Rush, Rush, Rush (and why that’s a good thing, in this case)

Months ago, when I asked for ideas in my Prayer Prompt Calendar Contest, my friend Jayme Mansfield mentioned her forthcoming novel to me. You could tell she is an artist, because the themes in her historical fiction book are all things that lend themselves to an interesting visual approach. Her novel, RUSH, releases November 1—just a few days from now—and ...

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Months ago, when I asked for ideas in my Prayer Prompt Calendar Contest, my friend Jayme Mansfield mentioned her forthcoming novel to me. You could tell she is an artist, because the themes in her historical fiction book are all things that lend themselves to an interesting visual approach. Her novel, RUSH, releases November 1—just a few days from now—and you can buy it on Amazon or wherever you prefer to purchase your books. The story is based on the life of her great-great-grandmother in the 1893 Oklahoma Land Run and the themes are so relevant to our busy lives today—living in the moment, having the guts to take risks, independence, carrying heavy burdens, starting over, comfort, courage, restoration, tenacity. I had a lot of fun putting this together. I hope you’ll check out her novel, but even if you don’t, I think you’ll relate to the prayer prompts inspired by it.

Click here to download the November calendar.

In other news…

1. It’s been a busy few weeks with lots of speaking events and tons of wonderful people I’ve met. This busy season of speaking kicked off with a weekend retreat with Suzie Eller for the launch of her new Come with Me Devotional. I met some wonderful new friends and will be sharing posts from them on my blog in the upcoming weeks or months. It’s so inspiring to be around people who are not just talking the talk, but truly walking the walk. These are some amazing people, and the love of God shines through them so very brightly.

I’m scheduling other speaking events for next year now, so I hope you’ll reach out to me if your church or writing organization is interested in talking about prayer or creativity. In the meantime, you can find me at the Lew Wallace Author Fair on November 25th at the Lew Wallace Study in Crawfordsville, IN.

3. Can I just say that my dad was an amazing man? He was so much more than simply a talented artist, but as I’m working through his paintings in preparation for a final sale, I’m blown away all over again. If you live in the area and want to see what paintings and prints are available, come to the Rob O’Dell Studio in Ladoga, IN on November 18, 2017, from 1-8 pm. This graphic is small, but here’s a sneak peek at some of his artwork.


4. It’s been five years since I went to Italy to learn about writing from Elizabeth Berg. Facebook had to remind me several days in a row. I’ve put my essay, Amazing Grace, which won the inspirational writing category of the Writer’s Digest Annual Competition, into a PDF ebook format. The essay itself is on my blog (here) or you can download the ebook if you want to see more of the photos. The essay is all about God’s grace, and how he wooed me back to Him when I was struggling after losing my mom.

Someday I’ll write more about losing my dad. It’s so hard, but somehow it’s a completely different experience. Maybe I’ve learned that it does me no good to fight it? Because I really can’t change it, and the loss WILL change me. Now I know that all too well, unfortunately.

Because we can always use some brain candy

When I remember to save them, I’m going to start sharing some completely random articles that I have enjoyed over the past month. Here are a few I think you might like.

What the Brain Looks Like When You Pray—I love scientific evidence to show how prayer really does change things—if nothing else, it changes me. This is about how the ritual of prayer or meditation, regardless of personal faith, affects our behavior.

How to Keep Leading When You Feel Like Falling Apart by Kristine Brown—Great article about how to keep serving even in the midst of loss, tragedy, or turmoil

Why I Am a Progressive Christian by Philip Gulley—He’s made a couple statements I don’t completely agree with, but overall, I love what he has to say. Such a simple, clear perspective on thoughts close to my own.

Check out this brilliant ad concept—love it when people turn something upside down.

Last but certainly not least…

I had my Prayer Prompt Journals professionally printed and can now sell them through my website! I’m clearly biased, but I think they’d make great Christmas gifts for your prayer group, teen girls, Bible study friends, or lots of other people. People at my speaking events have really loved them so far. They’re similar to my prayer prompt calendars. Each spread is filled with creative prayer prompts and room to write your prayers. They’re $10 and you can find them here if you’re interested.

Hope your November is filled with many, many good things—evidence of God all around you.

Make me strong again

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. ~1 Timothy 1:15-16, ...

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Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. ~1 Timothy 1:15-16, NIV

My friend (and pastor) Nathan is kind of how I picture Jesus. Cowboy boots, faded jeans, and crinkly eyes—the kind of crinkles that come from smiling so much. He lights up when he sees you. Everything about his demeanor is wide open. He walks through a room and people lean towards him, like flowers turning towards the sun. He exudes warmth and acceptance. And wherever he goes, whether he’s having dinner at Applebee’s or sitting with village elders in Afghanistan when he was deployed in 2005, the conversation turns to Jesus. It doesn’t feel contrived. It just is who he is. It’s what his whole life is about.

But Nathan tells a story about how years ago he didn’t know how to evangelize. And he prayed, “Jesus, take what is least in me and make it the greatest.”

