Why am I surprised when God answers my prayers?

I read through some old journals tonight and rediscovered why I love keeping journals. Our memories are so fickle. But our entries are indisputable records of what we saw or knew or felt at a given time. In the middle of a bunch of angsty entries that made me roll my eyes, among lots of words ...

Read More

GRAPHIC God can use fumbling

I read through some old journals tonight and rediscovered why I love keeping journals. Our memories are so fickle. But our entries are indisputable records of what we saw or knew or felt at a given time.

In the middle of a bunch of angsty entries that made me roll my eyes, among lots of words and questions and awkward play-by-plays of my spiritual growth as I saw it at the time, I found this.

I don’t remember asking God for this, at least not twelve years ago. I always thought I started asking God to use my writing about five years ago, and that I had never really thought that my focus would be on prayer. And yet look what I wrote on July 13, 2003. If you’re in a hurry, just read the bold parts.


I want so badly for God to use me, to keep working through me. I feel him doing that, and I am so honored and touched and moved by it that I cry whenever it hits me. It overwhelms me and scares me. I want to be a servant but I don’t feel like I know how to serve. I’ve always thought of myself more as a leader. I feel like I’m out of my element, a beginner, fumbling along towards the light. Sometimes I feel so close to God, and sometimes I feel like I know nothing.

…I need to be open and willing so that people will continue to turn to me, and I keep praying for God to give me the words. I never feel like I know what to say—but God can even use an awkward, fumbling person like me for good. I thank him for that! The days when I feel like I’m being used in that way are wonderful, and I wish I could serve like that all the time.

I never would have believed there would be some kind of ministry role in my life, but there is. I feel so moved to pray and to help. If my role is to somehow lighten people’s burdens, I take it gladly. Lord, please help me. I pray that you will continue to let me feel useful and good, but more important, that you will use me to make a difference, to show other people how brightly your love shines in my life. I love you and want to worship you, and I want people to see and feel your touch in their lives. Thank you for finding ways to let me do that.

I thank you, Lord, for all these things and more. I thank you for this time I have spent talking with you, and I thank you for caring enough about me to take the time to be with me. I’ve basked in the glow of your presence long enough, seeking the good feelings and chills down my spine, but not really offering anything back to you. I pray that this is just the start of it. I pray that I will find new and more ways to offer my life back to you. I love you, sweet Jesus. I love you.


 

Oh, Lord, You have been so good to me. Thank You for knowing the desires of my heart, even before I knew them myself. Thank You for letting me write, pray, and help people pray—and for allowing me to tell them about the things You have done. Thank You for giving me the opportunity to write Praying Upside Down. For accepting my offering to You, my whole-hearted act of worship. For being in the middle of it and showing me the fruit of my labors through sweet messages and encouraging notes from readers. Don’t ever let me stop worshipping and praising and offering myself to you. It would be impossible for me to ever thank You enough. In your sweet name I pray. Amen.

What if?

I chose “one word” last year—just so I could say I’d done it. It turns out that really, the word chose me. And God proved faithful in my unfaithfulness. Still, though, I saw no reason to choose a word again this year. There’s only one small flaw to this plan. It’s not one word, but ...

Read More

I chose “one word” last year—just so I could say I’d done it. It turns out that really, the word chose me. And God proved faithful in my unfaithfulness. Still, though, I saw no reason to choose a word again this year.

There’s only one small flaw to this plan. It’s not one word, but it’s one phrase, and it keeps rising to the surface, pushing its way to the forefront in everything I write. Whether I asked for it or not.

What if?

What if we challenge the precepts of our faith? Will it wobble and fall or will it be strengthened with new supports?

What if we ask questions? Maybe we’ll discover the questions don’t matter as much as the process of discovering answers.

What if we strive to build a faith that isn’t precariously balanced on “facts” that are too easily disputed by science and reason? Perhaps we’ll discover new dimensions.

What if we pray as though God is going to say yes?

What if we accept that the flaws in the church as a whole are flaws of man, not of God or of faith? Would we then have more tolerance and inclination to come together?

What if we respect the beliefs of those who disagree with us? Could we maybe have a meaningful dialogue, possibly learn something new?

What if we quit acting like one sin is unforgivable and treat same-sex couples with dignity and love?

What if we set aside all of the “thou shall”s—whether they’re written in stone or catchy lines shouted by televangelists—and ask God to show us which ones matter? Allow Him to rebuild our faith in an authentic, new way?

What if we quit hiding our secrets and our doubts and open up to one another?

