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Monthly Archives: October 2014

Five-Pounder in the NICU: God’s Plans Partially Revealed

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There’s a small section in my book, Not Just on Sundays, where I talk about how God loves making weakness strong. It is based on this verse:

2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Apostle Paul speaking, ESV

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

This verse always takes me back to the first few weeks with my newborn Chickie more than a decade ago when we were living far from family (we always are), residing in student housing at Stanford University, and counting each dollar as we went through the checkout line, sometimes turning some food away and not putting it into our carts. We had gone from a military income and housing to poor* students again. I had entirely stopped working, and Salad Boy (my affectionate name for the hubby) was trying to hammer out the Ph.D. Needless to say, with an almost-three year old and one just having arrived, there wasn’t a lot of margin or wiggle room in our lives.

Just about everything was stress-infused and tight. The one thing that brought sweet relief every week was the prayer group we ran out of our home for graduate students on a Wednesday night through InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. I would put my toddler to bed, and we would listen to concerns and seek God together for at least an hour every week. I loved (at the time) to decorate, and I would often make a yummy treat, but mostly our gathering was to nourish our souls. Sweet, sweet times were had as we looked up together, not knowing when and where answers would come, but we knew this:

They would come. He listens. Always.

So, at that time, my daughter’s birth was mostly uneventful. Like all of my other kids, she was early-ish but not premature. She came at 38 weeks. The only part that more or less stunned us at the time was the fact that after I birthed Mr. Nine Pound Four Ounces in 2000, she came out, same gestation time: five pounds, two ounces.

The usual jaundice issues kept her there longer than our stay should have been. I became good at pumping milk and visiting her, aiming to have at least half her day’s nourishment be breastmilk. It was hard to let that go, but there was a toddler at home also needing my time and attention.

Soon after she was released, we began the almost-daily process of taking her to have her bilirubin checked, which meant pricking her heel. This is what led to the return to the hospital, where a small part of hell broke loose in our lives and hearts.

While my in-laws were visiting us in our campus housing when Chickie was just over a week old, my mother-in-law noticed the baby’s rise in temperature. I wasn’t overly concerned at first until it spiked a bit more. I was already a bit stressed by the constant pressure to get this baby’s weight from five pounds (dipping at one point to four pounds, twelve ounces) to a less-premie weight. We certainly could have had it worse. I know babies born significantly earlier and smaller who survived amazing odds. I wasn’t worried about her being healthy, or in survival mode—not initially—but I was worried where development might be slow with such a tiny start. We all wondered how the doctor could keep telling us, prenatally, that she was at least 7 pounds. And we all were concerned at what point the placenta stopped doing its job. I was so grateful she didn’t try to wait a few more weeks to arrive.

Getting back to that night. We gathered up, Salad Boy and I, and took her to the ER. I think my mother-in-law was there at some point as well, or maybe she went the next day. Either way, the response was serious, and before I knew what was going on, they were talking about infection—not sure of which antibiotics to rush into her—and a spinal tap.

Dear God, Where ARE You?

It became clear, they needed to make sure there wasn’t something worse going on, so the spinal tap was performed, and next thing I know, my baby girl had a central line put into the side of her shaved head. Within a few days, the infection was determined to be Staphylococcus aureus. It took almost a week, but they ruled out the infection traveling into or affecting any organs. I don’t even know if I’m medically describing this well. My sister is the medical professional. I’m just bumbling along describing the journey the best that I can.

During that time a few things were true:

People were praying.

God sent so many people to tell us they were praying for us….people we didn’t even know had a shred of faith. It was incredible.

People were showing up.

Besides my in-laws extending their stay, my other set of in-laws volunteered to come as well. A sweet friend of the family flew out quickly to take care of my son while I tried to spend almost all waking hours with my baby in the hospital, sometimes sleeping overnight in a cold feeding/family room. Other people offered to come out, but it was okay and not necessary beyond a certain point. Their sincerity meant a lot to us. One of my (to this day) dearest friends came into the NICU with me while I fed and held my tiny fighter. That memory has etched itself forever in my treasure chest of her loving Chickie and me as the arms and feet of Jesus.