Whenever I talk to a group about prayer, I usually say this: I’m not teaching you because I’m so good at this. I’m not an expert. I think God put me here, though, so I could tell you it’s OK not to be perfect. It’s OK to mess up, to forget to pray, to get busy and distracted. Because I’m the poster child for those things. But if anything sets me apart at all, it’s that I don’t beat myself up. I just try again. And again. And again.

As I was working on a message for an upcoming event and read the scripture above, I was thinking about this. Which made me think about Nathan. I didn’t pray for God to use my weakness, but he did. And I started wondering what else God wants to use of mine—what flaws, what failings, what untapped potential. I want to say, Lord, take what is least in me and make it the greatest. But what a scary prayer.

What if He wants me to talk to strangers? Travel to a foreign country or scene of a natural disaster? What if he wants to send me into the jails? What if people don’t like me? What if I have to say hard things? What if I mess up? What if my teaching is wrong? What if … well, I don’t even know what He might want.

And to this control-freak personality type, that is a scary situation.

But God reminds me that I’ve done this before. I’ve written devotions in my church bulletin that I eventually signed with my own name. I started a blog, where anyone in the world could read about my faith (even those closest to me, with whom I didn’t really talk about these things). I’ve written two books, which have gone out into the world, to people I’ll never know about. I’m being invited to speak and teach groups of women about prayer. I’ve never been a gifted speaker, and yet I keep finding myself in front of rooms of people. I don’t like to be wrong, and yet I openly tell people about all the ways I’ve acted wrong—against God, to make it that much worse. My books are all about the “upside down”-ness of what Jesus taught: Let the children come. Walk the extra mile. Do your good deeds in private. The least shall be the greatest.

And I think He uses my less-than-perfect self to reach people. I feel like I’ve been on the right path, but lately the path has felt less defined. I’m not exactly clear where it’s headed, and it’s become hard to follow. Frankly, I’m tired of barging forward and pretending I know what I’m doing. I’m tired of taking my own ideas and implementing them. Sure, I pray about most of these things, but for how long have I taken the lack of resistance to mean that God is telling me to move forward? I don’t want to do that. I want to err on the side of caution. Doing things on my own power is wearing me down, and I feel less than whole. I feel this burgeoning potential rising up, but I don’t yet know where it’s leading me.

I’m trying to learn how to wait for true direction and yet be open enough to respond without hesitation when I hear God’s voice.

A couple weeks ago, I attended Suzie Eller’s “Come With Me” retreat celebrating the launch of her new Come With Me Devotional. There’s no way to capture the breadth of the messages I heard that weekend in a short blog post, so I won’t try. But here’s the shortest possible version: Jesus is saying, “Come with me.” Wherever it leads. He’s asking us to come back to the purest and most stripped-down, authentic version of faith possible. Listen closely. What is your invitation? What is He inviting you to do?

I’ve stepped out in faith before, and God always leads me to a better place. He makes me stronger. More refined. Better. It’s not always fun during the journey, because sometimes I find that I have to change. I have to let go of my self, put aside my ego, and spend time in uncertainty. But I emerge from those seasons stronger, feeling closer to God and more fully me.

I want that. I need that.

And the reason I’m telling you all this is because I think some of you might want it, too. I don’t think this is just for me. Let’s pray this together. Take a deep breath…

Lord, take what is least in me and make it the strongest. Whatever that means, wherever You lead, no matter what is required. Help me trust that You have my best interests at heart, and that whatever You do in me will also be used to show others who You are. Your power will be multiplied. My faith will be expanded. Your desires will be fulfilled. And You will be magnified. Amen.

Will you share what you’re hearing? Tell us where God is leading you? And let us know how we can stand beside you in prayer? And will you also consider following Suzie Eller on a 21-day adventure to discover where Jesus is leading you? Learn more here.

A victory in the battle against fear

Today, I’m happy to feature a guest post from Kelly Balarie for her new book, Fear Fighting. I got the privilege of reading this early and endorsing it. This is the really short summary of what I had to say: In spite of everything—our failures, our fears, our worries, our attempted control of our own ...

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Today, I’m happy to feature a guest post from Kelly Balarie for her new book, Fear Fighting. I got the privilege of reading this early and endorsing it. This is the really short summary of what I had to say:

In spite of everything—our failures, our fears, our worries, our attempted control of our own lives—God loves us. He adores us. And if you don’t believe me, read Kelly Balarie’s Fear Fighting. You’ll walk away believing that God is on your side. That you’re not in the battle alone. Kelly is known as a “cheerleader of faith,” but she isn’t just standing there shouting “Yea, God!” This is a woman whose stories are exuberant and passionate and hopeful—because she knows what she’s talking about. She has lived with fear, faced countless challenges, and learned that God is the answer to it all. I think every single one of us can benefit from her encouraging insights and practical tips. In fact, as I was reading, I kept jotting down the names of people who should read this. And you might as well add your own name to the list, because there’s something in here for you. I’m sure of it!

And now, here’s a post from Kelly (because ya gotta love another Kelly, right?). The book releases today and I hope you will hop on over to Amazon or Barnes & Noble or your favorite bookseller and buy it right now. This is going to make such a difference to so many people. It was even featured on the Today Show recently as one of their favorite things! But even if you don’t pick up the book today, please pray for it to end up in the hands of the right people, for people to face down the fears that are holding them back.

