Category Archives: writing

on living the right question …

When I get to the end of all of this, when I reach the other side of the struggle that’s been weighing so heavily upon me, what do I want to see happen?

This is the question I keep asking myself. It’s the question that keeps me awake at night and barely functioning during the daytime. I scramble for answers, trying to manipulate the outcome, trying to fix a problem that is bigger than me. And I realize something in these early morning hours, really have some clarity about one important thing:

I’m not asking the right question.

“What do I want to see happen?” doesn’t get the job done. Instead, “What does God want to see happen?” seems the right fit for such a time as this.

I’ve been reading Dr. Tangumonkem’s words—a journey of simple yet profound faith. He’s my new friend, a beautiful grace from God in the midst of this ever changing saga known as my publishing debacle. We’ve done a book exchange of sorts as a way of encouraging each other in this time. From his pen he writes these words:

“The next time an opportunity presents itself before you and is more than your wildest imagination, do not get frozen in your tracks. Your boat is being rocked to loosen if from the shore so that you can move into deeper waters. Fear, worry, and anxiety are expected reactions, but do not allow them to prevent you from launching into the deep.” (from Coming to America, 2013, pg. 35)

He can write these words, because he knows them to be true. He has lived these words, one faithful step at a time. This is a man with a God-given dream, a God-given life. A man from Cameroon who never allows himself to live in the impossibilities of what God has called him to do but, instead, relies on the promises of God to make it happen. I marvel at his determined faith, and I am stretched to live accordingly.

I smile at his fortitude. Consider this man who, after being led by the Spirit of God about coming to America to further his education, saved his spare coins for an entire year so that he could pay the fee to take the GRE, thereby meeting one of the many requirements of God’s forward moving plan for his life. A year, people! Are you hearing me? A year’s worth of intentional saving so that he could take … wait for it … a test.

How different would our blessed United States of America be if we all had a similar passion and respect for furthering our education? We’ll drop a few hundred dollars on a new gadget without a second thought. Dr. Tangumonkem didn’t have that luxury and, instead, made this collection of coins his first thought, his second thought, his third, fourth, and fifth thought, one thought at a time until enough money had been saved so he could take a test. So that he could check that one requisite off of a very long list of requirements before seeing God’s dream come to pass. Again from his pen:

“Many dreams have died at inception because we focus on the lack of resources and the obstacles that oppose our onward match [sic] to fulfilling our dreams. This should not be the case, for if God is the initiator of the dream He will also make the dreams come true. … All you are required to do is believe and trust Him to lead you one step at a time. This is the one tried and true antidote that will put fear and unbelief out of business.” (from Coming to America, 2013, pg. 46).

Yes, friends, I’m asking the wrong question. Not “What do I want to see happen?” but rather “What does God want to see happen?”. This is yet to be determined. It is a matter far too big for me to get my mind around these days, my pocketbook as well. Re-publishing my manuscripts will be an expensive endeavor and one that I had not planned on. I think that God intends for me to take a page out of my new friend’s history.

I’ll trust God with the dream, and then I’ll save my spare change – even if it takes a year or two or whatever amount of time God determines to bring his conclusion to fruition. In the end, I just want to pass the test—this test of faith so that I might shine forth as gold, even as Dr. Tangumonkem shines forth as a beacon of hope for all of us in this time of sifting.

“But he knows the way that I take;

when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.

My feet have closely followed his steps;

I have kept to his way without turning aside.

I have not departed from the commands of his lips;

I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.”

–Job 23:10-12

 

Kept in peace,

PS: If you are interested in learning more about Dr. Tangumonkem’s Coming to America and how you might secure a copy, please click on the link above or contact him through his email – tangumonkem@yahoo.com. I’m not sure how many copies he has left; there are nearly 2000 authors in a state of flux right now regarding our published work, but I’ll be happy to put you in touch with him.

The winner of Mark Buchanan’s The Rest of God is Sharon. Please be in touch with a mailing address, friend.

Begin

“The Lord said to me, ‘See, I have begun to deliver Sihon and his country over to you. Now begin to conquer and possess his land.’” –Deuteronomy 2:31

Now begin, so says the Lord.

But I don’t know how. Not tonight. Perhaps these words are a place to start. Let me explain.