–My tiny nugget (which is what we called her at the time) screamed her little head off while she fought for her life. I mean: She SCREAMED!

We would be two floors down at the complete opposite end of the hospital, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, but when we approached the elevators, Little Girlfriend could be heard protesting vigorously. I remember her being the tiniest in the NICU at that particular time, but all of the nurses remarked how incredibly loud she was! (She also had brown hair with blonde-tipped highlights, as if she had stopped, in the middle of all of this, to get her hair done. That was almost prophetic as she cares a lot about hairstyle and style in general all these years later.)

God used every single second of that time—none of it wasted.

I could go on and on, but that’s not what this particular blog is about. As one example, my almost-three year old had a savant-like map ability. He directed the friend of the family who stayed with him in Tiny Kid Voice how to get to places on campus and in the surrounding community. Thank You, God, I took the time out to answer all of those monotonous, intense questions while we would be out driving. What if I hadn’t?

All five pounds of the nugget version of Chickie fought and screamed her way back to health. There were years of hoping for better growth, ruling out scary chromosomal disorder possibilities, and waiting to see if anything slowed her down. She was a peanut for a very long time. My oldest still reminds her of her nugget days.

What has remained consistent is not only that she is the healthiest person in my house since all of this happened, but she continues to have a warrior spirit. God gave it to her—so I hesitate to mess with it, except to offer disciplinary correction and to soften it with grace. But Chickie wages her personal wars quietly, with grace, but with strong conviction about justice. I have no idea how God will take a penchant for fashion and mix it with the loud and big heart Chickie has. She is ridiculously quiet around adults and some others, but as one Sunday School teacher once said: “She is like a stealth bomber. You don’t know what’s there until it’s suddenly upon you.” It was said with love.

Her story isn’t finished being written yet. I have no idea what God will do. I also still have to redirect her sometimes. She still has some growing and maturing to do. But, what I do know is:

God took this tiny, weak, very sick little nugget, and He gave her a voice…one that survives, endures, and hopefully is used for Him someday, somehow. He loves to bring strength out of weakness

We all have stories like this one. I have plenty for my other kids as well. Where can you trust Him more today for making the impossible possible? He wants to wow and delight you, to bring the miraculous and His purposes to the ordinary. We just have to ask and invite Him into our lives.

Why settle for just “getting by” when we can be part of an amazing journey with the Father?

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*I use the term “poor” very relatively and loosely, as our economic situation even at that time did not compare to much of the world.

 

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Spilled Salad and Other Rough Days: Keeping It Real and Crying Out to God

Spilled Salad and Other Rough Days_I’m part of a group of online praying friends (we know each other in person, too, but our interactions tend to land mostly on private messaging) called the Warrior Princesses. We exchange a few messages almost every day, usually a callout from one of us to ask for a quick prayer about something we’re going through. What I love about this is that we’re all busy moms. Some of us are homeschooling, some are working at home, others still have small ones in the home and not in all-day school, some are going to school and working, and some are doing a combination of those things. We don’t have a lot of time to do long, monk-like prayers in the proverbial prayer closet. We are literally shooting up a prayer or two throughout the day while feeding the baby, washing dishes, straightening laundry, unpacking (two of us just moved), sorting through school papers, and feeding the animals—because even when (some of) our kids are gone all day, we feel compelled to care for God’s critters. We never seem to stop nurturing.

That said, like anyone, on any given day, when you take a screenshot of the lives of five people, there are all kinds of “Oh, God, please help me!”s going on—often several of us at once: traveling husbands, health concerns, a worry about our children, a pet in an accident, a difficult confrontation or situation we have to be in, a relational hurt, something gone awry in our job(s)—and the list goes on.

