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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

What's your worth?

Most every person I've met and talked to for any length of time has had or is having issues with their worth and/or what purpose they are serving here on planet earth. We long to know we matter, that our lives make a difference.

Yet we're haunted by the belief that we've contributed nothing.

That's a lie you know. A huge lie straight from the enemy of our souls. But it feels true. That's exactly why this lie holds so much power. It feels true because we look around and see people we deem as important doing "Big Things for God" as my writer friend Sharon Hinck so perfectly portrays in her Becky Miller series.

I could tell you what to do with this lie, but instead I'll show you a slice of my life and how this very lie played out.

One day not so long ago, I had a rare car ride alone with my oldest daughter. She confided in me that she wished she had curly hair and went on to add that she liked the name “Marianne” because when she says that name she sees a young and free little girl with beautiful curly hair who wears cute clothes and not glasses which make her look too old.

Everything my daughter believes she is not.

My heart hurt for her. Hurt because as we talked I heard all the lies I’ve believed too. Hurt because my daughter is struggling with things that run so deep for so many.

I’d be beautiful if_________

I’m not pretty, important, worth anything because___________

We can all fill in those blanks, can’t we?

I told my daughter that I could fill in those blanks too and we had an interesting discussion about why we have these lists of what would make us "right" and "worthwhile."

Maybe you have no list but still think there's something wrong, something missing inside you or the life you have.

Either way, here's some of what my daughter and I talked over:

It’s hard to believe God made us correctly. The whisper comes to us like it did to Eve…

“Did God really say?” In other words—maybe God made a mistake.

I’d like to do what Eve and Adam did and play the blame game. It’s the TV’s fault. It’s society’s fault. It's those mean kids who teased my daughter about her glasses fault.

But the truth is we have the power to choose.

We believe the lie or the truth.

We accept the world’s view or we don’t.

We believe God made us beautiful in His sight, exactly how He intended us to be.

Or we don’t.

Whether we’re eight or eighty, if we hate, dislike, could stand to improve, or are just mildly dissatisfied with our bodies and with where we are in our lives, we’re in effect looking in the face of our Creator and saying, “You didn’t make me right. You made a mistake. Your plan isn't working.”

And who wants to hang out with the person that’s to blame for all we don’t like about ourselves?

These lies of the enemy attacking our beauty, our worth, and our self concept are dangerous. If left unchecked by the truth, they could easily lead us away from the Lord to any number of painful places.

To spending lots of money on “cute” clothes. (And having to replace said clothes every few weeks because the fashion world and people’s opinions are fickle.)

To a male’s attention.

To self-hatred and depression.

To diet after diet ‘til the mirror tells us we're beautiful.

Which won’t happen.

Because the mirror only reports what’s written on our hearts. What we believe.

So what do you believe about yourself? Do you believe you’re beautiful? A unique creation that the God of the universe delights in. A beloved child of your Heavenly Daddy who said in the Garden and still says every time He looks at you, “It is good.”

Or do you believe your hair, clothes, glasses, body shape, and name say differently?

The enemy is trying hard to get us to base our worth on the outside stuff. The things we can’t change—without much pain and expense—like our body shape, eyesight, and hair type. Instead of what God says is most important.

Our heart.

Our heart, which—if we belong to Him—has already been redeemed and made new. A heart that if we live out of the truth, can change the world and shine His glory. A heart that if we believe the truth, rests in His presence and glorifies Him simply by enjoying Him forever.

It's really isn't about what we look like or what we do. Our worth is only truthfully calculated by asking the God who made us what He thinks.

God says we’re beloved children. (Isaiah 43:1)

Beautiful. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

The apple of His eye. (Zechariah 2:8)

Worth counting every hair on our heads and capturing every tear in his bottle. (Matthew 10:30-31 and Psalm 56:8)

Worth singing over. (Zephaniah 3:17)

Worth dying for. (John 3:16)

Worth living with forever. (John 14:2-3)

Worth waiting for and wooing so that we’ll turn from the lies, from the fickle opinion of our mirror and other’s words, and come home. (Matthew 11:28 and John 6:29)

To an opinion of you that never changes. (Hebrews 13:8)

Is filled with love. (1 John 4:8-10)

And given with a smile and outstretched arms. (Luke 15:20)

Don’t believe that? That’s okay. It’s still true.

But God’s desire is that you believe the truth. In fact He said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32)

Maybe it’s time to take another look at that mirror. Only this time, ask the Lord, “What do You see? What’s true about me?” Then listen closely.

The one who sees you first thing in the morning and even on bad hair days says you’re worth far more than rubies.