Also, before you go, please leave a comment below to enter a drawing for one a copy of this book. Just give a shout-out to one person you know who is brave, who faces their fear in any large or small way and inspires you or other people. If you want to share basic details about a fear you’re facing, that works too, and know that I will pray for each one of you who leaves a comment below. I’ll do the drawing one week from today. Thanks. Enjoy!


I was SO angry at myself. Again, I was not trusting God. While I had prayed and prayed, I just couldn’t believe He’d help me move this massive barrier out of the way. I couldn’t imagine how He’d do the impossible – for me. Sure, I wanted to believe that things could change – and I knew I should believe – but, when I saw the reality of everything around me – I couldn’t. I just kept doubting things would end okay.

And, then began what I like to call the Fear Cycle. It goes like this, in a mind: I’m doubting -> I’m not faithful -> Now God will leave me -> I won’t do well if he leaves -> I will certainly fail -> Now I am even more doubting -> Now I am even more not faithful -> And now, even more he will leave me…. (you all get the picture). It keeps circling until you find yourself in the barren dry tundra of Alaska, cold and without any comfort. Alone, and ready to die. Afraid, and feeling anything like a Christ follower.

This is where I found myself one evening. I sat at the dinner table hunched and chomping on a salad, one I was certain was missing something from it – maybe fried onions??? Either way, everything looked bleak. Still, trying to be a good mother, despite feeling like a bad Christian, I whipped out my tried-and-true nightly question. It’s my way of getting my family to talk about their day, so I have some iota of what is going on.

“Tell me the best part of your day and the worst part of your day?”

My husband went first. “The best part was…and the worst part was when I used an overly ‘stern voice’ with you, son.”

Thank goodness, I came up with the idea to ask this question, because no longer than a split-second after my husband’s response, breakthrough arrived. It sounded like a 5-year olds’ voice. He said, “Daddy, that should actually be the best part of your day. Because it’s a big celebration that Jesus forgives you.”

And, Boom! It hit me.

What is the deep fear that I am a horrible mom, Christian, woman, writer, sister, daughter or (fill in the blank), is instantly healed by the letters – G.R.A.C.E.

My sons’s words remind me – every time I am at my worst I can celebrate Jesus is always at his – B.E.S.T.

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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Cor. 12:9

I love this! If we fall into his best gift, His forgiveness, He resurrects our mindsets again in our true identity – Him.

Where do you need celebrate that Christ is always at his best, even when you are at your worst?

We don’t have to go alone, wandering to some far off tundra where we sit in our anxiety and worry, but we can choose to receive God’s best and move to a place of new found freedom. We can go to the place where faith begins to return.


 

About the book, Fear Fighting, Awakening the Courage to Overcome Your Fears: Author and speaker Kelly Balarie didn’t always fight fear – for a large part of her life, she was controlled by it. Yet, in her book, Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears, with God, Kelly charts a new course. Join Kelly on the journey to go and grow with Christ’s bravery, the Spirit’s counsel and God’s unending love that squelches fear. This book reads like a love letter from God, while offering practical heart-calming prayers, anxiety-reducing tips, and courage-building decrees that will transform your day. www.fearfightingbook.com

 

About Kelly Balarie: Kelly is both a Cheerleader of Faith and a Fighter of Fear. She leans on the power of God, rests on the shoulder of Christ, and discovers how to glow in the dark places of life. Get all Kelly’s blog posts by email or visit her on her blog, Purposeful Faith. You can also find a variety of resources for your fight against fear here.

 

A different beautiful

Today, I’m giddy about welcoming my friend Marcia Kendall to my blog. I sometimes have the privilege of reading and reviewing books for other writers, and this one came to me recently. I knew it would be really, really good, but I hadn’t found time to review it yet, so I asked Marcia. And in her ...

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Today, I’m giddy about welcoming my friend Marcia Kendall to my blog. I sometimes have the privilege of reading and reviewing books for other writers, and this one came to me recently. I knew it would be really, really good, but I hadn’t found time to review it yet, so I asked Marcia. And in her kindness and usual giving spirit, she wrote this for me. Enjoy.


I read A Different Beautiful by Courtney Westlake in less than twelve hours. These sentences from her introduction are the reasons why:

But when my husband, my son, and I welcomed our daughter into our family, our world was not turned upside down.

When something is turned upside down, it falls apart.

But not our world. Our world was shaken up. When you shake something, only the strongest pieces remain standing. The weak pieces fall to the wayside.

And through this, we came to realize how unimportant those weak pieces were that fell apart and fell off—pieces of our lives that were not priorities, that didn’t matter. 

Her honest stories brought me into her world. I realized that something as simple as painting her daughter’s nails required a safety negotiation in her mind.

This book taught me about harlequin ichthyosis and the special care it requires. Courtney’s explanation of how they lovingly serve their daughter, Brenna, reminded me of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. This made me question what in my life would remind people of that…this proved to be a very challenging question.

