Messes and Milestones

2019 was a mess.

I’ve read and re-read my journal entries for the year, amazed at the messes, encouraged by the forward motion in spite of. Last year’s blog post around this time reflected my broken, angry heart. This year, I’m resting in the knowledge that my frail attempts at fixing things is laughable at best and God is patiently waiting for me to take my hands off situations and let Him work.

I’ve made a habit of prayerfully considering an attribute to shoot for, a word to measure my personal and spiritual growth each year. 2019’s word was ‘hope’.

Boy, did I ever need it. My weak and selfish humanity did not have the strength to trot the addict in my life off to another couple of rehabs; nor did it have the strength to list fear imageand sell a house, then pack and arrange a huge move. It didn’t have the strength to nurse-maid a husband’s recovery from shoulder surgery, nor did it have the wisdom to help a daughter navigate through a tragic miscarriage, another scary pregnancy and a brain injury when her baby was born. It didn’t particularly enjoy the heart-wrenching disappointment of losing a publishing contract after two years of fighting for one because the publisher decided to close its doors, or the dark discouragement that followed.

It was not a year I wanted to showcase on Facebook, where life seems grand all the time. In truth, we all struggle with individual battles and hole up in our “emotionally unavailable” closets from time to time.

 

thunderstorm-6.jpgGod never promises us a life without messes. He did however, promise to be with us through them, and use them to help us grow in grace, perseverance, patience, gentleness and kindness if we seek Him with a mind to ask for help. As I’ve looked back over the years, my life is messy but it is also full of fabulous milestones. Milestones that I couldn’t have accomplished in my own strength. As I whined about the messes and asked him for help, God gave me His strength for my weakness, His mercy for my harshness, His perseverance for my longing to give up, His forgiveness for others who had offended me when I had no idea how to forgive.

I am so thrilled to report that in spite of my attempts to ‘fix’ things in 2019, the addict in my life is out of rehab, on the road to real recovery. Though nervous about it, my husband and I moved into a new home that has turned out to be a bigger blessing than we could’ve ever imagined, my daughter’s baby miraculously recovered and at this point is happy, healthy and perfect, and my husband’s shoulder is healing nicely. These are big ‘wins’ for sure, but the milestones (actions or events marking significant changes or stages in development) they represent are even bigger. Milestones of increased faith, which means less hand-wringing and more trust. Milestones of less self-effort and paying more attention to  God’s signpostsspring-3.jpg along the way. Milestones of less anxiety and hopelessness. More reliance on the truth of God’s awesome promises and less reliance on voices shouting at us to be more, buy more, do more. 2019 was a year of big messes, but fortunately, the bigger the mess, the bigger the milestone. He promises to uses everything (even the failures) for good in our lives, and I believe it.

This year my word is ‘authentic’. A meaning of this word I like is “not false or copied genuine; real. Representing one’s true nature or beliefs; true to oneself.” I want to avoid the exhausting task of trying to be the person that everyone else needs or wants me to be. My goal for 2020 is to care more what God requires of me than about what people expect of me.

Should be quite messy.

I sense a bunch more milestones coming up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intermission

The phone call from my agent was less a thunderclap and more a gentle spring shower.

I’d finished the darn manuscript three years ago, gotten picked up by an agent a yearimagesCA00AB3C later, so how on earth could it take so long to find a publisher?

I read with fierce anxiety every rejection from major publishers. In truth, they were nice rejections, with compliments woven in, but a rejection all the same. I prefer to call them ‘redirections’. I do that because it is pretty hard to get that many rejections, although most manuscripts don’t even get a thorough read by the big boys, so there’s that.

But I thought being represented by an agent guaranteed a publishing contract in ten minutes.books and coffee nook intermission

Haha. Nope.

So I muddled around, thinking about what I should do in the meantime. I’m not a person who can just . . . be okay waiting. Surely I could hurry the process along. Isn’t that what we all think in the waiting? We have to do something.