In fact, He is enthralled with your beauty. Both the inside and out. (Psalm 45:11)

I'm happy to report my oldest took our very long conversation seriously. And she took all I said back to God and the Bible.

What she found is what God reminds us both of often...

"God really does love me and want me just because I'm His!"

I pray you'll come to the place where you can echo my daughter's words and know with your head and your heart that He "knows the plans He has for you and they are good."

I pray you'll know that the God of the universe, who spoke the beauty of the world into existence, looks at you and smiles with joy simply because you are His.

You are loved.

Rest there, my friend. It’s where you belong.

A Valley Of Betrayal

This is my friend, Tricia Goyer. She's one amazing lady! Not only a phenomenal author, Tricia is also a homeschooling mom, loving friend, and incredible prayer partner. But don't just take my word for it...

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Tricia Goyer is the author of five novels, two nonfiction books and one children's book. She was named Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference Writer of the Year in 2003. In 2005, her novel Night Song, the second title in Tricia’s World War II series, won ACFW's Book of the Year for Best Long Historical Romance. In 2006, her novel Dawn of A Thousand Nights also won book of the Year for Long Historical Romance. Tricia and her husband, John, live with their family in northwestern Montana. In addition to her fantastic books, Tricia has two amazing blogs, It's Real Life and a parenting blog Generation NeXt Parenting.

Now I get to share a personal tidbit about Tricia's new book. I had the privilege of reading a copy of the book back in November. In fact, Tricia's book was what kept me from going stir crazy during the weekend recuperation after foot surgery. But because of Tricia’s book what stood out most about that weekend was the enticing taste of history that planted me firmly within the time period of the Spanish civil war.

A Valley of Betrayal is a haunting depiction of the autocracies of war as well as the triumph of faith. Through the power of story Tricia brings history alive so that we never forget the battles that have been fought and the brave men and women who have gone before us.

ABOUT THE BOOK: A Valley Of Betrayal Book one in the Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War.

For reasons beyond her control, Sophie finds herself alone in the war-torn Spanish countryside, searching for her beloved Michael. His work as a news photographer has taken him deep into the country wracked by civil war. What was once a thriving paradise has become a battleground for Nazi-backed Franco fascist soldiers and Spanish patriots. She is caught up in the escalating events when the route to safety is blocked and fighting surrounds her.

Secrets abound in the ruined Spain. Michael is loving but elusive, especially about beautiful Maria. The American who helped Sophie sneak into Spain turns up in odd places. Michael's friend Jose knows more than he tells. When reports of Michael's disappearance reach her, Sophie is devastated. What are her feelings for Philip, an American soldier who comes to her rescue?

Sophie must sift truth from lies as she becomes more embroiled in the war that threatens her life and breaks her heart. On her darkest night, Sophie takes refuge with a brigade of international compatriots. Among these volunteers, she pledges to make the plight of the Spanish people known around the world through the power of art.

Acclaimed author Tricia Goyer creates a riveting cast of characters against the backdrop of pre-WWII Spain. Love, loss, pain, and beauty abound in A Valley Of Betrayal, the first book in her new series, Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The fixing point

There are days I wish change was as easy as a whispered prayer or a "10 steps to holiness" routine.

It's not.

In fact, after a conversation with my best friend I'm starting to wonder if there exists this thing I've strained toward called a "fixing point." A place I can set my sights on where I’m “fixed.”

I have set my counselor's mind on the belief that if we go deep into our hearts with God and deal with the lies there, (for an understanding of how that works, check out The Fear Factor blog post) we'll come to a place of deep healing and our attitudes and actions will change.

I still believe that.

What I'm starting to question is if we'll ever "get it right" enough to completely change, and if growth is linear and we’ll ever get to the point where we stop stumbling backward. This pondering had me pretty melancholy over the weekend. I mean, if there's not a place of growth where I finally get it right, what's the point in trying?

God held up a mirror and revealed my heart in this issue.

He spoke through my best friend's voice when she said, "If we can attain perfection, then why would we need God?"

Why indeed.

I realized my attitude in wanting a fixing point was one of self-reliance and self-achievement. Not to mention self-gratification.

Wouldn't life be easier if I got "perfect" and everyone around me did the same?

I'm starting to see that mindset isn’t honoring God at all.

Sure He invites us to cry out to Him. But are we asking for our hearts and lives to change for His sake and His glory, or ours? Too often I have to admit my focus is on me and what I want God to do for me.

What God is showing me right now is that my “fixing point” needs to be Jesus and Jesus alone.