Her story is not an easy one as you will come to understand after you read about the crisis she experienced at Christmas shortly after her daughter’s birth, but it is a story of faith and of hope:

A few days after Brenna was born, a family member said to me and Evan, “I haven’t talked to God in years…but I’ve actually been praying for Brenna.” In that moment, I began to feel my worry transform into a faithful trust in God’s purpose for her very significant life. 

With each [blood gas] draw, there came a very slight improvement. It was so slight that it was not much to base any hope on, but that’s the thing about hope: we always reach for it no matter the circumstances. 

Faith doesn’t necessarily come from answered prayer or miracles or met expectations. No, what I have found is that faith comes from trust in God’s will and God’s greatness regardless of what the world tells us we should believe. And sometimes we must fight every day to maintain that trust as the world pushes against it. 

Boldness-1

And I think many of us who have experienced tragedy or grief can relate in part to the moment we must face the realization that we did “everything right” but things turned out differently than expected.

We did everything we knew to do to deliver a strong and healthy child, and our daughter was still one of the sickest babies in the NICU. We did everything right, and we still faced so much uncertainty about being able to take our baby home. 

When I picked up this book, I expected a memoir. What I didn’t expect was to be taught how to live in a more beautiful way. Courtney did something that is rarely seen, she taught the reader simple, concrete ways of how we can be more sensitive to visual differences. This is something that is important for all of us, and I immediately put the book down and taught my own children.

And while she is an effective teacher, she is also a humble one as she wrote of her own defensiveness, “I failed to see the real issue at hand because I chose to become defensive instead of exploring the heart of the matter.”

For our family, we now know a different beautiful, a beautiful that the world might struggle to see or understand, but those of us who know and love Brenna have gratefully been given the gift of understanding this different beautiful.

This kind of transformation comes from the personal choices we make in our lives. Every time we decide to write our story as one that is positive and good, every time we turn a setback into a comeback, every time we choose to praise and be grateful even in the hard, and every time we meet another person’s eyes with kindness, that’s when we are learning how to truly live a life of celebration.

I recently read a tweet, “Think how different we and the world would be if we approached every new situation with two goals: listen and learn.” I suggest we start with this book.

Here is my favorite line from the book, “The Lord has a narrow focus…one focus. Our hearts.” Well, Courtney Westlake, your heart is certainly beautiful.


courtney-different-beautiful-photo-smallCourtney has been writing since she was young, and she holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Writing became the way she processed a whole new frightening and beautiful world as her family learned how to care for Brenna…and learned how to truly celebrate this difficult and wonderful life. She began this blog in 2011 when Brenna was just four days old, after she had been diagnosed at birth with a very rare and severe skin disorder. Her children’s book That’s How You Know was released in 2013.

You can read more about Courtney here and more about the Westlakes’ story here. If you’re interested in having Courtney speak at your event, read more information here. And if you buy the Kindle version by August 31, it’s on sale for just $2.99!

Searching for that elusive bigger room

The dream resurfaces, time and again. And it’s never quite the same, but it goes something like this. I’m in my house (which never looks like my real house). And there’s a door that I’ve forgotten to open, or maybe I just hadn’t noticed it. So I open it and am absolutely amazed because there’s ...

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The dream resurfaces, time and again. And it’s never quite the same, but it goes something like this.

I’m in my house (which never looks like my real house). And there’s a door that I’ve forgotten to open, or maybe I just hadn’t noticed it. So I open it and am absolutely amazed because there’s a whole wing to the house that I didn’t know about.

Sometimes there are bedrooms with lots and lots of closets and I start brainstorming the possible uses of all those rooms. Once in a while I discover a wing that looks almost exactly like the second floor of my grandparents’ house, but with additional bathrooms with giant showers. One time it was a beautiful writing room—sort of a screened in, second-floor porch with white trellises and wicker furniture and art on the walls and a peaceful wooded view. But most of the time—on its own or in addition to the other rooms—there is a ballroom. A great big, beautiful room. So large that I am shocked by the sheer volume of space. Shiny hardwood floors. So very much potential.

Imagine my surprise when I set foot in that ballroom—fully awake, although completely exhausted—last week. This ballroom exists on the 2nd level of the Ball State University Student Center, which is where we held the Midwest Writers Workshop this year.

I’d seen the room before, as an undergrad at Ball State 25 years ago. I think I was looking for a different room on that floor, where I was interviewing to be an arts and crafts counselor at a summer camp in northwest Pennsylvania. (Even then I wasn’t much of a kid person, but I really wanted to spend a summer not at home.) But for some reason, that room has stayed with me. In my dreams it’s dark and shadowy, unused. Last week, it was full of light and voices and smiling faces.

A quick, highly professional and scientific Google search tells me that in dream interpretation, discovering a new room has to do with expanding your territory, trying something new, branching out in a new direction.

Fitting, since that was what the Midwest Writers Workshop was about this year, on multiple levels. After more than 40 years, MWW is becoming a stand-alone, nonprofit entity. We’re expanding our tent stakes, now offering a membership organization, webinars, and various events throughout the year. I credit MWW with all of my so-called writing success because it feels like I’ve taken advanced courses in publishing, in all aspects of the book proposal and querying process, and in honing my craft. I knew how to navigate through these past few years because of what I learned at MWW. And I found my people there. A wonderful, inspiring group of writers who are exceptionally talented, but even so, are somehow even better at being friends than at writing.