What if we’re inadvertently limiting the depths of our belief, the intimacy of our relationship with God, or the power and magnitude of who God really is because we’re not giving Him a chance?

This question may not be the driving force of my year. I may not make an official declaration to seek God’s guidance regularly about this phrase. But I feel it, in that place down deep, in the sacred, secret center of my soul, that it’s time for these questions. Whether you explore them with me or not. Whether I find answers or not. Whether it’s simple or messy, clear or confusing.

What if is rife with hope. Possibility. It implies change, the belief that something else might happen. Perhaps we could change things. Maybe He will reveal things. To some of you who have spent a lot of time within the church, it probably makes you nervous. Feels a little disrespectful. Daring, even. It’s not a statement, ending with a period, finality. It’s not an ellipsis, fading into the unknown. It’s not an exclamation point, shouting the news. It’s a question. Which means that, somewhere, there is an answer. A response is required.

And that’s what lights me up inside. The idea of doing something. Or at the very least, refusing to remain stagnant. Of pushing through the unknown to find something I can, at this moment, only imagine. Because what if I’m on to something? What if He’s simply waiting for us to ask?

What questions do you have? What facts, practices or ideas make you nervous? What precepts of your faith feel wobbly, in danger? What words have people used to push you away from church or make you feel unwelcome? What are you missing? If you’re not comfortable commenting publicly, send me an email (kellyostanley@me.com). I’ll explore some of these questions in upcoming posts—and I welcome guest posts, if you have a topic you’d like to explore here.

14 Things I Learned in 2014

Emily Freeman is one of my favorite bloggers—if you don’t already know her, check out chattingatthesky.com. Every month, she does a “what I learned” post, and this week she’s posting her year-end roundup. I decided to join in the link-up. These are just a few of the things that I learned this last year, in ...

Read More

14 things header

Emily Freeman is one of my favorite bloggers—if you don’t already know her, check out chattingatthesky.com. Every month, she does a “what I learned” post, and this week she’s posting her year-end roundup. I decided to join in the link-up. These are just a few of the things that I learned this last year, in no particular order.

1. God’s timing is [still, always] perfect, even if His answers seem upside down. My husband was let go from his job with no warning on New Year’s Eve (December 31, 2013). Right after that, on an already-planned-trip to NYC, we were “snowed out” and couldn’t get back into Indy. And then my workload  increased exponentially. Turns out, Tim and I make a pretty good team. While I closed myself in my office, he picked up Bobby from school, attended swim meets, and ran to the grocery. I was able to do a lot more work, and we managed to make COBRA insurance payments for a family of five for a whole year. Not fun, but we did it.

2. Even though we’re pretty self-sufficient, I miss Tim when he’s not around. When Tim started a new job after six months of being home, he spent most of ten weeks of training staying in an out-of-town hotel. I quickly discovered that it’s just not the same when he’s not here. Not just because I want the help—but because I know very few men who happily, willingly go to doctor’s appointments, band concerts, and to Goodwill to create costumes for various school projects—yet that’s exactly where Tim thrives. (Tip to newlyweds: pretend you don’t know how to sew, and maybe your husband will become the go-to person when someone needs a button replaced or a ripped seam repaired. Or an elaborate costume prepared the night before a big presentation.)

3. A mother’s job doesn’t cease just because her kids leave home. To be honest, I already knew this since Katie’s been in college in Iowa for a couple years. But when Anna went to Wisconsin, I got to discover it all over again. Sure, there’s less clutter around the house when they (and their stuff) move several hours away. And I confess, I like less clutter. A lot. But my role doesn’t really change all that much when they change locations. I just get to do motherly things from a long distance… Which reminds me that I need to do a better job of teaching, of delegating, of making them self-sufficient. At the same time, I’m grateful that they sometimes want to know what I think :-).

14 things photo strip 3

 

4. I love design. But in my heart of hearts, I’m a writer first. I believe with all of my heart that God led me to this place. I don’t want to be anywhere else. This is what I want to do. And the more I learn (through some really amazing editors) and the more I write, the more I love it. So with that in mind…

5. I’m still brave enough to take a giant leap of faith. When my oldest child, Katie, was three months old, I left the security of regular employment to start my own business. I only had one client at the time and had no idea how I was gonna make it. But my husband had health insurance and we had a reasonable mortgage, so rather than leave my baby with someone I didn’t know, I went for it. I learned to type with a baby on my lap, and I discovered the mute button to hide toddler sounds during conference calls. There have been plenty of leaps along the way—office space outside the home, adding clients I wasn’t sure I was qualified for, resignations from others. I added writing and consulting to my list of services. But now, this latest leap is pretty scary. I (temporarily) resigned all new work from my largest client/co-consultant, knowing that I need the time for book promotion and writing. I’m not sure how I’ll make up for the lost income. Or if more work will be waiting when I’m ready. But I’ve taken Ray Bradbury’s advice: “Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down.” I already jumped. Time to start building.

