Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Courage

I'm going to try to explain why I needed to take a break from blogging, and how God spoke to me during that time....

To say I've always loved to write would be an understatement. I believe I was made to write. There's this word I learned recently that says it all: funktionslust. It means finding delight in doing what you do best, what you were made to do. For cheetahs, it's running. For eagles, it's flying. For beavers, it's building a dam. Funktionslust goes beyond achieving a goal like catching the prey; it's about reveling in the doing, because you're doing what you do best. That's how I've always felt about my writing.

Up until I started blogging, writing was something I did for myself, and very few people ever read what I wrote. But my blog changed all that. I was surprised to learn how many people were interested in what I had to say, and how many people enjoyed my stories. Over the last couple of years, maybe ten blog readers have told me, "You should get paid for this" or "You should write a book."

Writing a book had always been a dream for me, but it was a dream almost on the same level with winning the lottery; I never thought I would actually do it--until I heard other people telling me I should. There was only one problem: I didn't have any story ideas. I prayed about that and gave that desire to God. "I'd love to write a book," I said, "if you'll give me the story."

In January, I had a terrible bout of insomnia due to a nasty cold, and I while I was wallowing in misery and self pity, something amazing happened. A story idea literally dropped into my head out of nowhere. I thought and thought, and soon I was too excited to sleep. This went on for days and days, and I was utterly exhausted. For the next several weeks, I constructed the entire plot in my head without ever putting it to paper.

I finally started the manuscript in March, and I've written six chapters so far. I'll tell you more about the story later, but for now I'm just going to say that it's a story about sisters. Working on the book has been a roller coaster ride. I love the writing part, but I find myself thinking way too far ahead: What if I can't find a publisher? What if no one reads it? What if they read it and they don't like it?

Or... what would it be like to be famous? Wouldn't it be awesome to write the next Great American Novel? 

When I have those ambitious thoughts, my conscience pricks me. I don't want to be motivated by pride, or seek my own glory. That's why I needed to take a break from blogging and spend some time praying about God's plans for my writing.

Making the decision to be obedient to God's leading gave me such peace. Sometimes I did worry about when I'd be able to write again and whether I would lose all my readers, but every time I worried I prayed about it. I knew that God had given me a gift and that His plans for me were so much better than my own. For a couple of weeks, I really didn't hear anything at all, but I was able to keep the peace I'd felt at the start. I made up my mind that I wasn't going to make any decisions about my writing until I felt an assurance about what I should do.

Back in March and April, different friends had given me two devotional books. Melissa gave me Whispers of Hope, by Beth Moore, and my prayer group gave me New Day New You by Joyce Meyer. On two occasions, both books had the same message, and the message seemed personally directed to me! It boggled my mind to know that God would lay it on different people's hearts to give me books that would speak to me, and that I would somehow be on the right pages at just the right times for Him to give me the same message twice. The Meyer book has dated devotionals, but the Moore book does not, and I just read it on the days when I have more time. I really don't know how God does that!

Here were some of the verses and commentaries that spoke to me:
  • Galatians 1:10 "Now am I trying to win favor of men, or of God? Do I seek to please men? If I were still seeking popularity with men, I should not be a bond servant of Christ." Meyer admonishes, "Stop trying to build your own reputation, and let God do it for you." 
  • 1 Cor 10:31: "Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 
  • Psalm 40:6: Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, nor have You delight in them; You have given me the capacity to hear and obey." 
  • Philippians 4:13: "I have strength for all things in Christ who empowers me." Meyer says, "We do not need confidence in ourselves--we need confidence in Jesus!... When the devil lies and says, 'You can't do anything right,' your response to him can be, 'Perhaps not, but Jesus in me can, and He will, because I am relying on Him and not on myself. He will cause me to succeed in everything that I put my hand to.'" (Joshua 1:7)
  • Psalm 27:8: Meyer's commentary: "I have found that when I seek God's face to get to know my wonderful, loving heavenly Father better, His hand is always open to me." 
  • Psalm 37:4: "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart." Moore says, "As we make ourselves available to delight in God, He slowly revolutionizes our approach to finding fulfillment. Those who seek to delight in the Lord will ultimately develop a delightful relationship with Him.... Anyone who truly delights in the Lord will one day realize that God has become the desire of her heart. When He is our delight, we begin to want what He wants.... When we struggle with self-seeking desires, we hit our knees in prayer."
  • Here's one that was perfectly timed for what I was feeling that day (5/24/10). Moore says, "If our heart's desire is the will of God, we will wait for His timing even when the pause is long and uncomfortable.... Do we truly believe God knows what is best for us? Then we can also believe God knows when is best for for us.... Use every second of the wait to allow the Father to increase your faith and deepen your trust.

