Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Death of a Dream: Moving On After Your World Crumbles

Today I came across this blog post on the True Woman website called Making Noble Plans by a Nashville pastor's wife Jani Ortlund. The post is a thought-provoking connection to Isaiah 32:8:
 “He who is noble plans noble things, and on noble things he stands”
It got me thinking: Why have I not made any "noble plans" in the last few years? And why is this important?

From the time I was a little girl, I knew what I wanted to be. My basic plan was that right out of high school God would send me a knight in shining armor to sweep me off my feet and take me away to his castle. I wouldn't have to find a job or live with my parents. All I would do was clean house, take care of kids, and redecorate rooms. Life would be perfect! But did that happen? No. Post high school consisted of three part time jobs and an almost engagement that wasn't good timing for my spiritual maturity. Thank God that He stopped me before things got even crazier!

It's weird, really. After that relationship I had very few guys interested in me. They didn't flirt as much or seem to always know if I was in the room. All that stopped. I didn't know why! But now I think I get it. My dream and ideals had been crushed. I was no longer the vibrant, carefree girl that I had been before. I had lost my spark.

Now, a couple dreamless and fear-filled years later, God is doing something amazing. He's opening up my heart! He's letting me dream again. My world isn't as small as it used to be. I have choices! I'm not chained to circumstances.

You may be wondering, "Is this miraculous change going to last?" All I can say in response is, "Well, it's been going on for a while now!" You see, I am finally seeing that God wants me to dream. And when you dream and actually believe that God is in the dream, it beats away those fears.

To be honest, it wasn't only Jani's post that has produced this. It is also a book I've been reading by Tom Corson-Knowles called Rich By 22: How To Achieve Business Success At An Early Age. Now, am I planning on being rich by 22? Too late. That ship has sailed. Am I planning on becoming a wealthy business owner? Not really. Do I agree theologically with everything in his book? Nope. But is it one of the most encouraging and inspiring books I have ever read? Yes! It's helped me decide that I have two main overarching goals in my life-

  • Become a successful published author.
  • Become financially independent.

Why? Well, the first because writing is a gift that God has given me and being published is something He has been nudging me (rather forcefully) toward. The second because through a high enough passive income any active income I may deem necessary will be used to support the servants of God's Kingdom in their work around the globe. Being financially able to be actively involved in many different types of missions work is something wonderful. And who knows? Maybe I'll even adopt a few kids someday.

Maybe I don't have exactly how I'm going to do all this figured out. Maybe I don't have a degree. But I have a God who is a God of dreams and He knows where my heart is. As I like to say:
Our dreams are God's realities.

What are your dreams? Share them with me! Maybe we can help encourage each other.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Blast From the Past: Essay of the Written Word

It’s amazing how much a story can affect you. It can make you laugh, cry, love and die with every breath a character takes. It can lift you up with wings of joy or bring you down in dark sorrow. Such is the power of the written word.

There is a beauty and a curse in this power. Through the scribbling of silent writers, love has bloomed between couples; but also wars have been fought, leading to many deaths that otherwise would not have happened had someone not bothered to dip the fated quill.

As writers and authors, much responsibility falls upon our shoulders. What we write not only affects us, but others. As we pour our boiling emotions onto paper for the relief it gives, they are swallowed by another who may not have the ability to release them. Oh, how my heart aches as I write this! For them, such a life is naught but eternal torment. Thus, we as scribes are required to turn our torrent of words into carefully hewn chasms that will channel even our negative energies into a restricted flow. Yes, we still wish our prose to prick emotions into being, but only so much as they will edify and not condemn our unwitting readers.