Not some standard of behavior.
Not some false idea that “perfection” lies in anything I can do.
Not some idea that healing is based on what I realize and how I perform.

But like Hebrews 12 says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”

It’s God who does the work in us. I wish I didn’t forget that so easily and slip back onto the performance treadmill.

Thanks be to God that He doesn’t keep a list of how many times we fail and He doesn’t shake His head and wish we’d have gotten it by now.

I’m praying I’ll show that kind of grace to those around me. And to myself.

I want to run to Jesus just because I want Him and not only for His healing. He’s growing that desire in me. I pray He is in you too.

I also pray we’ll make our “fixing point” Jesus and trust Him to work His healing work in us and to keep drawing us deeper and deeper into Christ.

He promises He will complete this very work He’s begun in us.

Here’s to learning to rest in that and seeing Christ’s perfection poured out through us as we fix our eyes on Jesus.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Rejection

This is one word I really detest. But it's a fact of the writing life. And of life in general.

If you’d like to see the short version, (Yes, I do write some short things! LOL) check it out at my new ShoutLife page. (You’ll have to sign up to see the entire post, but this is a free, Christian online community that’s been a blast to be a member of.)

But for you all who are used to my longer thoughts, I’m going to go deeper into the reality of rejection in all of life and what I think about it.

In two words…it stinks.

And right now I’m trying to sort out in my head how to deal with a very personal rejection that I’m fighting through.

It hurts.

Please pray for me to handle this relationship with grace. And if you know me well, pray that the Lord will put His hand over my mouth until what I say are His words and His words alone. Thank you.

Back to my thoughts on rejection in general…

Earlier today I was inspired by an email from a fellow author to go dig out my rejection folder. In it are some dozen or more rejection letters and emails from various publishers. Here are some of my (now) favorite rejection blips...

"The Journey did not generate sufficient enthusiasm for us to consider publication."

"This story is not of the exceptional quality I need to see in order to acquire it."

"The author's voice seems a little melodramatic and unoriginal. It has a lot of clich├ęs and seems to try to pull at heartstrings in familiar ways."

Ouch. They still sting a little even though all of these comments are years old. They're also all about the first book I ever wrote.

The book that is now a published novel.

But you know what? Those editors were right. Looking back on the tome I typed over five years ago, I can see all of what they saw. But God had a plan. And my editor caught the vision.

In many ways I'm thankful for these rejection blips. They mean I took a chance in following my dream. They mean I had ways I could improve. Holding them now they mean I didn't give up. I kept going when the rejections piled up and few had anything good to say.

I can thankfully say the same for many relationships in which I’ve experienced rejection. Because God and God alone kept me firmly planted in those relationships until I was willing to see His hand in them.

And in the rejection I felt from them.

Many times the rejections weren’t deserved. They had to do with something the other person was struggling with and I just happened to be an easy target.

But there were times the painful words were well warranted. Even when they weren’t, what I did with the words and feelings directed at me mattered most. Often, what I did at first was get mad. Then cry.

Finally, I took them to God.

Above all else, that’s what made the difference between me giving up or choosing to love, write, and live anyway.

Only after I’d gone to God and heard His truth about what He sees in me and says about me could I forgive. After that is when I was able to learn from each of the experiences, rejection letters, etc.

Here’s what I learned:

What matters is that God has a plan and purpose for my life. A good plan and a good purpose that no amount of rejection will alter.

You see, God looks at my fledgling and often flawed efforts to communicate to a loved one or tell a story that moves me and HE says, "It is good." Why? Because I put my behind in the chair, typed my dream, and sent it out in obedience to Him. Because I spoke the words He put on my heart or reached out to show love to another person.

In truth, I can’t say that every word I’ve spoken were God’s words. And in any conflict there are two sides, viewpoints, and things done out of emotion instead of faith.

But the test of our character is what we do with rejection. And what we do with the words and actions we sinned by saying or doing. What we do with the sins of others.

It’s hard to write and know that someone somewhere is not going to like it and tell the world about that. It’s hard to keep loving someone who continues to say and do things that feel rejecting.

But as long as God calls me to write, as long as He whispers to my heart to forgive and not give up on the relationship, my choice is to obey.

To keep writing. To remember the cross, repent of my sin, and forgive.

That’s painful. And there’s no guarantee there won’t be more rejection ahead. But when I know I’m being obedient to my heavenly Father’s direction, then I can remember this verse with joy: "I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God that which cost me nothing." (2 Samuel 24:24)

Writing and loving other flawed human beings are both acts of obedience and acts of worship. Ones that costs much. But it draws me deeper into Christ. It honors HIM. And that's why I'll keep writing and loving and running to Christ.