The most exciting thing that happened during my time of waiting is that God revealed my next memory passage! The text from a sermon at church really spoke to me, and I felt a tug in my spirit. "Is this for me, God?" I asked. That same day, my friend Kristi commented on my "Last Post For Awhile" blog entry and quoted the same passage! She said she'd thought of me when she heard the passage at her church that morning (a different church). I was so excited that God would give me a passage and a confirmation in the same day, and even though the passage focuses on attitude correction--no, because it focuses on attitude correction--it made me realize how very much the Father loves me. He isn't going to just let me sail along doing my own thing and following my own desires, but he's going to discipline me. And this isn't just a momentary rebuke, but a weapon I can use every time I am tempted by pride. Here's the passage:

3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
 5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
 6Who, being in very nature God,
      did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
 7but made himself nothing,
      taking the very nature of a servant,
      being made in human likeness.
 8And being found in appearance as a man,
      he humbled himself
      and became obedient to death—
         even death on a cross!
 9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
      and gave him the name that is above every name,
 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
      in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
      to the glory of God the Father.

I learned the first verse immediately, and I've quoted it to myself more times than I can count--every time I've have a prideful thought about anything. 
After a couple of weeks of working on the memory passage and feeling that I had laid my desires on the altar, I started wondering when God would give me the green light to start blogging again. I was anxious to share what I'd learned, as well as many fun stories (like Allyson's first ballet recital!). I kept watching for a sign, but I didn't know how to recognize it. During that time, I received many messages from friends and family to let me know that they were praying for me and that they hoped I'd start writing soon. Many of them gave me journals (nearly ten in all!). Some of them told me how my blog entries had inspired and encouraged them in their faith, and this brought tears to my eyes. 

While I was talking this over with my friend Gentle one afternoon, I had an epiphany. The key to overcoming my pride and ambition was to focus on ministering to others. On my next quiet time, I knelt and prayed for all of my readers, present and future. I fervently asked God to speak through me and use me to draw others close to Him. As tears dropped onto the stained carpet on my stairway landing, all traces of pride melted away. I was so humbled, and so ready to serve. 

Send Me an Angel
Still, I didn't feel the urge to write; I wanted to, but I didn't feel the time was right yet. Following Beth Moore's advice, I settled in and relaxed as I trusted in God's perfect timing. And I kept watching for my sign. 

And it finally came in the most wonderful way! When Bill's mom came down for Allyson's birthday, she brought all the birthday gifts that had been accumulating for me, Ethan, Bill, and Allyson. One of the gifts was from Bill's sister Lisa. She gave me a Willow angel to add to my collection, most of which were earlier gifts from her:



The latest angel had her arms raised in triumph. I loved her right away, but I wondered what she meant. All the other ones had been easy: a mother with a baby, a father embracing his family, etc. I wondered if this angel might have something to do with turning 40. Did this mean I could now let go of fear and accomplish every goal I set my mind to? I decided that's what she would mean to me. Of course, I thought of my writing, and it made me smile. 



Turns out, I wasn't far off in my interpretation. Lisa called and asked what I thought of the angel; she wondered if I'd noticed the title of the piece. While I was on the line with her, I trotted down the stairs and turned over the figurine. "It says Courage," I panted. 

When Lisa told me she'd thought of my writing when she saw that angel, my heart quickened with excitement, and tears gathered in my eyes. Could this be my sign? 

I prayed about it the next day, and all of the scriptures I'd been studying over the past weeks came together for me in a whole new way. I realized that my battle wasn't just with pride, but it was just as much with fear--I was wavering between those two extremes. Pride says, "I can do this--all by myself." Fear says, "I'm afraid I can't do this. I'm afraid I'll try and fail." But courage says, "Through Jesus, I know I can do this."

I realize now that even my fear was a form of pride because I was relying on my own strength to overcome the obstacles instead of trusting God to show me the way. Since that time, I've still had fearful thoughts, but I'm choosing to keep my eyes on God. I am making myself available to Him, and I know whatever plans He has for me are good.

Thank you to everyone who commented, emailed, called, or spoke to me with words of support and encouragement. Thank you so much to everyone who has prayed with me and for me about my writing. Please keep praying! I love you guys.




3 comments:

Jara said...

I am so excited to see all that God has in store for you become reality in your life! So much of it already has! Can't wait to see the next "chapters" unfold:)

Victor S E Moubarak said...

Best wishes with your writing and your planned book. Well done. I wish you well.

Keep us informed of progress.

God bless you and yours.

Melissa Irwin said...

Oh wow. I'm so excited for you, and I'm so honored that the book I sent you was not only sent a a gift, but experienced as a gift.

I am always so inspired by the ways that you share God speaks to you.

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