These are real tears falling down onto my computer keyboard tonight, real pain welling up inside of me. If I’m being honest, really digging deep to understand this potency that’s picking away at my heart, at the root of it all is my sense of failure. I could list a dozen “if onlys”, spend a lot of time digging around for a place to put the blame, but the torment that keeps hammering cruelly into my mind is this one:

If only I was a better writer I wouldn’t be in this mess. I would have been signed by a reputable agent/publishing house, thereby saving me this incredible heartache.

It’s been a few weeks now since I learned about my publishing company’s “going out of business.” That’s a bit too tidy for what has really happened. I’ll spare you the details. Safe to say, there’s nothing pretty about it, nothing remotely above board in this unfolding of events. Thousands of authors are now caught in the wake of this betrayal. It’s only now in these moments of surrendered grief that I’m able to put a few words to this loss.

If I’m not careful, I’ll nurse this pain far longer than it deserves, and so I step gently into these words this evening because I desperately want them to mean more than simply as a way of securing your sympathy. A good dose of sympathy is required on occasion, but sympathy never really moves us past our pain, does it? Accordingly, that’s not what I’m after. What I am after is a way to begin again, and writing (for me) has always been that place of renewal.

Honestly, beginning again feels impossible, and yet this is the choice before me. It is a choice … to begin again. I can choose to stay clothed in these ashes, or I can choose to walk them forward, to wake up tomorrow with the smell of fire on my skin and know that what has been burned in me is not final. Painful? Yes. Formative? Yes. But not final.

My writing days are not over. Man cannot take from me what God has placed inside of me. The corruptions in this world are no match for the Creator of this world. God’s world was built with words. “Let there be … “ and then there was. So there still is. All created things, whether books or recipes or sewing (whatever your artistic bent) begin with words. Maybe not with audible ones, but even a thought has its origin in words.

And so, I shall not fear them not coming around for me anymore. Words will find me wherever I go. Perhaps some of them will make it to print; perhaps some more aptly suited for prayer. Regardless of their entrance into and exit from my world, words will always be my friends. I cannot imagine my life without them.

Now begin, so says the Lord.

And now I have, in this safe place. With words, with God, and with renewed expectation for the lines yet to be written on the blank pages of my tomorrows. He who has begun this good work in me … in all of us … will bring it to completion. Of this I am certain.

Rest easy in the arms of Jesus, friends, kept in perfect peace all the night through. The best is yet to be.