When this happens, and we find ourselves in a pile-up of wearying stress, we started posting this cute little icon to express ourselves. I think it was initially posted when one of us reported the stomach flu in her home. I really don’t remember, but you would think I would then have better context and understand it, but, no, I had to be different and see something else completely. It’s one of my fun little quirks.

Spilled Salad and Other Rough Days- Keeping It Real

Now, whenever I look at this, I do not see the apparent “vomit” image intended.

I see:

a spilled bowl of salad.

To understand why I make this association in my head, you’d probably have to appreciate how much I hate salad. It makes perfect sense I couldn’t discern the difference between that and throwing up.

Either way, it became a private joke in our group, and so whenever any of us has a really hard thing going on, we plop this icon onto the screen to let her know, sometimes without a lot of words: “I get it. I sympathize. That sounds awful. I’m so sorry. What a tough day! I don’t like that.”

It’s the middle age mom’s variation on a preschooler saying “That’s poopy!” except we’re more mature because we just use emoji.

What on earth is my point?

Well, today, I have a lot of them.

1. Dedicated time with God is an amazing thing. Talking to Him and giving Him our full attention is the most peaceful way to live. But life interrupts, and sometimes it’s the quick prayers throughout the day that keep the conversation going. My day often looks like this:

Wash dishes. “Oh, God, I just thought of ________. She’s really been waiting to hear an answer about ______. Can You please encourage her today? By the way, thanks for the awesome leaves turning colors on the trees and for healing _______.”

Fold laundry. “Lord, please comfort this particular child, _______. I sent him off today, and he seemed a little peace-depleted. Could You remind him You’re there and usher peace into his heart?”

Start writing blog. “God, I have no idea where we’re going with this. Should I go do something else for a while, or are You about to download something into my head and heart to write about?”

Take the dogs out. “God, You know what? Can I ask You again to be with my Warrior Princess _______? She is really going on no sleep amidst a lot of stress and needs extra measures of perseverance and strength today.”

More examples of this can be found in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day.

2. Our days are sometimes yucky. It’s okay to admit that they are. I think a lot of times we are afraid to say they are because other people have it worse. That’s true. There are always worse scenarios out there, but it doesn’t make our situations less valid. I love my Warrior Princesses, other prayer peeps, and close friends because we don’t hide behind what we think others expect of us. We rock it real and raw, at times. Honestly, it doesn’t help me at all to see someone walk through a perfect or awesome day in great faith. What grows my faith and hope is when I see someone be honest about the trials and still manage to walk along—or even hobble or crawl some days—in faith and trust in God.

The extreme to this (and there is always an extreme) would be the martyr trip scenario, whereby we always have it awful, our pain continually trumps someone else’s, we are perpetually focused on ourselves, and we are consistently presenting the negative. That’s not what I’m talking about when I’m referring to honestly doing life together. I’m talking about not hiding behind masks of “my life is so perfect.” Those masks are so fragile anyway. When anyone bumps into us the slightest bit, I find those masks to fall and shatter. They really don’t cover anything up but our own pride and self-protection.

3. On the yucky days, we can often “spill our salad.” We can’t keep it all contained. We need a good friend or two to reach out to who can help be our gauge and also get us back on track again. But the best part is that those people aren’t afraid to see a tomato or radish roll out of our bowl. They’ve seen us without our dressing, and they know it’s not forever. They’re not afraid to walk up and pick up the leaves that fell out and put them back in. They’re not trying to add toppings—more slivered almonds, bleu cheese crumbles, or dried cranberries—in that moment. They know their timing. On days of celebration, they can do that. But today: They’re merely trying to help us keep the lettuce in. There are people in our lives who often want to reach in and throw the lettuce everywhere else. I need trusted loved ones to help me contain my lettuce some days. To collect pieces of my spillage and help put them back.

