive us. Jesus died once for all. One time for all of us, for all our sins (Romans 5:6-8; 6:8-10). Past. Present. Future. Because, as much as I wish I could stop sinning and never do it again, I’m going to sin probably every day for the rest of my life. The law—the Ten Commandments and then what Jesus further clarifies in the New Testament as ‘This is sin. Don’t do this.’—points out the hopelessness of our situation (Exodus 20:1-17). We can’t even think without sinning (Matthew 5:17-48). I really can’t stress this enough: we’re imperfect. But, Jesus took all the wrath God had for us.

Imagine someone (I would say they were insane) saying: “I’ll die for this death row inmate so that he can be pardoned. Give me the death penalty. I know he doesn’t deserve this. His own family doesn’t even think he deserves forgiveness for all his crimes. He’s the worst of the worst and I am fully aware of that, but I’ll take all the punishment so he can go free.” And imagine also that this person who is volunteering to die has never even told a “white lie.” He’s totally innocent. Now, please don’t think I’m making light of what I’m about to suggest because I say this with all the seriousness I can muster. Aren’t we outraged when we think of all the innocent people who die at the hands of terrorists or as collateral damage in war? Well, those people have probably lied at some point in their life. Some of them are probably not even nice. But do we think they deserve it? No, that’s ridiculous! Well, I invite you to look at Jesus and tell me how outraged you are when you consider he never sinned in his life, how he was actually a pretty young guy who had the potential for several years of life ahead of him, think about his mother who watched her baby be tortured when she knew he was innocent, and, lastly, how much he didn’t deserve God’s wrath.

That’s some ridiculous love. And we can’t sin enough to make God stop loving us, but we do have to accept Jesus as our savior and be forgiven to be able to receive that forgiveness and have a relationship with God. There is no other way (John 14:6-7). God says in the Bible that there must be blood to atone for sin, and while there were sacrifices in the Old Testament, those didn’t suffice (Hebrews 9:22). They were just a stand in. Jesus took our place—he took my place—and became our once for all sacrifice that allows us to have an actual relationship with God. His blood paid our price so that we can be cleansed from the mark sin has put on mankind.

There’s a song called “What a Beautiful Name” that says:

You didn’t want heaven without us,

So, Jesus, You brought heaven down.

My sin was great, Your love was greater.

What could separate us now?

Which echoes scripture that we see throughout the Bible in such a powerful way.

I’ll close with this:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8: 38-9

And hope that this is a reassurance to someone else as much as it is to me that we are the object of such amazing love!

—Liz

Poetry

Hospital Stay

IMG_4083
from a coffee shop in Southside

I have logged more hours

than I could ever want

in this hospital

over the past weeks.

The smell of it

even follows me home, like…

a stray animal slinking through my

front door.

I find it amusing, when I cautiously float through

the maze of hallways

(floor two to main elevators,

main elevators to floor four—

or was it five?), that

they’ve tried to mask the antiseptic with innocent smells

like vanilla and berry

(and something citrusy?).

“It works for the most part,”

I assure my mother.

But I won’t say that sometimes it does little to stop: the

tightening in my chest,

my hands growing cold,

my head feeling swimmy,

still experiencing

that elevator sensation:

like the floor’s bouncing

—not anchored—

and just as likely to carry me

safely to my destination

as it is to fall

slamming into the earth

(the safety certificate posted above the buttons

expired last year?).

I reach my destination,

but I am not prepared for what’s there.

So, I practically run away from the ICU

and all the other rooms with

too many tubes

and wires

and needles

and strained respiration.

I attempt to ground myself by generating rhymes

(hallways, always, stall a ways?)

but then the only words I have are words like:

purple,

silver,

orange                                          (and month?).

 

Until I get to the coffee shop,

(toffee stop, money drop, caramel-macchiato-for-me pops?)

 

where, for a while

 

I forget the hospital smell,

 

and stop the obsessive flipping through

social media and countless open tabs as a distraction.

 

I just sip my coffee with my mother

 

talking about anything else in the world

(maybe about the frazzled, red-haired lady

who stabbed the up and down buttons

exactly 14 times each;

or the man who conned my grandmother

out of three bucks for “parking”

in the SICU waiting room?)

anything other than Dad being hooked up to a hospital bed.

Poetry

The Shop

IMG_4768
photo taken in Eleuthera, Bahamas

 

The broken concrete floors reveal to me

the place’s age that musty smell proudly

seems to assert. The scents of the cigars

unsmoked and of the wooden shavings tossed

across the floor absorbing oil, or

another type of liquid remnant, fill

my lungs. The grit and grease beneath my shoes—

familiar—a sensation I recall

from fixing Fords and Chevys in summers

past. The place feels so empty now. I see

King Edward boxes full of screws and chips

of faded counter samples long out of

production. A small token honoring

the craftsman that my father used to be.

