A is for …

Perhaps on another day, the writer’s link with a blogging challenge for the month of April would not have caught my attention, but on that particular morning it did. With nothing more than a quick glance at the rules of the game, I registered.

Fast forward two months, and what seemed like a great idea back in February has me feeling a bit like an April fool today.

Still, I’m already in, linked up, and set to go. Besides, whenever I’m in, I’m all in.

My mission for the month:  Blog through all 26 letters of the alphabet.

Just in case you’ve forgotten a certain little poem often taught in elementary school, April is only a 30-day month. Even the slowest of math pupils would understand that 26/30 means a lot of posting in April!

Quite frankly, my track record for blogging is not that good. I’ve had this blog for about a year now, and have managed only 16 posts or so during that time. Statistically, I’m not even blogging twice a month.

Generally, I try not to feel guilty about my lack of consistency in keeping up with my blog. After all, as the mother of five, all teens or tweens, it’s not as if I’m sitting around, twiddling my thumbs, and eating bonbons all day.

Which leaves me with one burning question:

 Why did I ever think I could manage publishing 26 times on my blog during a one month period?

Looking back, I know much of my eagerness to participate had to do with a desire to improve my writing skills, develop better blogging consistency, find new writing inspiration, and build my readership. I recall thinking, “What better way to possibly improve in several of these areas than by taking a part in this challenge?”

Yet, as the weeks went by and I thought about the actual process, I began to feel nervous about exactly how this challenge would play itself out.  Many writers taking the challenge blog through the alphabet with a theme in mind, which seemed like a great idea to me.  Several times I tried to come up with a theme: homeschooling ideas, Bible verses, godly thoughts, favorite books to read with children, etc.  Each time I would get excited about the theme possibilities …  and then panic would set in.

Oh, no! What will I write about for Q or X? What if I run out of ideas?

With the focus of succeeding in this challenge centered on me and my abilities, I knew I was setting myself up for failure. Something had to change. Or rather, there was something that I didn’t need to change. I needed to stay true to who I am as a writer.

The one big thing that is consistently true about my writing is that I write for God. He’s the boss and I work for Him.  In our writing relationship, He always gets to pick the topic. My job is to pretty much just write whatever He tells me to write.  And since He mostly gives me insights about Himself through the ordinary (and sometimes not-so-ordinary) experiences in my life, I try not to complain.  It’s actually a really great deal, and I love my job … though it might be nice if there started be an occasional payday involved.

I have come around to understanding that there won’t be a theme for my blog during in the A to Z Challenge. At least, that is, there won’t be a theme chosen by me. And so far, if God has picked a theme, He hasn’t let me in on it yet.

He did, however, stay faithful to His part of the bargain, and give me the idea as well as the words to write in this initial post.

letterA

That’s why A is for Aspiring to blog through the Alphabet in April

Stay tuned for B.  At this point, even I have no idea what God might want me to blog about tomorrow.

 

My heart is moved by a noble theme, 
as I recite my verses to the King; 
my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer. ~Psalm 45:1

Defeating Defeat

For as long as I can remember, I have loved words. The sounds of words, like serendipity and fricasee. The meanings of words, like blessed  (Oh, how happy) and  Hallelujah (to boast in God). The process of stringing words together, creating alliterations and metaphors. I even think in words, not pictures. My dreams often consist of visual  words, like closed captioning in my sleep.

I don’t remember when I first began to write, for  I never really kept a journal or a diary with any sort of regularity. By adulthood, I wrote almost daily, and for a variety of reasons.  To remember … all the adorable things my children did and said, as if putting it down on paper would ensure that I would never forget a single moment. To clarify and organize my thoughts, especially when feelings didn’t match beliefs and I searched for the right perspective. My marriage felt apart, and I found writing helped me to grieve.  Somehow I realized through writing, I found myself … perhaps more importantly, I found God.