I love the women in my life who do this. Some are my online prayer group. Some are good listeners in person/phone who have my back. It’s a gift, a treasure. And it’s a tiny peek at the Father’s immense love for us.

4. God can handle “spilled salad.” He isn’t afraid to look at us on those days, nor does He turn His face away. He wants to hear about it. He gave us the example of King David in the Bible, who regularly cried out on Spilled Salad Days (and there were many since he was a wanted, hunted man at times, with a royal army chasing him).

Where can we cry out for help today? It can be: “Oh, Jesus, please help! I can’t get this done on time!” “God, help me get this relationship back on track!” “Lord, please hear me. I hate how my child struggles! Please send help!”

Or, we can wax poetic—and a bit long at times—like King David.

I end with a beautiful example of King David crying out in his anguish. He knew where to take his Spilled Salad Days. He didn’t mess around. Love me some David poetry. My heart groans right along with this some days. And after it, I include an anonymous psalm in keeping with the same theme.

Psalm 57:1-4, For the director of music. Of David. When he had fled from Saul into the cave.

Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.
I cry out to God Most High, to God, who vindicates me.
He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me—God sends forth his love and his faithfulness.
I am in the midst of lions; I am forced to dwell among ravenous beasts—men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.

Psalm 130:1-8, A song of ascents, anonymous

Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD;
Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.

*This post has been shared at Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-Up, Blessing CountersChristian Mommy Blogger, Grace & Truthand Faith-Filled Fridays.

 

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“Good Thing” Hoarders and Longing for the Orange Pig: Thoughts About Exclusion and Inclusion

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This title is obnoxiously long. I realize that. It’s really wordy, unclear, and very jumbled. I thought about defining it in fewer words and decided to leave it. It says exactly what I want to say. Here’s why…

My dogs are obsessed with rubber squeak toys. I could put five different ones on the ground, but they go after the same one: the orange pig. And it never fails that my petite Shih Tzu Delilah claims it first and fiercely guards it, snapping at Samson if he comes anywhere near. He is 1 1/2 times her size, also a Shih Tzu (from the same litter…can you say co-dependent?), hefty and solid, but he is more passive and happy-go-lucky. She burns her calories being high-strung while he patiently waits until he has the good fortune of her taking a paw off the toy. She will go so far as to hide it in our shoes. She doesn’t always have to have it. But she definitely doesn’t want him to.

Hmmmm.

Often I see her lying there, paws guarded on top of the toy, while Samson lays in front of her, patiently waiting. He has longing in his eyes, and perhaps a bit of calculation. But he measures his moments. He is content to hang there a while until she lets down her guard or gets her possessive behavior better under control.

I love Samson for this—not so much the coveting, but the patience. He is a gentle dog, willing to take second to her more demanding nature. And while sometimes we find ourselves cheering him on to be more assertive, his quiet spirit draws me in.

So I ask myself, as I watch them, how many of us are Delilah? We hoard something we want to keep to ourselves, and we don’t want to share. I see this a lot in various contexts. Not in my particular church fellowship, but just in general, I see people not want to share the fellowship or youth group they are going to so they can keep that to themselves. Or, they want to keep their ministry small and exclusive so that they can stay intimate. I get this on some level, and in a support group or even private prayer setting, that is very healthy and appropriate, but in most other settings, my feeling is: Hope, love, grace, and peace are to be shared. Jesus is to be shared.

Or, taking it out of the church sector for a minute, they want to invite this friend to join the soccer team but not let this other one know about it. I’m not talking about keeping a birthday party limited to 10 close friends. We do have some limits we have to set. We also can’t include everyone in everything. It’s more about hoarding what is good and not wanting to share. It’s more about being inclusive in our lives, rather than exclusive.

There are other people out there, like Samson, longing for the orange pig. They are looking at us, patiently, knowing we have something good, and they want to know about it. If we have peace, why shouldn’t we share it? Or a good event/activity to go to? Why rule someone out just because we want to keep it to ourselves?