A couple years ago I joined the MWW board and have loved being on the inside of the planning process. But this year was something new because for the first time I was officially part of the faculty. I got to stand in front of people—once, I was even in the ballroom—and pretend to be a real writer. (You don’t have to argue with me. I do know that I’m a real writer. I’ve published two books, so this writing thing is definitely real.)

Even so, there are times that I feel like an imposter. I love to write and I think I’m good at it (some of the awkward sentence constructions in this blog post notwithstanding). And yes, I’ve had the privilege of writing two books that a publisher believed in enough to publish them. But I’ll confess that I’m still a bit starry-eyed when confronted with people who have had more success than I have—they’ve been doing it longer, or written more books, or sold more copies, or simply are better writers. I feel good about what I do, but like any artist I harbor insecurities about my craft because it’s so personal. When I write, I feel as though I am most fully me, so when someone doesn’t like my writing, or when I don’t meet sales goals or have a monumentally huge blog following, it feels like I have failed. Like I’m somehow not enough.

Which is why last week at MWW was so good for me. As faculty, I taught some sessions. I got to talk about inspirational writing, creative book structures, and creative marketing and branding ideas. I realized that the content came naturally to me. That I have learned some things along the way.

And I saw a few people listening to me the way I’ve listened to so many others over the years. Taking notes. Eyes wide, intensely watching. Hesitant to ask questions, but hanging around in case there’s more to talk about. Treating me as though I have “made it” simply because I have two books to my name.

I felt legitimate. Accomplished. Like I had finally expanded into that shadowy, unknown space and become somehow fuller, more present, more real. The truth is, yes, I’ve accomplished my goal of being published, and not everyone can say that. In reality, whatever we achieve, most of us will probably never quite feel we’ve done all we were meant to do. Through MWW, I’ve learned that we aren’t competing with each other, but we’re better together simply because we share this love for writing and we’re pursuing it together. If we’ve been published, it’s because the stars were aligned or the timing was right and we happened to actually get a contract. We’re not better than those who don’t yet—or maybe will not ever—have one. At every stage, there’s more to strive for and tons of work required. And yet, as hard as it can be to reach the place where we finally feel accepted, the bottom line is that it’s the process that’s more important than the destination. We don’t write for money or fame, clearly, but because of the people we get to know and the chances we have to discover who we are and what we were designed to do.

Today, on the official release day for Designed to Pray, my overwhelming emotion is gratitude. I am humbled by the support so freely offered to me. And, although I’m happy with the rooms I’ve inhabited so far, I’m excited to see what will come next. Because there are endless possibilities, numerous other places to go. So many new rooms to explore—whole wings to discover.

And not only in my dreams.

Why you shouldn’t pray like I did

“Oh! I have a house to sell, too! I’ll pray for the woman who’s going to buy it, just like you did! And then it will sell!” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this. While I hope that my “praying upside down” story inspires others, this kind of conversation makes me squirm. When I ...

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“Oh! I have a house to sell, too! I’ll pray for the woman who’s going to buy it, just like you did! And then it will sell!”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this. While I hope that my “praying upside down” story inspires others, this kind of conversation makes me squirm.

When I started praying that way, it didn’t feel like my idea. I believe God placed the idea into my mind. It happened during a time of prayer—I told God I was scared and didn’t know what I’d do if this went on much longer, and I got an instant thought-reply: Pray for the woman who will buy this house.

Like so often when God seems to speak, it was simple, direct, and not exactly logical. Over time, I discovered layer after layer to it. That I was to pray for her, not them. That things in her life had to line up before she’d be ready. I slowly discovered that praying this way helped me to understand that I was part of something else. That it took the focus off of my needs and made me more like Christ (although still far, far from coming close to Him). That praying this way and learning to care about her made it possible for Tim and I to be more generous when in the end we lost money in order to close the deal. After the house sold and I met Rosanne, the buyer formerly known as “that woman,” I learned that there were so many things that God did during that time.

Layer upon layer. God was faithful in the way He worked out the situation. He answered my prayers, and He answered Rosanne’s prayers, too. I love telling this story. (A side note: Having the story published in my first book answered yet another prayer.)

But here’s the problem with it all. I can’t promise God will answer you the same way He answered me.

I am sure He will answer. I am not sure when (it might be a very long time, or it might happen before I finish typing this sentence). I am not sure how He will answer (yes, no, maybe, not now). I am not sure what lessons He might want you to learn in the process, what people He wants to become part of your life, what decisions you will have to make, what sacrifices you will feel the need to offer. Although I believe God will be right there with you, I can’t even promise that you will see, hear, or feel Him.

So by all means, yes, pray for the woman who might someday buy your house. But, also, go to God with honesty. Be real. And spend some time listening. Maybe this is exactly what God wants you to pray, but maybe He has something else in mind for you. Something different—and yet better, because it is perfectly meant for you.