Along the way, through all this writing, God called me. He called me to write for His purposes instead of my own, for His glory instead of mine. I marveled at this plan for my life. I laughed with joy when, on my 40th birthday, God Himself gave me a verse, confirming what I already knew in my heart that in this next season of my life I would write for Him:  “My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the King; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.” Psalm 45:1

And then I very promptly got the worst case of writer’s block ever.  Eight months of nothing … I couldn’t not write a single sentence, not even prayers in my journal.  At first, I felt annoyed. Soon, I was concerned, then anxious and finally devastated.

God had called me to write. I knew it as sure as I knew my name. Then why was I unable to pen words? Over and over I tried, I cried and I prayed.  Nothing changed. I felt completely defeated. One morning, out of my complete misery,  I wrote in my prayer journal, “Lord, I feel defeated. Why? And how can I find victory again?”

To my surprise, God’s response was instantaneous.  From the tips of my fingers came words, written in the form of an acrostic. Since I’m sure that I’m not the only one who experiences feelings of defeat, I’ll share what God showed me.

I will feel defeated when…

D: I am in DENIAL of the truth.

It goes without saying that what I believe and what is the truth are often completely different things. Satan is constantly whispering things in my ear, lies that he wants me to believe. But Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) When I am willing to listen to God and embrace His truths, I discover that I am free from feelings of defeat.

E: I hang onto my  EXPECTATIONS (which are often unrealistic).

Expectations are a problem for me. Often I realize that I’ve got assumed, but unspoken, expectations of myself and others (including God). Furthermore, it seems, more often than not,  my expectations are unrealistic. When I have an expectation that is unfulfilled, blocked, uncertain, lost or even fails, it opens the door for me to experience feelings of anger, anxiety, sadness, and perhaps shame. Rarely are these emotions founded in the truths of God. Rather, most often, I’m listening again to the lies of Satan.

God has been showing me how to let go of my expectations for this life, and embrace His plans for me.  I love the words of Jeremiah 29:11.  ” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for your welfare, not your destruction,  to give you a future and a hope.’ “

F: I  FOCUS  on my  FAILURES.

Just like I listen to lies and have unrealistic expectations, quite often I spend the majority of my time pondering my failures … failures which often exist only in my own mind, failures which often are only measured by the world’s successes.  I’ve been learning that I should focus instead on two wonderful truths.

The first is this:  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.  (Romans 12:2). God’s plans for my life will look a lot different than the world’s idea of success, therefore I cannot use worldly standards to measure my success.

And the second truth:  I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)  If God has called me to do it, then He will give me the strength needed to succeed.  All I need to be is willing to follow Him.

E: I  EXTEND  myself in areas that God has not called me.

God has specific callings for my life. I am a wife, mother and writer.  These are my three most important roles. Too often, I allow other activities to get in the way of my responsibilities in these areas, and when I do that I am going to feel strained and stress.  Quite often I know when I am over-extending myself because I will begin to feel weary and worn down.  It’s a sign that something is out of balance.

Jesus told His followers, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mattthew 11:28-30)  I have to be careful to put up guard rails and protectors in order to keep myself centered in the path God has laid out for my life. When I am careful to do this, my life isn’t marked by feelings of defeat.

A: I  AVOID  dealing with my sin.

But sometimes I just do not want to give up whatever it is that is making me miserable.  I don’t know why sin works that way, but I’ve found this to be true time and time again. I get caught up in some sin, and even though it makes me moan and groan and whine about the state of my life, I refuse to confess it to God. I just don’t want to give it up.

Wise King Solomon wrote, “Whoever conceals his sin will not prosper, but he who confesses and renounces them will find mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)  If I want peace in my life, I’ve got to continually confess my sins and turn back to choosing to live God’s way.

T: I am unTEACHable.