A smile tugs at my mouth, my kids use these

as toys now. Scattered by the dusty panes,

the light seems source-less, glows and bounces off

the white ambient walls, revealing dark

and rusty corners harsh in rival view.

Above all else, I savor treasured time

in here—the place where Dad could fix it all.

Essay

Something Different

IMG_7609
(photo creds to my friend from Colorado)
For my first post, I’m going to start by showing some appreciation for Father’s Day! Obviously, Father’s Day was just three days ago—or as my brother says “Vacation Bible School Work Day!” Our church always has Vacation Bible School the week after Father’s Day and all the dads who help probably make some sarcastic comment that’s not too far from the truth about having to “work on their day.”

For the record, we put up our decorations Saturday so Dad had Sunday off to nap for several hours after a big lunch. I’m pretty sure he was a happy camper because he’s a big fan of Sunday naps.

Anyway, I feel like I need to take a second to brag just a little on my dad. Everyone says they have the best dad in the world, but mine is the greatest to ever live! No, just kidding. I am blessed to have a godly father who loves me very much, but he’s still a human being. My dad and I probably have a pretty average father-daughter relationship. I love him, he loves me, sometimes we argue a little bit—a lot—but he’s always looking out for me. He is Super dad who is not supposed to get sick or hurt or be inconvenienced by minor setbacks because he is Dad (hear him roar!).

Well, inevitably I’ve grown up and realized that my dad is not perfect, nor is his life as easy as he makes it out to be sometimes. He works hard, and he cares a lot about providing for his family, he struggles with worries about the future just like I do, and, he makes mistakes and needs grace and forgiveness just like I do. He’s human.

He’s actually more human than I realized because over spring break he had a medical issue that kept him in the hospital for two weeks—what?! But, after being worried about my dad’s health and all the stress that went along with him being hospitalized, I’ve been reflecting on my Dad. He has been a great example and has taught me a lot through the way he lives his life. I’m not going to go into all the details, but just for a little context my father is legally blind and has been since he was in his early twenties. So, he’s had some major obstacles to get through with work and life in general since then. I know it hasn’t been easy and I know that he has struggled along the way. Sometimes even his family (*raises hand*) isn’t the most helpful.

But, my dad doesn’t let that stop him. Where some people could just as easily mope (*raises hand again*) he doesn’t let it get to him. I guess it’s like that saying that you can’t help the cards you’ve been dealt in life, but it’s about what you do with what you’ve got. And, I mean, there’s also that great parable about the talents in Matthew (25:14-30) that sends a similar message without the metaphor of gambling implied (don’t gamble. Just don’t).

Sometimes I take Dad for granted, all that he’s overcome in his life, and then there are these wonderfully painful moments where it’s like God thumps me on the back of the head. “Hey, I’ve given you a great example to keep on even when there are so many obstacles!” I won’t lie to you I usually pout a little bit because like any good family member I could point out all the things he’s ever done wrong to me. But, at the end of the day, if I look at my earthly father in the way my heavenly father wants me to, I see someone who is forgiven and who wants to serve his God and his family faithfully. In other words, I see that example God was pointing out. I won’t sugar coat things and say my dad is this wonderful father who always gets it right, but he’s gotten the most important things right.

Maybe this is sort of a good way to start of this whole blogging adventure, too. I’m starting this because I’m at a point in my life where I’m realizing that the only person who is going to make sure that I am happy and doing what I need to get the most out of my life is me (wow!). So, hopefully that doesn’t sound selfish or stupid, but I’ve been talking about writing for a long time and talking doesn’t exactly get it done. Therefore: blogging.

In a conversation with a former teacher a couple months ago, she told me that life is never really about “now that I’ve done this thing I am here! This is my life” but life is about a series of arrivals. You reach different goals along the way, and you do “arrive” at certain places, but it’s not a one-and-done thing. We keep “arriving” or “traveling” until we’re dead—which I suppose is a final destination (sorry that was a bad pun). All that to say, I’m hoping this is the start of one of the places I’d like to “arrive,” in regards to being a writer in some capacity, and I hope what I have to say will mean something to someone out there who reads it.

I’ve been staring at obstacles between me and that “place” like it’s not possible to do anything about it, but that’s not true. So, here I am starting this adventure, hoping that God will allow this blog to help someone who’s been in the same place I have.

IMG_6220
Oak Mountain State Park, AL
My takeaway (mostly for myself really) is: Don’t look at the mountains in front of you as an insurmountable obstacle. Look at them as “that thing that God will help me through” and get your climbing gear because we’re going to see if we can’t climb over it!

—Liz