After all, that’s the best place to rest.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Fun in the Son

Welcome to Beach Day at Peek-a-boo ICU! Here’s our tour itinerary:

Meet and Greet with Julie Carobini


Dive into Chocolate Beach (don’t you just love the cover???)

Go deeper with Julie

How to land a copy of Chocolate Beach

So grab your sunscreen, beach towel, chocolate, and lots of imagination. Then join me on the beach…Chocolate Beach.


Meet Julie:

Julie Carobini is an award-winning writer whose stories often spotlight her family, the sea, and God's timely work in the lives of those around her. She has written more than a hundred articles for all kinds of publications, including Focus on the Family, Decision, Discipleship Journal, Aspire, Catholic Parent, Beliefnet.com and many others. Julie lives California, with her husband, Dan, and their three children. Chocolate Beach is her first novel.


Dive into Chocolate Beach:


Even a laid-back beach girl has her doubts....

Bri Stone has it all: the man of her dreams and their surf-ridin' teenage son, a chocolate-loving best pal, an adorable beach bungalow, and a kicky job as a Southern California tour bus host.

She also has a few things she didn't ask for: a know-it-all friend, a snobby mother-in-law, and a Fabio-meets-Dilbert boss. All three of them seem eager to share their strong opinions and suspicions about Bri's relationship with her husband, Douglas.

When Bri's rose-colored glasses crack after she finds evidence that Douglas has grown tired of her carefree ways, she resolves to win him back. Can Bri reinvent herself--and recapture his heart?


Going Deep:

What inspired you to write Chocolate Beach?

First, I wanted to write a book set in one of my favorite locales—the California coast. Then I began to think about relationships, and how people often marry their opposites. What happens to them down the road? How do they deal with their differences? Are they still charmed by each other, or bugged? In Chocolate Beach, Bri Stone has always found solace in chocolate and the beach, but will these things get her through when she faces serious questions about her marriage?

When will Chocolate Beach release?

The official release date was February 2007, but it actually made it into readers’ hands in January. Exciting times for a newbie author!

Are there any new projects on the horizon?

Yes! Watch for A Curious Thing about Seashells (working title) in Summer 2008. It’s the story of Bri’s best friend, Gaby Flores.

Do you prefer to write contemporary chick-lit fiction?

Yes! I read all sorts of genres, but found my voice in Chick-lit. It’s sassy and fun, and allows me to tell stories of life’s challenges in an entertaining way.

Who are your readers?

My readers are the “young at heart.” Mostly women, they are aware of current trends and technology, yet they like to giggle through a good story. They also love to bond with other women over a hot cup of coffee or tea, and of course, designer chocolates.

What are some of the challenges you face as an author?

It can be so tough to find unobstructed time to actually write when there are so many other things vying for my attention: proposing new books, marketing current ones, writing articles, and most especially, caring for my family of five.

How do you keep your sanity in our run, run world?

Actually? I’m often overwhelmed. I must pray a lot—and God always steps in
Attending a regular Bible study helps too, because it keeps me focused on what God thinks about my busy life! I also jog on the beach, take a spinning class, and drink (too much) coffee.

What advice would you give to a person trying to become a fiction writer?

I address this on my new website. First, find every opportunity to read. Next, make sure you actually enjoy the process of writing before investing your life into it. Finally, get help. Go to writer’s conferences and watch how the experts do it; make friends at those conferences, the kind who will cheer you on in the days ahead (and who you can cheer along too!); and invest in yearly guides such as Sally Stuart’s Christian Writers’ Market Guide.


Amy here: For all you snow-bound and freezing folks, Chocolate Beach is a warm vacation get-away packed with the makings for a great escape. And here’s a sweet deal to get you started dreaming about summer: leave me a note in the guestbook and one of you will win an all expense paid trip to the beach…Chocolate Beach.

Monday, February 19, 2007

True confessions

My clothes no longer fit.

I loathe exercise.

I want to quit trying to lose weight because it's far more fun to put weight on than take it off.

I hate the way my body looks.

My blood sugars are totally out of whack.

I feel guilty for all of the above.

Okay, now that I've gotten that off my shoulders here's what I'm doing about it. First off I'm doing the tried and true lessening what I eat and exercising more. This has been a huge inner struggle because I haven't eaten like I'd like to in months and yet I've lost nothing. I’ve gained weight in fact.

So God being God and loving me even when I pout brought to the forefront an even bigger problem than my weight issues. The growing attitude of entitlement that's weighing me down far more than the numbers on my scale.