A Survivor Lives Here

Once more a remnant of the house of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above. For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors.” (2 Kings 19:30-31)

 ~~~~

I attached the purple ribbon to my mailbox as a reminder to myself:

A survivor lives here.

It feels slightly self-indulgent, putting the focus on me. A season ago, I displayed these ribbons in honor of loved ones who journeyed the cancer road, but this year I boldly make this declaration on my behalf because I’m taking my own advice … practicing what I so bravely proclaim.

Being a survivor isn’t about defeating the disease. Being a survivor is about defeating the silence that often attaches itself to the disease.

For me, this has become a rallying cry of sorts. I emphasized it again yesterday during the morning messages at Saint Luke’s annual Relay for Life service. It’s one of the main reasons I agreed to speak. You see, there’s a silence that has been settling in on my spirit for the past several months.

Sometimes, silence is a good thing, a golden kind of thing. I remember my 9th grade English teacher writing in my yearbook, “If silence is golden, Elaine, you can forget it!” I also remember my daddy telling me, “Elaine, not every thought you’re thinking needs to be verbalized.” I knew what they meant. In hindsight, I celebrate their words, because I fully understand the intent behind them. They represent life—a living, breathing witness of a young girl who wasn’t afraid to be heard and to err on the side of verbal expression. It’s been a delicate dance these past forty-seven years, learning when to speak and when to keep silent.

But what about those times when silence isn’t golden, when words should be spoken but, instead, remain buried, hidden beneath layers of self-doubt? Prolonged silence can become a breeding ground for destructive behaviors rather than a resting place for instructive growth. I recognize these dangers, and so I made a choice to use my words on Sunday morning and on this Monday morning. Not just any words, but words that have been bathed in grace and baptized in prayers for God to use them, once more, to move the kingdom forward. To move my heart forward.

Maybe today you’re stuck in your silence. A soul-eating something has taken its toll on your witness. Your voice no longer boasts the confidence of your sacred endowment. No purple bows tied to the mailbox. No holy proclamations tied to your lips. Instead, drop-dead silence. You’re at a loss for words, and your survivorship seems in question.

I hear you. Your silence couldn’t be clearer.

Today is the day to start talking again, start putting words to your struggle, thereby putting words to your faith. Pick up the phone, pick up the pen, pick up a friend, and pick up a bow. Tie it on the mailbox, tie it on your computer, tie it on your lips, or tie it on your heart. Let the whole world know that …

A survivor lives here.

A soul-survivor. A woman, a man living each day with the Soul-Creator, Soul-Stirrer, Soul-Lover, Soul-Keeper … Jesus Christ.

Once more a remnant of the house of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above.”

Today might be the beginning of your once more. Break the silence within and watch your roots grow deeper into the soil of God’s kingdom garden. Our Father will not waste your witness. Our Father intends to cultivate it for his glory and his renown. Your survivorship is not in question. Your survivorship remains safe and is certain in his hands.

Keep to it, soul-survivors. Our best days are in front of us. As always …

Peace for the journey,

living the “get-to” life …

We sat on his front porch talking about this-and-that while relishing Saturday’s break in temperature. The wind kindly caressed our conversation. It was a beautiful gift—the weather and the fellowship.

I haven’t always been good at my relishing, especially when life is crowded. There are times in my day (many moments of prolonged dreaming), when I consider what it would be like to continually hold moments like Saturday’s pause. To slow life’s pace and live God’s grace as it arrives.

Have you ever wanted to just stop at that place, jump into a peace-scene and linger there without constraint? Strip away all the must-dos and, instead, tarry in the get-tos? Me too. And here is what I’m realizing about my life.

The get-tos are becoming more habitual; the must-dos less demanding. This is my time to pause. There are ample opportunities to do so.

I get to linger on front porches.

I get to take long walks and make new friends.

I get to study the feeding habits of our neighborhood herons.

I get to watch my children learn the stuff I don’t remember learning in the 6th and 7th grade.

I get to take my time at the grocery, searching out bargains and counting on familiar faces.

I get to read the newspaper.

I get to spend uninterrupted time in prayer.

I get to order my days rather than having my days order me.

The list is endless. It’s not that these get-tos haven’t been mine all along. It’s just that I’m more willing to entreat them. Make room for them. Insist on them.

This is my life. No more fantasizing about what I might do should life slow down. Life did slow down. Life is slowing down. And I am winding down. Not because I must-do, but rather because I get-to.

Oh how sweet the pace of a get-to life! I’m not sure we can rush this one, friends … force the get-to life. It’s been evolving in me over these past few years. I don’t have a clever plan for rushing you to your get-to. Perhaps just thinking about it today might create a little space in your heart for its arrival.

Perhaps.

My heart is with you. You know that, right? You are one of my get-tos, and it is always my hope that these ramblings inside of my head might resonate with one inside of yours. That God would continue to use my inconsistent and unscheduled pen to bring a little peace to your day. A must-do or a get-to. I don’t know how I rank on your list, but either way, I am exceedingly grateful that you’re here.

Thank you for stopping by and sitting on my front porch for a while. May God’s goodness and grace be evident to you as you marshal through your must dos, all the while reminding you of the privilege of your get-tos. As always …

Peace for the journey,

Porch Photo Credit: Susan Hood Photography

The Work of Our Hands

Today I have the privilege of creating words with my Creator over at The 7th Year blog. A few weeks ago, my mentor and friend, Alicia Chole, asked me a question. In The Work of Our Hands, I respond.

Both Alicia and I invite you to the table of grace today to add your voice to the conversation. While you’re there, you might take the time to explore The 7th Year, a 52-week, spiritual formation journey written by Alicia. Fuller still, “The 7th Year is a movement of souls who—weary of a spiritual diet of event-to-event experiences—are devoting a year of their lives to the intentional cultivation of life-long sustainable nearness with God.” (Alicia Chole, The 7th Year)

Click here to read more.

Peace for the journey,

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