That’s why I get uncomfortable. It’s not wrong to see my story as a lesson and pray the way I did. But I am just afraid that people will see it as a magical answer, a formula. If I do this, then God will do that. But it really doesn’t work that way at all.

He is the reason this all worked. He is the reason I prayed the way I did.

The only credit I’ll take for everything that happened is this: I listened.

I don’t want to discourage you; instead, what I hope this post will do is encourage you to go back to God. To ask for your own, personal answer. To seek His direction. To ask Him what He wants you to do.

And then? Do it. Don’t second-guess yourself. Don’t apologize or make up excuses. Don’t wonder if you’re crazy for thinking you heard God. And don’t beat yourself up if you don’t hear from Him.

Pray, and listen.

Pray, and put one foot in front of the other.

Pray, and ask God how to please Him.

Pray, and thank Him for His goodness.

Pray, and ask God to strengthen your faith.

Pray. And wait. Trust Him, and believe Him when He responds.

And know that, whatever comes, God is in it. Know that, however large the obstacle, God can overcome it. Know that, however long you have to wait, God knows what He is doing.

Allow yourself to believe that He has something in store for you.Perfectly tailored to fit your needs. The right size, the right solution, the right timing.

And allow Him to do His thing. Whatever it looks like, however it sounds.

Because God is the one who turned my prayers upside down. And the One who made everything right. He is the One who came up with the crazy solution, and He is the one who enacted it. He gave me hope, and He provided the hope.

And He is the One who will do the exact same thing for you.

Only thing is, it may look completely different.


Tell me—What are you struggling with right now? Leave a comment and rest assured that I will pray for you.

He whispers

My friend Cindy and I stepped inside the empty chapel, lowering our voices as we did so. A wooden structure with lots of windows, this humble building perched on the lake. The empty room was decorated with hardwood floors and a view of trees and water. The only furniture: three benches, a chair and a ...

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My friend Cindy and I stepped inside the empty chapel, lowering our voices as we did so. A wooden structure with lots of windows, this humble building perched on the lake. The empty room was decorated with hardwood floors and a view of trees and water. The only furniture: three benches, a chair and a desk. And on the desk, two leather journals.

I opened one, and tears blurred my vision. People who came here before me wrote their prayers on these pages. There was both childish handwriting and mature penmanship. Neat and sloppy. Short and long. Careful and scrawled.

But all were heartfelt.

Some penned cries to God to please hear them. One woman promised to forgive her husband. Others begged God to make Himself known. Some entries were signed “your prodigal son.” People talked of suicide, of loss, of loneliness. One teen wrote, “I’ve put off the old, but when will the new come?”

Desperation and gratitude filled the pages. A depth of feeling I could barely process, except by releasing a steady stream of tears.

I was standing on holy ground. This was a place where people met God.

And our God is a God who can handle all of these needs. Who loves each of those people and hears their cries.

Sanctified, holy ground.

Overwhelmed with His presence.

Bowed under the weight of God’s holiness.

I’ve never seen anything more beautiful. I flipped through the pages. Cindy and I read sentences out loud to each other, and smiled, and cried, and laughed, and prayed.

What a God, to inspire such devotion.

To motivate such surrender.

To cherish the depths of such raw emotion.

To answer the needs of people who are tired of hiding, who are desperate for answers, who will risk everything to hear from their God.

That moment is seared into my brain—really, into my heart.

Bet you wish you could go there. Here’s the truth: you can. Anywhere you are, when you drop the barriers and just get real with God—when you stop pretending you’re okay, when you face how badly you need help—that is holy ground.

Those are prayers that move God’s heart.

Those are words that He hears. Needs that He responds to.

Sometimes God has to shout to get our attention.

But other times—in these quiet moments, in these holy, sanctified times—God whispers.

He whispers just to you. Words for your ears only. Salve designed to heal your particular heart.

He whispers life, and hope, and light.

He whispers, “Thank you, my child, for coming home.”


51svFT1o0FL._SX321_BO1204203200_Today I’m linking up with Suzie Eller for her #livefreeThursday writing prompt. Click here to read other people’s responses to “He whispers.” Click here to get her wonderful new book, Come With Me.

In the boat with Jesus—and a giveaway!

Ever since I started genuinely following Jesus, I’ve felt an almost desperate longing for more of Him. For revelations that can only come from God. For a deeply passionate and intimate faith. But I can only go so far in that direction before I falter. My heart longs for more of God, it really does. ...

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Ever since I started genuinely following Jesus, I’ve felt an almost desperate longing for more of Him. For revelations that can only come from God. For a deeply passionate and intimate faith.

But I can only go so far in that direction before I falter.

My heart longs for more of God, it really does. Even in my lesser moments. But, inevitably there comes a time when it gets hard to keep living out my faith. Really hard. (Or I get bored. Or busy. Or discouraged. Or I feel like He’s not listening—or maybe that I have nothing to say.)

At those times, I’m not sure I have what it takes to stick with it. There’s a verse in James chapter 4 that says, “You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” In context, it’s talking about not knowing what will happen tomorrow, about the insignificance of our lifetimes in the span of eternity.