By entitlement I mean the attitude that someone owes me something. Here’s how it looked in my home over the weekend...

The three-year-old version: "All toys are my toys and everybody should let me do whatever I want when I want it."

The six-year-old version: "My opinion deserves to be heard and everyone should listen."

The nine-year-old version: "I can take all the time I want to do whatever I want and no one should tell me otherwise."

The thirty-something-year-old version: "I want to eat and do whatever I want and I shouldn't ever gain weight."

In all these things there was an underlying belief that someone owes us something. There’s a “right” each of us were holding onto that brought us into conflict with each other or ourselves.

And God saw fit to give me this object lesson through my kids and my weight issues so I wouldn’t miss the message.

Again, God being God, He didn’t leave me to stew in my attitude with no hope of release or direction. In giving my girls a “talking to” about the issues of rights and how ultimately God owns all we have and our time, talents, and journeys belong to Him as well, I saw my problem far more clearly than I wanted to.

I felt like God owed it to me to make one issue in my life easier and I’d chosen my weight as the thing He “should” be fixing. After all, I was doing “good stuff” and “trying hard” especially in the area of eating healthy and exercising.

Then this morning I read in 2 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

Here’s a true confession of what went through my mind when I read this verse: So if I have everything I need for life and godliness, why is my health as a whole such a wreck??? Why do I feel like I’m failing far more than I’m succeeding in any given area? AND why does it feel like God’s not giving me what I need to even get out of bed let alone live a godly life?

Not only had I been upset with God over not making my weight issue easy to fix, I realized I had fallen back on demanding God be my genie in a bottle.

I ask. He answers, “As you wish.” Life is good.

Ouch.

So I went back to this verse and in repentance prayed, “Lord help me see that You are what I need and it’s in knowing You and allowing You to permeate every area of my life that true Christlikeness shines through. Godliness and life are about being in relationship with You. Change me to seek You simply for You.”

As I’ve pondered all this today I’ve come to realize something else. My “true confession” that matters the most is this…

God is God and I’m His beautiful daughter.

That truth is not dependent on a scale’s smaller numbers or my mirror’s approval. It’s not dependent on whether I feel like it’s true or not.

It is simply the truth.

And the more I confess the truth, the more I learn about God just by hanging out with Him, the more like Him I become.

That’s what truly matters. To know Him and enjoy Him. To let His power and His plan be lived out through us.

Please pray for me! And let me know how I can pray for you. Together let’s remind each other to praise and trust and hang on.

God is good all the time. And all the time He is good.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is a hard day for many. Like other holidays there's the expectation that everything has to be "just so" or "perfect" for it to be "good."

But today I want to focus on something that's supposedly the meaning of this holiday, but is often not.

Love.

Unfailing love to be more precise.

And to do that I went back in time a little to blogs I'd written years ago because the topic of love is never really far from our minds, is it? It certainly shows up in most of my posts. And I think if we're honest, we're all longing for total, complete, perfect love that will make everything better.

So where do we find it?

First we have to get honest about what's really going on in our hearts. And then second, we need to know where to look for our heart’s desire.

Here's a clip from two years ago. While my circumstances have changed~ praise God! ~ some of the struggles still visit me with regularity. This is one of them...

“I remembered my Bible study last night on unfailing love and it hit me that I'm feeling numb inside because I shut myself down.

Because I'm so tired of my own failure and the hurt from other people failing me.

I'm even a little angry with God for not answering prayers and changing things I've begged Him to change for a long while now. There’s that forcing God to prove He loves me.

I didn’t realize it, but I was saying in effect…

Heal my body and I’ll believe You love me.

Heal my marriage and I’ll believe You love me.

Give me a book contract and I’ll believe You love me.

God says simply, “I love you with an unfailing love.”

Period.

No conditions.

Just the Cross.

And His Word.

Proverbs 19:22 “What a man desires is unfailing love; better to be poor than a liar.”

Proverbs 20:6 “Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?”

Every human alive longs for, desires, and is so hungry to have unfailing love that we'll do anything just to get a taste. Even numb out as a way to deny the pain when this need feels unfulfilled.

But only God is capable of unfailing love. In fact the Biblical words for unfailing/ agape love ONLY refer to God. We humans can't muster or get "holy" enough to love that way. And no human can love us that way all the time. We all fail. We fail to love and be loved well.

But God doesn't. He loves anyway. No matter the sin. No matter the anger. No matter the deadness inside. No matter what I perceive as unanswered prayers.