Perhaps the Good Thing Hoarders (we all do this from time to time) are afraid if we share it, there are fewer pieces of the pie for us. Maybe we think the people we bring along will look for all of their answers and peace in us. At the root of it, that seems a bit arrogant to me when we do that. It’s assuming we are always fully responsible for or the answer to someone else seeking something. Maybe they want to come along and connect with others beside ourselves. But why should we ever keep them from something good? Why do we think we get to decide who should be invited? These are questions I ask myself every time I personally hesitate to include someone in something and also during the times when I feel excluded.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people are in a larger group setting and make indirect, private jokes or references to a different group they are a part of—but others in the room are not invited. Referencing shared moments publicly about that awesome moms’ group we are a part of may not be appropriate if we aren’t open to others joining us. Or, even better, let’s reference it and then invite!

If we have the orange pig (my silly example), and we have a chance to take a paw off it and invite someone to enjoy it also, why do we hold on so tightly, like my puppy Delilah? There are so many Samsons out there looking at us and wanting some access to the peace that we have, or the happy event that we’re going to. I believe we are so wrong when we rule out inviting them or do not open ourselves up to letting them join.

For those of us who trust in Christ, the orange pig analogy in this case is the truth and peace of Christ. I think sometimes we love it so much we don’t want to share it because we want it all to ourselves. But God is enough for the whole world. We need to take a paw off (not both) so people can see what’s under it: the amazing Good News that we have in our lives. If we shut people out of our ministry, small group, event, youth group, you name it, we are selfish Delilah holding on to what isn’t really meant to be just ours.

I encourage people both in their everyday lives of activities (non-faith-based), and for those who love Christ, in their faith-based activities, to open it up. Take a paw off. Love bigger. Open the doors wider. Hearts hurt around us all of the time wanting to be included, accepted, loved, trusted. Not everyone will jump in with the same level of commitment, but it’s not up to us to decide that.

Let’s not hoard the good things in our lives. There are some unhealthy people to keep boundaries with, yes, but excluding folks just because we want both paws on is a grievous error. We only have these good things because the Father gave them to us. I don’t care if it’s a soccer team or a Girl Scout club or a ministry. People hurt when we keep both paws on.

Where can we invite, welcome, incude, or accept a “Samson” who wants access to the good things we ourselves enjoy but isn’t going to force his/her way in?

James 1:17, James, brother of Jesus, speaking

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

 

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Photo credit: B. Brown, The Crate Escape

 

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Un-Defining a Day: Setting Expectations Properly

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I wasn’t going to blog this morning. I was going to take the day off. I’m tired. I just published my first book. It’s my birthday. It’s the dogs’ birthday (that was God’s very personal gift to me last year: Samson and Delilah landing on this planet exactly on my birthday). I just took my child to the early arrival program while still in my pajamas (vest over me, but you get the picture). I have the oldest home from high school today. I haven’t had my coffee.

I could watch the dogs play with their new rubber squeak toys, sip a pumpkin spice latte, and read my own book. LOL.

I haven’t stopped much to rest in the past two months.

And really, after a blog 6 times a week, for 7 weeks, how much more could I possibly have to say right now?

But this morning was an OCD battle morning. And I realize that I need to blog. I sometimes can’t turn off the writing noise in my head until I’ve thrown a few words out there, italicized and bolded for good measure.

The blogging compulsion is so strong lately that I blogged an email to a high school teacher. Yes, yes, I did. What I mean by that is that I wrote the email blog-style (although it was shorter). After, my son and husband agreed with me that maybe right now I shouldn’t really be trusted to write emails to teachers. It wasn’t horrible or anything. But she probably needed it more in paragraph form. I hope she at least sipped some tea and might consider a little trip to my amazon.com page as a result. But, that really wasn’t my goal or my point.

And this blog isn’t about the specific episode I encountered this morning with some inflexible thinking, rigidity, and panic in one of my offspring. It’s really just about how to not let a day completely derail you. I’m actually learning a lot about this as we look for ways to keep our calm on around here.