But every time I read it, I’m haunted by the certainty that it’s Jesus speaking to me.

I am like a mist… I’m here now, but before long—tomorrow? next week? an hour from now?—I’ll vanish. I’m a vapor. Not solid. Impermanent. Uncertain. Fickle. Not dedicated enough. Weak and weary. All too aware of my lack of discipline, my inability to stay focused on one thing for the long term. I know that I can do all things through Christ. I know that He has called me, and that when I let myself abide in that holy place with Him, my abilities (or lack thereof) fall away and His take over.

And yet, some days the responsibility that comes from wholly committing to this life weighs heavy on me. The knowledge of my weaknesses immobilizes me.

51svFT1o0FL._SX321_BO1204203200_I recently read an Advance Copy of Suzie Eller’s new book, Come with Me: Discovering the Beauty of Following Where He Leads. There are so many things I would like to share with you, but I’ll stick to the one that truly stopped me in my tracks.

Remember in Matthew 4 and Mark 1 when Jesus asked Simon Peter and his brother to leave their nets behind and follow Him? They did.

And yet, we see in Luke chapter 5 that Jesus sees two boats, left there by fisherman who were washing their nets at the end of a discouraging night. He gets in the boat belonging to Simon and asks him to put out from the shore.

Here’s what I never noticed: At some point, Simon went back to fishing.

He was weary and wasn’t catching anything. Jesus had him try one more time, and this time the results were spectacular—but what came before that is the bigger point: Jesus waited in the boat for Simon to come to him. No shame, no beating him up for disappearing again. Jesus knew just where Simon Peter would be, so He went to him.

And Jesus knew just where He would find me—returning again and again to my old ways. He knew that, just as Simon was having no luck at all, catching no fish, feeling tired and discouraged, so was I. When I hurt my arm, I got weeks of much-needed time off work. A dear friend commented one day that I was given this gift of time, so why would I fill it up with the same ol’, same ol’? Why not do things differently this time?

Indeed. Because clearly my old way of doing things wasn’t working so well. No fish in my nets—no margins. I didn’t have time for the people who matter the most. I didn’t have the energy to reach out and do things for people, to be God’s hands extended. I didn’t have the kind of prayer life I want to have.

So I’ve pondered and prayed. I’ve let my crowded mind slow to a leisurely pace, accepting the fact that I need help and cannot do it all myself. I’m evaluating the way I work, the tasks that fill my days, and who I think God made me to be.

And what I’ve discovered during these weeks of figuring out who I am when I’m not being defined by my work is that I’m not doing it alone. All along, Jesus has been sitting in my boat.

I don’t want to meet Him and follow Him temporarily. I don’t want it to be a phase I move in and out of. I want to commit. To follow Him—truly follow Him—without limits.

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Jesus is waiting in my boat for me to push out from the shore of who I’ve been and row towards who He wants me to be. I’m not having to do it alone. I’m moving forward with the One who knows where we’re going. The One who knows what I need to do. The One who sees me, understands me, and inspires me.

But the biggest miracle, as Suzie Eller pointed out at a retreat I attended, is this: when I cast out into deeper waters, even if I never have any fish—the miracle is that I am experiencing a deeper walk with God. As she wrote, “Where we go is not nearly as important as who we go with.”

So I am going, with no hesitation whatsoever. Facing forward eagerly and happily. No looking back. Because as long as I’m in the boat with Jesus, there’s no place I’d rather be.

__

I’m giving away a copy of Come with Me. To enter, leave a comment below before midnight on May 2, and share where you think God is leading you. Or what He’s asking you to say yes to. If you don’t win, you can order the book here or from your favorite retailer. It releases on May 3. #livefree #comewithme

Finding Peace & Purpose in a World of Crazy

The irony is not lost on me. I have post-it notes all around my computer monitor, lists of deadlines and checklists to keep me on task. I eat at my desk. I stay in my office until late at night, trying to squeeze in one more project, one more email, one more blog post, one ...

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The irony is not lost on me.

I have post-it notes all around my computer monitor, lists of deadlines and checklists to keep me on task. I eat at my desk. I stay in my office until late at night, trying to squeeze in one more project, one more email, one more blog post, one more cog in my social media platform. Then I get an email asking for help—can I read this book and post a review THIS WEEK in exchange for some free books? Of course, I say. Because, if you know me at all, you know I always think I can do one more thing. On Monday, I was a superhero designer, accomplishing massive, voluminous feats without breaking a sweat.

Tuesday was a whole other thing. A crappy day. Dreary, dark, blustery weather to match my mood. Work was making me crazy. Such a huge list of deadlines and not enough information. I sat at my desk and cried, but only for a sec, because who has time for this? I had piles of things to put away, galleys of my own second book to proof and return, and a son to pick up from school. I sent emails, checked the proofs, ran to the store, answered the phone, begged my husband to drive through someplace and bring back dinner because I had so much to do. Finished proofing while watching Downton Abbey. Power-watched two episodes of a brainless Netflix series (to escape reality and relax), and then I realized it was only 10:15. I could squeeze in a few chapters of my new book (the one whose review is due in three days) before bed.