Those “unanswered prayers” are one way God got my attention to see that the fight I’m to fight isn’t about forcing Him to prove He loves me. Or to get others to love me the way I want to be loved.

It’s the fight of faith that counts. The fight to believe the truth. And walk in it.

The fight that runs to God believing that God and God alone is the only one capable of unfailing love.

We either fight the fight of faith and keep fighting or we try to deaden our hearts a little more every day. If we fight, there will be times of rest, times of healing, and- ultimately... finally...in God's perfect time - complete rest, healing, and peace.

But if we give up and deaden our hearts, what is there? No hope. No possibility of joy. Nothing. That's where the enemy wants us to stay. Because he knows who we were created to be and he fears us.

Love and joy and faith are painful. No two ways about that. But inner deadness isn't really death. It's self-protection. And it doesn’t work.

I’m reminded that self-protectiveness is a sin because it's denying God's rightful place in my life. He's my Protector and Comforter. He's Daddy and Mommy; Strength and Peace. He's everything I need. And it’s God, and God alone, that loves me with unfailing love.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 “God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud. God is not rude, God is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. God never fails.”

Jeremiah 31:3 "I have loved you with an everlasting love.”

Period.

Exclamation mark!

Unfailing love.

Not only is God’s love exactly what I need… it’s what I want, what I desire too.”

It’s hard to go back and read those words and be reminded that God has spoken so clearly so many times in my life. And still I fail.

And still He forgives.

All the while opening His arms wide and inviting me to receive the unconditional love I long for. Love that is mine. Love that is yours. All the time. Always.

Paul calls it the most excellent way~ LOVE.

1 Corinthians 13~ All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now. There are three things that will endure--faith, hope, and love--and the greatest of these is love.

Happy Valentine's Day!!!!

May you experience today the truth that you are LOVED totally, completely, and perfectly by a holy God who is never disappointed in you and who smiles at each and every thought of you!!!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Something to consider

Today I'd like to introduce you to a guest blogger who is ruggedly handsome, a great daddy, and the love of my life, my husband David Wallace. Unbeknownst to me David wrote a blog that when I saw it this morning, it had me reading and re-reading with my jaw dropped.

It smarts with truth and straightforwardness and it was something I needed to hear. It also dovetails well with what I blogged about the other day. So rather than sum it up, I'll share his words here...

Lust

I’m sure everyone is familiar with the concept of lust. There is the lust for power, for sex, for money. These are some of the most commonly thought of. However, the devotional I was reading the other morning opened my eyes and my heart to become aware of another type of lust.

Spiritual Lust.

I wrestled with the concept for a while, but when it came right down to it, I realized that it not only exists as a possibility, but that it is very real, so real in fact that I am guilty of it much of the time.

The quote I read from my devotion ( My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers) was this:

“Spiritual lust makes me demand an answer from God, instead of seeking God who gives the answer…The meaning of prayer is that we get hold of God, not of the answer.”

I was reminded of my favorite Psalm, the 37th. I love many verses in this Psalm, but I specifically thought of verses 4-5:

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this.”

The focus here is the Lord. Delight in Him. Commit your way to Him. The answers to our prayers are a result, not the goal or focus.

Lately, I’ve been frustrated with God for not answering my prayers quickly enough for my liking or in ways that I expected (or demanded). My focus has been on getting God to answer my prayers…not on knowing Him, His will and His ways. I’ve been guilty of what Mr. Chambers labeled Spiritual Lust.

Again I’m humbled to see I have so much to learn as I turn once again from demanding and throwing a temper tantrum when my insistencies are not satisfied and refocus to seek the One who can teach me as He makes me more like Himself.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

What’s enough?

The other day something happened that I totally overreacted to on a grand scale. I tried to talk it over with God after I spewed angry words all over my husband and best friend.

And it wasn’t even their fault. It wasn’t anybody’s fault really.

It was just me taking one, small, innocent remark personally and letting it eat away at my soul.

Then a friend emailed a comment about being a people pleaser and God sort of tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I was listening.

I wasn’t.

I doubt anyone would peg me as being a people pleaser. My husband and those who know me best and love me anyway would call me a strong-willed, bull-headed, do-it-my-own-way-or-die type A personality. (Lovingly of course.)

But in truth, I’m a closet people pleaser in a HUGE way.

It aches in deep places when I realize I’ve disappointed someone. It hurts out of proportion to the incident or actions.

Because at the core I don’t just feel like I’ve disappointed someone.

I feel like I am a disappointment.