As this morning’s getting-dressed-for-school-and-twitching-about-the-time-arriving-to-the-flexible-arrival-school-program episode played out (how’s that for avoiding detail?), I found myself back to my pretzel breathing again. My blood pressure was climbing to unpleasant levels, and I needed to get a grip. I’m not a morning person, I made a decision as a parent not to rush that morning, the husband is traveling all week, and I just have to let perfection go.

But this particular child of mine could not let it go. And so I drew a calm, clear boundary (while thinking a lot about the metal pot I once threw in frustration on Kwajalein—I didn’t throw it at anything but the floor, but that’s a blog for another time). Reliving the feel of tensing my muscles for that metal pot throw in the past really did alleviate the need to do it again today. I don’t throw things anymore (I only have a handful of times anyway). I’m growing up! But I thought about it.

Boundary was received not too long after the last round.

And I know that not every morning is going to fly by and smile at me. I know when we’ve been up too late the night before, the next morning will not be smooth. A birthday doesn’t guarantee that a traveling spouse is home, high school three-hour Back-to-School Night isn’t on the same day, and our usual issues and struggles take a vacation.

I’m in my 40s and just recently figured this out. If you’ve figured it out sooner, that is so awesome. It’s toffee-nut-latte-worthy, really. I genuinely mean that. Sometimes I wonder how I got to be this age and still do not have this whole expectation thing down. My child certainly had expectations this morning. I kind of just threw mine out the window today, but I’m not mad about it. I’m actually quite peaceful.

Expectations can often dictate the day. Mine always have coffee in it. And Jesus. Beyond Jesus, everything else can flux and be unpredictable (even my beloved caramel white mocha latte!).

I want to start un-defining my day because it’s not me who really controls everything. And reasonable expectations help me chillax. When I over-define the way in which it should go: epic fail. I can strive to achieve a few things in my day, but I do not actually define it. Wrapping my head around this has been incredibly freeing.

The sidewalk I walk on suddenly got bigger, more open, and lots of room for more of Jesus and peaceful living.

Psalm 18:36, David speaking about God
You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way.

Jeremiah 29:11, Jeremiah the Prophet sharing the words of God
“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 hope and a future.”

 

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PUBLISHED! My Heart in 332 Pages.

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Today, “Espressos of Faith” celebrates the publication of Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day (available now at amazon.com!) with a little reflection on how it feels to hold that book for the very first time.

Thank you for being on this incredible journey with me. Your readership has made me strive to use my voice in better ways. I surely hope I accomplish that most of the time, but I so appreciate your grace on the days I fall short.

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I hate the mail. I really do. And when my kids bring it into the house on the way in from the bus stop, I feel immediately anxious. Part of this comes from being conditioned to only receiving mail twice a week when we lived in the Marshall Islands. When we did get mail, it was essential mail only. No junk mail. But not here. In the U.S., two-thirds of the mail is advertisements, political campaigns, and credit card/insurance offers. I can’t stand that stuff coming into my house and claiming real estate on my countertops, which is what happens since someone else sets it down, and it might be days before I notice it. So, yeah, I have issues about my mail. Our postal worker must hate me because I personally only collect it twice a week. She gets very creative about how she stuffs my standard-size mailbox. It’s almost a game at this point.

But I was expecting my book proof for two days, so the mail was starting to seem a bit more exciting. And the mail usually comes at 12 PM. But, of course, this time it came at 3 PM. I must have gone down to the box about 10 times yesterday. I think I wore a path in the lawn. The mailbox even started just opening as I approached it, like a big yawn, because it was so happy I was finally taking an interest. Okay, that last part was a bit of an exaggeration. But it did spring open with a bit more enthusiasm than usual.

And then it came.

That box-wrapped-around-a-book thingie.