I’ll be honest. I planned to skim it and get the review done quickly. But I immediately discovered that would not be possible. I underlined something on nearly every page. Marked almost every word on others. Drew clouds and thunderbolts and stars and boxes around things.

Breaking Busy Book. Alli Worthington. If it doesn't add to your life, it doesn't belong in your lifeAnd all the while, everything that I’ve been so frantically juggling decided to crash down around me.

I already knew my life was out of control, unbalanced. I knew I wasn’t handling things well. I’ve felt God nudging me, whispering to me, suggesting changes. But this wasn’t a still, small voice anymore. God was shouting. Not in anger, but it had to be loud to make me sit up and take notice. It had to be strong to get me to respond.

Earlier that same day, God spoke into my soul—hours and hours before I opened the pages of this little turquoise book—and said I need to make changes. I need to trust Him. I need to stick up for myself. Live the way I know I need to. Quit setting myself up for spiritual failure—spiritual, emotional, physical overload.

It needs to stop.

But it’s never quite as easy as that, is it? Because I feel like I have some kind of responsibility to do more, to do everything I’m capable of doing. Because I evaluate myself with such twisted measures of success. Because I need to earn money. That’s often what it comes down to for me. Quality of life I want schedule-wise, or quality of living money-wise?

Breaking Busy spells out the havoc of a life lived the way I have been living mine. It shows why we can’t and shouldn’t try to define ourselves by how busy we are. It spells out the dangers. Asks the right questions. Discusses warning signs and danger zones. And kindly, gently, with a good sense of humor, the author prodded me until I could see—no, admit—the problems I’ve avoided.

unspecifiedYou probably wish I’d talk more about the book and less about myself. But like all the best books, Breaking Busy spoke to me deeply. Books like this spark inner debate, stir up passions, and inspire—to such an extent that the change seems disproportionate to the actual words that started the spark and in a way that makes it impossible to separate the resultant change in me from the content of the book itself. But after sleeping on it, and getting up and reading more, I’ve prayed and prayed, talked to friends, and already taken some steps towards the changes God is showing me. I don’t know what it will all look like in the end because I’m still processing, still trying to ask for and hear what God is telling me. All I can say for sure is that this book has changed me, and I absolutely believe I will come out better in the long run, even if the process is hard.

If you don’t live the kind of crazy, always-striving life I do—if you do things like find quiet time for yourself, take the occasional nap, and let yourself fully engage with your family whenever you can—then this book probably won’t speak to you like it did to me. But it might, because it’s full of wisdom—new insights from scripture and old stories told in new ways. If you feel like there’s always more you should do, then grab some kleenex and a journal and sit down and know it won’t be a quick, easy read. It might, however, be just what you needed to hear. It will definitely be worth it to contain the “busy” and find the calm that comes when we live as the people God made us to be. No more, no less. But just exactly right.


Just say no to unnecessary crazy. BreakingBusy.com #BreakingBusy


I received a copy of this book plus a book bundle from Zondervan in exchange for my honest review of Breaking Busy.

Branch Out—what to read in February

Earlier this week, I wrote about the book I read for January (Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love). Today’s post is relatively short: I’ll tell you my pick for February and offer some ideas to help you pick what you’d like to read. I really hope you’ll consider reading some books with me this year and ...

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Earlier this week, I wrote about the book I read for January (Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love). Today’s post is relatively short: I’ll tell you my pick for February and offer some ideas to help you pick what you’d like to read. I really hope you’ll consider reading some books with me this year and telling me what they’re about. It doesn’t truly substitute for first-hand experience of reading it myself, but it sure saves me a lot of time. And as a bonus, it will help me clear out those “to be read” piles of books I have all over my house.

And (after all, this isn’t supposed to be all about me) you might learn something new in the process. See? Win-win.

Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 3.06.35 PMOK, so “a classic Christian voice.” The first name that comes to mind for me is C.S. Lewis, and I have a book of his on my shelf already that I haven’t read, so it’s my pick for this month. A Grief Observed is a book I’ve had recommended to me many times, but I felt too tender to read it. So we’ll see how I do now. (Every time I think I’m “done” with my grief over losing Mom, it hits me fresh. It doesn’t matter that she’s been gone for more than four years. And you don’t have to tell me—I already know—that I’ll never be “done” missing her.)

Some other ideas to consider (and be warned, I’ve only read a couple of these so I can’t guarantee you’ll like them, but pick whatever intrigues you. Even if you don’t read it all, you’ll have a better idea of what it is):

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom with Elizabeth & John Sherrill
The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
Mere Christianity or The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton
Something by Oswald Chambers 
Dark Night of the Soul by Saint John of the Cross
Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton
The Cost of Discipleship by Frederick Bonhoeffer
The Imitation of Christ by Thomas á Kempis
The Helper (or any others) by Catherine Marshall
No Greater Love by Mother Teresa

And a few other names to think about:

Peter Marshall
John Calvin
John Milton
John Wesley
Dwight Moody
Martin Luther

If you’re planning to participate, please comment below with the name of the book you plan to read. And at the end of the month, when I tell you about the book I read, you can share your insights in the comments below that post. Thanks!

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