6. God manages to surprise me over and over and over again. Between the time last night when I wrote #5 and this afternoon, when I sat down to finish the post, I was notified that I’ll soon be receiving a big check I wasn’t expecting. I have to believe He will continue to provide—somehow, some way.

14 things photo strip 2

 

7. The elusive writer’s “platform” really is more than just social media followers. I don’t have the number of followers my publisher would like, and I have a lot of work ahead of me. (I’m OK with that.) But I’ve seen how the past few years of meeting people has been valuable. I connected with other writers because I liked and admired them. I tried to be real and to be open, and I didn’t do it for personal gain. But now that I need book endorsements and places to guest post, I’m seeing the secondary benefits of some of these connections. For example, I attended a workshop with Elizabeth Berg a few years ago—and now one of her blurbs graces the front cover of my book!

8. Redecorating revives me. Mom always said two things about my propensity for change: 1) “Your room dimensions are probably a foot smaller now because of all the coats of paint on the walls.” And 2) “As much as you like to change things, it’s a miracle Tim’s been around as long as he has.” She may have been right. I’ve been on a kick to change things up a bit around here. New charcoal bedspread, rugs and curtains in the bedroom, brightened up with colorful throw pillows and an old family quilt. LOVE. And now I’ve moved the girls into the same room (they’re both in college and never home, so why not?), turned Katie’s old room into a den/library, and I’m changing our sunroom into a laundry room and pantry with built-in shelves and cubbies. New colors, new curtains. Pretty glass jars to hold popcorn and rice and pasta. Organization makes me so happy. (As does IKEA.)

9. Cooking is dangerous for my health. One day, as I obliviously reached above my head to remove a glass baking dish from the cabinet, the 9×12 pan shattered in my hand—little bits of sharp glass landing all over the kitchen, including on the bologna my son wanted me to fry for him. Glad I dodged that one, but unfortunately, I didn’t dodge the glass itself and cut my lip pretty badly. Now I’m on a quest for colorful ceramic baking dishes to replace all the psychotic glass that could, with no warning, self-destruct.

10. Coloring is beneficial for your health. I know there are studies to back this up, but I don’t know where they are. What I do know, though, is that when I was in Florida with Dad this summer for his chemo and radiation, he and I had lots of fun visiting Michael’s. He came back with a sketch pad and drawing pencils, and I got a coloring book. That trip to Michael’s was one of the most fun ones ever—even though Dad was sick. The whole time I was down there I kept thinking, “I forgot how much fun I have with Dad!” But now I remember. When we got back to the room after our art supply shopping spree, he did a few sketches. I think it made him feel a little more like himself. He got through treatment and got back to painting, and now, six months later, he has a new Best of Show ribbon in his studio from a show in September. And all of his recent tests have come back cancer-free.

14 things photo strip 1

 

11. The year 2015 might actually, truly get here. When I signed with Tyndale, publication of my book was over two years out. I think people are as tired of asking “Is your book out yet?” as I am of saying, “Nope, not ‘til May of next year.” But now I can say, “Just a few more months!” Four, to be exact, as on January 1. Not that I’m giddy with excitement or anything.

12. OK, really, I’m giddy with excitement!

13. The light from an iPad, I’ve read, keeps you from ever reaching REM sleep or feeling rested. What this seems to tell me is that if I did NOT stay up late reading on my iPad, I’d never get up. As it is now, I’m asleep within five minutes and have crazy deep dreams. Also, I can sleep until noon if allowed (sadly, I’m not allowed very often). It seems I’m reverting to teenager-dom. Which leads me to this last lesson:

14. I will apparently have these braces on for the rest of my adult life. Or at least another year of it. I’m going with the idea that braces and occasional acne make me look much less than my 47 years of age. If I’m delusional, please don’t correct me.

So that’s my list of 14 things to wrap up this year. I probably learned a few more things, but if I did, I don’t remember them. I really, truly hope you’ll stick around here a while to see what comes in 2015. If my to-do list or the number of spread sheets in my writing folder is any indication, I have lots of things planned.

So tell me… where are your thoughts taking you as this year draws to a close?

This website and its content are copyright of Kelly O'Dell Stanley  | © Kelly O'Dell Stanley 2019. All rights reserved.

Site design by 801red