I wrote more stuff. I prayed. I asked God if this wasn’t the right direction, should I just quit writing? Should I change course and write magazine articles? Should I work for one of those ten-cents-per-word blog writer companies? Work out more? Take up knitting? Get more cats?

This ‘being a writer’ thing is not as cool and interesting as it appears. A lot of time is spent writing into a void and I’m a person that needs encouragement. I still can’t figure out why I’ve always felt an inner urge to do this. I am the most needy and impatient person on earth and I don’t handle rejection well. A writer, by definition, is nearly synonymous with rejection.

I’ve learned a lot about waiting the past couple of years. Waiting means that eventually, the right thing to do will make itself known and nothing I can do or say will make it green arrow on stairshappen on my timetable. Oh I can bluster something in, ignore red flags, knock down doors that should remain closed and make the wrong thing happen and spend a couple years on a disaster detour,  but I’ve done that before and don’t want to do it again.

I’ve learned how to be content in the waiting, trusting that my prayers are heard and my desires are noted. I can trust the process if I’ve done the right things and have the right heart attitude. I’ve learned I can enjoy myself in the waiting, do stuff that I might not have time to do if I am busy meeting deadlines. I don’t have to sputter and spew complaints all over everyone that I’ve not ‘arrived’ yet or that people are just not ‘getting’ what I’ve accomplished.  I’ve learned not to pull the plug too fast on something, but wait. Be patient. I’m still learning how to do that, but I’m definitely better than I was.

I’m learning that just sitting in the chair and putting my hands on the keyboard will yield something, anything; and that is better than nothing. Waiting is a great time to practice whatever skill or endeavor the waiting is attached to. Waiting also exposes the good, the bad and the ugly inside me, which gives me the opportunity to work on becoming a better person.

I wonder if there are many things quite as hard as waiting on something wonderful we’ve decided we must have. Problem is, often it isn’t something we just have to have. It may be a burning desire, but not an actual need. I didn’t have to ‘be something’ in order to validate myself or prove that I am a worthwhile human being. It’s been hard, but I’m learning to let go of the belief that my identity is wrapped up in what I do instead of bible intermissionwho I am. So I went sighing and moaning to God and gave him my desire to be a novelist, told Him it was all His anyway, so there.

And that was the week I got the call. By that time, I barely cared. The hold it had on me was broken. I was happy when I got the contract offer, but not overly impressed with myself. I was humbled instead. God gave me a gift! I want to be responsible and take care of it, but I’m no longer panting with desire or pushing and prodding and forcing it to happen through sheer self-will. cozy nook time intermission

It didn’t happen on my timetable. It happened when I quit trying so hard and caring too much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of Two Letters

One of the most powerful words in the English language is ‘no’. Two simple letters that pack a huge punch.

Be it an overloaded calendar, an unruly or inappropriate co-worker, a toxic relationship or activity, an adult child or friend that has over-extended his need for money; if we are still above ground and breathing we have a choice.

So…no.

No to those things that steal my time and joy. No to over-commitments that add nothing to my life or those precious ones around me. No to jobs that suck out my heart and soul and mind. No to conversations that give me a panic attack. No to lies that attack my mind and soul. No to immoral, profane and horror-filled shows that fill my nights with dread. No to dead ends, no matter how peer-pressured I feel to pursue them.

There are way too many ‘yes moments’ to live consumed with guilt because we didn’t say no to something.

So…yes.

Yes to thoughtful and mind-provoking discourse. Yes to relationships that encourage and lift up. Yes to shows that have a wholesome message and inspiring ending. Yes to a thought-life filled with positive and inspiring truths. Yes to people that need help and utilize it to make a positive change. Yes to church. Yes to a life filled with the wonder of the supernatural, living God and His Son, Jesus Christ. Yes to hope. Yes to life. Yes to joy. Yes, yes, yes!

Exercising the ‘no’ muscle is often painful, but the benefits can be endless and eternal.

Think about it.