When I sat still long enough for God to show me my little six-year-old still wounded heart, I bawled. Mostly because it hurt to remember the pain of growing up always being told without words what a disappointment I was.

But it also hurt that I hadn’t gotten over that yet, that I hadn’t allowed God to heal me yet. That I was a disappointment to my heavenly Parent too.

I kept crying and saying things to God like, “I’m never going to make anybody’s mark. I’m never going to be the best at anything. And I’m supposed to.”

God whispered, “No, you’re not.”

On all three counts.

But I still want to.

I was totally unprepared for what God said next. I’d been hoping for some word from Him that would speak truth to the little six-year-old girl with a still wounded heart and finally heal those hurts.

But God spoke to the Amy who is three decades older.

He told me clearly I’d allowed the goal of never being a disappointment to become an idol.

And until I laid that down, I’d continue to reject His healing words of love.

I had to take a long, hard look at that and realize He’s right. A lot of what I’ve done, especially in the last year, has been done feeling like the hounds of hell were nipping at my ankles and driving me to do more, work harder, be better.

They were. But all they had to do was whisper my core lie “I’m a disappointment” and I did the rest. I shut God out and pushed and pushed and pushed to do all I can not to be a disappointment. All the while running from the still small voice of God telling me the truth.

“You are My beloved child and nothing you do will change that.”

That’s really all I’ve ever wanted. To be loved unconditionally. And I’ve had that all along.

In little ways God has been showing this to me and I’d get to a deep place and then stop short of fully stepping back into His embrace. But today the storms that have been swirling around me washed away everything but the truth.

I’d held onto my idol harder than I’d held onto God.

I cried and prayed and told God how truly sorry I was. But I still tried to figure out a way to make things right, to make it up to Him, to fix things.

Idols can’t be fixed.

And God asked me to give it to Him.

While that sounds so simple and easy, it isn’t. This lie, however awful and destructive it’s been, has been a large part of my existence for my entire life. It feels like it’s a part of me.

I don’t know how to let it go. I have no idea how to walk without it.

But God does. And He promises He will complete His work in me. That includes teaching me how to live with the new heart and new name and new life that is Christ in me.

It feels like I’m stepping over the edge into a dark, unknown void.

What I do know is Jesus is there to catch me. He never fails.

And for once in my life, that is enough.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Stories for the hero in all of us

Ever wondered if God has Big Things planned for your life? Ever been too tired to care or too busy to wonder about it much? ;-)

I can sure answer YES to both of those questions. And I'd like to introduce you to two people who have some awesome things to share on these and many more topics relevant to moms everywhere.

The first is my dear friend and amazing author Sharon Hinck. The second is her fictional character, Becky Miller, who I'd love to have in my circle of friends.

Sharon's newest book Renovating Becky Miller is at the top of my small but treasured MUST READ list. Read on to find out why...


A Little About Sharon:

Sharon is a wife and mother of four children who generously provide her with fodder for her books. She’s part of a weekly small-group women’s Bible study (very like the group described in the BECKY MILLER novels.)

Since releasing her first novel, she only rarely gets to indulge in favorite hobbies like rubber stamping, reading, scrapbooking and gardening. Actually, sleeping and eating have gotten squeezed off her list some days, too.

She loves Celtic worship music, hiking in the North woods, animated discussions around the supper table with the family, and praying with friends.


She writes stories for the hero in all of us and her books share a common theme: The life of faith is a grand adventure, and even the small choices we make each day can be heroic. Her characters discover that God can accomplish amazing things through our ordinary lives.

Sharon’s first novel, THE SECRET LIFE OF BECKY MILLER released last summer, and in addition to RENOVATING BECKY MILLER, she has a three-book fantasy series releasing with NavPress this year, and two more stand-alone mom-lit books releasing with Bethany House the following year.


What prompted you to begin writing?

I’ve been writing all my life as a way to grapple with questions and feelings that I needed to express. But as far as becoming a novelist, that came after years of prayer asking God for direction. After several years of seeking a “next step” in my service to Him, I felt a gentle prompting to “write,” but I still didn’t know if that meant parenting articles for magazines, devotions, scripts, or the kinds of things I’d written in the past. It was a process of about seven years of praying, dabbling, and seeking before I felt the inspiration to begin a novel and then the flood-gates opened.

Your website is awesome and your bio hysterical, especially THE SECRET LIFE OF SHARON HINCK. With all you've done and all you currently do, what's your counsel for busy moms who crave doing "Big Things for God"?

Thanks for the compliment on my website. PulsePoint design has been a huge blessing, because they have a special passion for Christian authors.

Moms – God’s love for you isn’t based on your achievements.