Quite often, when I am stuck in a rut of defeat, I know that God is trying to teach me a new way of doing things.  He wants me to grow and mature so that I am living a faith-filled life.  I don’t know about you, but I can be ridiculously unteachable.  I just flat refuse to listen and learn.

In 1 Peter 2:2, it says, “Like newborn infants, desire the pure spiritual milk, so you may grow by it.”  There are many things I desire in this world:  a strong marriage, children who love the Lord, financial stability, my daily chocolate . More than these, my heart should desire God and His truth in my life.

It’s been more than two months since God shared with me the reasons behind my feelings of defeat.  It didn’t cure me instantly of my writer’s block.  However, God also shared with me how to find victory in my life, and as I began to implement those truths I found my ability to write returned more and more in the days and weeks that followed.

Isn’t it comforting to know deep within the soul that God does not want me (or you) to live in perpetual defeat?

How have you overcome feelings of defeat through Christ? I hope you’ll share your success stories with me!

Stay tuned for part 2, when I share how God showed me how to make a VICTORY PLAN for living my life according to His perfect will for me.

The Start of Something New

For my 40th birthday (which wasn’t all that long ago), God Himself gave me a very special gift … a life verse.

The term life verse is taken directly from the “Dictionary of Christian~ese.”  Okay, not really.  However, if you don’t frequent churches or are perhaps new to the faith, then it is quite possible that you aren’t familiar with this terminology.  Life verse basically refers to a scripture that is deeply personal, and perhaps when you read it you feel as though God is leaning down and whispering directly into your ear.  Life verses tend to address a theme that appears over and over again in your life, telling of how God has worked in you or through you. It’s like the mission statement of your life.

So back to my 40th birthday and my gift from God, which was, as I said previously, my life verse. The back story is that I had always wanted a life verse.  I can’t tell you the number of times I had prayed and asked God for a wonderful life verse.  Over the years, I had scriptures that I loved and held particularly close to my heart, but I knew that none of them were my life verse. In fact, I had finally reached the conclusion that I probably was one of those people who just didn’t have a life verse.  On top of that, I was turning 40, which was turning out not to be all that fun.  I suppose I felt old and useless as I approached what was likely the second half of my life.

Anyway, a sweet friend of mine, who was keenly aware of my emotional struggles (at least the part about turning 40)  gave me a birthday sunshine box … a box filled with a week’s worth of small tokens and treasures, one to open each day.  Each small gift was wrapped and on the outside was a scripture that gave a clue as to what was inside. Each morning I allowed the children to pick a gift so that we could all guess as to what might be inside.

As the morning of my birthday dawned, I have to admit that did not feel like it was in any way a happy day.  My husband was working out of town. And frankly, I just wanted to pull the sheets over my head and sleep the day away.  But before the sun was very high in the sky, those five lively kids of mine were singing the birthday song and pulling the next gift out of my sunshine birthday box.  And the gift they placed in my hand that morning was wrapped up and tied with a ribbon that was attached to a card containing the following words that changed my life.

My heart is moved by a noble theme as I recite my verses to the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer. ~Psalm 45:1 (HCSB)

           The instant I read those words, I knew it was my life verse.  I’ve always loved to write. It’s how I express myself.  It’s how I find myself.  Moreover, it’s how I find God.  In my youth and young adulthood, I wrote for me.  But in my 30’s, I had found joy in learning to write for God … to please Him and to share His love through words.  Truthfully, I longed to do more with my writing, but I had no idea what or how.   So for God Himself to reveal to me a plan for my future that included writing … well, for once, words fail me.

          Since that September morning, I’ve been praying in a knock, seek, ask sort of way.  I’m daring to dream and believing that God has plans to use me by allowing me to write for Him.  It’s the start of something new … not because I’m new to writing, but rather I’m new to believing that my writing is useful to God and to His purposes.  I’m new to dreaming that He will take my writing places I never dreamed it might go.  And I’m new to expecting God to use my writing to encourage others, especially ordinary women just like me, to know Him more.