I had about two minutes alone with it before the kids piled off the afternoon late activity bus. I quickly went inside, ripped that thing open, and cradled it. Several decades of wanting to be a published book author, and several years of actually writing it later—

—and here it was.

There would be time for checking headers, footers, pagination, blank pages, and overall formatting and content in a few minutes. But at that moment, my book and I danced. I wept. My heart grew five sizes bigger inside my chest. It was real. It was here.

And it was mine.

But I didn’t just shed tears for joy. I shed tears for healing, for hope, for health, for heartaches, for all of the stories wrapped deeply into those pages. As I opened it to take a peek, I felt so many things want to leap out, ready to spill into other lives now. Things I had kept close to me. Things that were begging for release.

Ready or not, here I come.

I had prayed my words would be a comfort and a hope to others. That nothing in there would poke at anyone else’s hurt, but only serve to show the way to the light at the end of the path.

But it’s also me word-naked before the public now. Before friends, family, and complete strangers who otherwise didn’t know the ins and outs of my mind and life to that great extent.

I was standing in front of the book mirror with my pages open. And everyone could read me now.

That is exhilarating

and

terrifying

all wrapped up in one bow—or box, as the case may be.

And in my prayers as this book came to publication, I asked God to please let it be a message of hope, healing, encouragement, and faith, and that it would give people a glimpse of His amazing love for them. I asked that nobody would misunderstand or be hurt by anything written, and each time I read it through, I tried to read it from a different perspective, wanting to feel the hearts of those in my potential audience. I prayed that His words would go deep into the people who need to hear them. I prayed He would show me any places where I was not reflecting Him correctly, where I was too edgy, too snarky, too negative, and take them out—that He would only let me write and keep in what was edifying, to build up others. That can be a challenge when hitting topics that are sensitive, like abandonment or relational struggles. Those can be so hot-button that everyone thinks it is written about them (even if I don’t know them!). But, actually, it is. Because it’s written about all of us, myself included.

So, I hold my breath now, trembling a little at the thought of letting this long-term project go out into the world—no matter how limited the audience. I have held it for so long in my arms, and pushing “publish” set things in motion that now cannot be reversed. Me—real, raw, tender, vulnerable, and a little quirky—I’m out there. But beneath this tiny voice trying to get out is a bigger, more important one that I so desperately want people to hear: the voice of the Father’s amazing love and how it speaks so patiently, mercifully, and compassionately into my very imperfect life. How He speaks to all of us, if we’re listening.

As I read some of my own shared struggles as well as those of other writer/blogger/author friends of mine, I keep coming back to this: The written word is a tremendous responsibility.

  • It’s a responsibility not to lash out (there are ways to express frustration and pain without cutting anyone).
  • It’s a responsibility to be honest, even through fiction—not always that the situation we present is our own but that we know how to present a situation because we’ve done our research and listened deeply and attentively to those in that particular struggle.
  • It’s a responsibility to share our own lives, when appropriate, with integrity and in a way that is not dishonoring to anyone.
  • And it’s a responsibility to have hands outstretched in love, opening up our audience instead of excluding or polarizing people.

I pray I have done that in Not Just on Sundays and will continue to do so through the next few projects I hope to accomplish. It’s important to write well and to regularly receive feedback. It’s equally important to love and respect your audience and those in your story. Without that, our stories are in danger of becoming sour, distorted, and cynical.

Thank you, fellow writers/bloggers/authors, for inspiring me with the way you beautifully maintain that balance.

And thank you, readers, for your willingness to participate in the flawed-but-ever-growing journey.

I love that we have a God who is with us, who saves, who takes great delight in us, and who rejoices over us with singing. Wherever the journey takes me, I want to remain close to understanding that deep in my heart. I hope that you can too.

Zephaniah 3:17, Zephaniah the Prophet speaking

“The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

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Not Just on Sundays published today, October 1, 2014. It is currently available at amazon.com and amazon.co.uk.

 

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