Take a deep breath and absorb the freedom of that truth. However, God will do “Big Things” through you. Some of these things may never look “big” by the world’s standards of success. But He will bear fruit of ETERNAL value (“fruit that will last” as He calls it in the gospel of John).

It’s VERY VERY hard for me to have faith in that when I’m daily confronted by my inadequacies and failures, and tempted to compare my lack of accomplishments to my friends with their very different personalities and talents. But we can take Him at His word and trust that being AVAILABLE for Him to use daily is a treasure to Him. When you get to heaven, you’ll find out a zillion ways that seemingly small choices you made were a huge blessing to someone else.

Advice for those interested in writing?

When the goal of your writing time is to deepen your relationship with Christ (to show up and be there to communicate with Him and about Him) - it will be a joyful use of time, no matter the results.

If God prompts you to seek publication, by all means do that. Pray over each step. Treasure the calling, but daily offer it back to Him. I’m trying to walk in a place where I’m passionately committed to the work, but completely surrendered in my will, so that if He says, “Okay, time to stop and go a new way,” I would be ready.

That’s tough for me, because I get very focused. Even on a daily basis, I struggle with releasing my own agenda. When God whispers, “This friend needs a meal, your child needs a cuddle, your husband needs your time, your work will have to be set aside today,” I often respond by whining about deadlines and goals and plans. Then I remember that I’m not the orchestra conductor. I’m one small instrument with a specific part to play. Sometimes (horrors!) that even includes resting for several measures.

Favorite scripture and why?

2 Cor. 4:7 Because I’m a crackled, weathered, earthen jar. Not much to look at. But God’s grace can leak out through the flaws and it’s such a comfort to know that.

One thing about you that no one’s asked, but you wish they would?

“Sharon, I have a beach front cottage sitting empty. Could I fly you out here for a week of solitude and beauty and time to write?”


For more fun, check out Sharon's website at http://www.sharonhinck.com/


Now meet Becky Miller:

Becky Miller believes in fixing things: children, friends, mother-in-law, sister, church . . . and her husband. So renovating a run-down farmhouse is right up her alley--the perfect antidote for the pressures of modern life.

But Becky's pursuit of the simple life is soon threatened. Her mother-in-law moves in, her son finds trouble at school, her sister arrives for a visit, her best friend is acting weird, all while work stresses mount. Worst of all, her marriage is in need of some major remodeling of its own.

Cinematic daydreams provide Becky with heroic drama. Maybe that's why she escapes into the scenes so often. In real life, everything is a muddled mess.

Who knew one old house could lead them to the brink of bankruptcy? Or that Becky's physical handicap could threaten to steal their dream?

Can Becky stop fixing everyone else and let God renovate her heart so she can find her own happy ending?

Amy here:

I fell in love with this book from the cinematic daydreams that segue perfectly into Becky's everyday life to the cast of characters I wanted to hang out with. I loved Becky's honest transparency and how easily I could relate to her. Not only that, but what God taught Becky in the pages of this book, He also taught me as I laughed, cried, and cheered for Becky and her family.

This book is more relaxing than a Calgon escape and (dare I say it?) even more enjoyable than chocolate! For those of you who know me, you KNOW that's a rave review.

I give Renovating Becky Miller 5 out of 5 stars and a wholehearted Heart Chocolate top pick of 2007!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Six Weird Things About Me

My friend Meg Moseley tagged me today to play "Six Weird Things About Me."

Read on if you dare and learn some off the wall stuff about Amy....

1) When I was pregnant with my first child I told my husband I'd sock the first person who tried to rub my protruding belly. That person ended up being my body builder brother-in-law. My husband grabbed my hand and kept the peace. No one but my hubby ever knew.

2) The ONLY writing book I have ever actually finished reading is Snoopy's Guide to the Writing Life.

3) One of my favorite gross metaphors is, "Her hair flowed like snot on a spring day."

4) I often look at the last chapter before reading a book.

5) Until I had a talk with my daughters about outward versus inward beauty, they would check their behinds in the mirror before leaving the house. Why? They wanted to be "just like Mommy." Ouch. And no, I don't still do that.... much anyway.

6) I've taught my girls a plethora of James Taylor songs that we sing often. Along with them we sing TV tunes: Green Acres, Gilligan's Island, and Beverly Hillbillies. We also belt out the lyrics to every song in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Even my three year old sings along!

Okay, now that I've totally embarrassed myself in cyberspace I'm tagging a few people to play along. Jen K, Heather, Sally, Laurie, Keer, Tricia
 
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