May God bless my written words.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Field of Life

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:1-9 ESV)
 I've read this passage so many times and heard sermon after sermon on the subject. But today it got me thinking about the last couple of years and all the things that have happened- the thorns, birds, and sun. For me, the last couple of years here in Romania were physical "thorns". When I was sixteen/seventeen-ish, I experienced something like a heart attack followed by long periods of weakness. After being poked, pricked, and prodded by our eccentric physician (and yes, they took enough blood over that year to satisfy a vampire), I was told I had a strange infection in my blood. They didn't tell me what it was, but I didn't care. It was an inconvenience. They prescribed me some pills to help de-stress my heart and get it back on rhythm and a few vials of amoxicillin. Dad got the happy job of stabbing me with a full vial of the stuff every ten days and listening to me roar in pain. (I was told later that amoxicillin is one of the most painful injections you can get.) This lasted for a couple of months. When we finally finished the last vial, I refused to go back to the doctor. I was feeling better, so I must be better, right? I couldn't be more wrong. When I finally did go back, the new test results came back doubly bad. I was basically called an idiot by my doctor and told that if I didn't deal with this, I was going to need a heart transplant by the time I was twenty-one. Talk about putting the fear of God into someone! But I still refused the injections. We compromised and she gave me pills. (Really? Really?! Couldn't you have done that in the first place?!) The following year was tough- really tough. But now there was a difference. Whereas before I was just pulling through on my own strength, I was now vulnerable. Thoughts of "Why, God?" churned through my mind, but I had to remind myself, "I gave my life to God a long time ago. That was a one-time-for-all-time deal. He brought me out of my life of sin, He can bring me out of this." But I knew He might not want to. That's a scary thing to discover at seventeen: your own mortality. I had given him my life, but could I now give Him my death, too? I didn't know it at the time, but I had proven that my roots went down deep- deeper than surface rocks, thorns, and sunlight could reach. I had grown tall. Now I was ready to bloom.

Over the following years, He would test me over and over again with health complications and, eventually, more emotional problems. But I know now that even if I can't see my own roots, God can. He knows. And He knew that I would stay put, even when the world try to pull me out by that root. I thank God for not letting me sit there and be seed snatched up by birds or choked by weeds.

This passage is so important to help answer those questions of "Why, God?" Does it tell us outright why? No. But it does tell us that if we stick it out, we will get to see how deep our roots go. And it's amazing. Having faith that He is in control of even the bad things and won't give us more than we can handle (so long as we handle it with His power) is so comforting. Life is going to be bad. Everyone and anyone can and do get diseases. Their hearts get broken by imperfect relationships. They become victims of theft, fraud, and rape. But honestly, if I have to go through those things, I would rather go through them with God by my side than without Him. That's what it comes down to, really. People think that it's this strange choice- live "free" from God's meddling or let Him control us- but it's really not. God's not a nitpicking old woman or a slave-driving taskmaster. He's a loving father. He's our loving Father. And He's holding out His hand, saying, "Walk with me."

Something that makes me sad about this passage is that many people who think they are Christians are like the seed growing among the thorns. I know of a young man who grew up "believing" in Christ, then he went to an acquaintance's funeral (not even someone he really knew well- an acquaintance) and couldn't reconcile that death with what he had been taught about God. So he became a Deist. A few years later he was struck with a disease that caused major muscle cramps over his entire body that were so bad that sometimes when he had an attack the cramp crushed bones. He tried to believe in God for a while, but again couldn't reconcile what was happening with what he knew of God. So he became an Atheist. Not long after giving up on God, he was healed. But it was too late. The damage was done and now he is a die-hard Atheist whose life mission is to try to destroy the faith of Christians. My heart goes out to this young man. What the thorns in his life did was choke his beliefs to death. He found out he didn't have roots.

Have you taken a moment to thank God for walking with you through the field of life?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Crazy (Amazy?) Happy Holidays

"Happy Holidays y'all!"

Ok, I know, I know- I didn't write anything letting y'all know what was going on for the holidays! But, my dear friends, it wasn't my fault! It was the church. No, really. Romanians are kind of mildly obsessed about going to church all the time- especially around the holidays. I'm not saying that's bad... but when Romanians hear the word "holiday", they take off like a rocket. There is no such thing as a calm, restful vacation-like holiday. Instead they are running around until well after midnight with friends. 

Basically, this is what our Christmas/New Years looked like: cookie baking, David Center party, Rebecca's cantata, more cantata, even more cantata, caroling until after midnight, more caroling, party, gingerbread house building, more cookie baking, Christmas, Christmas night church service, Christmas service/visit at a little village all day, friends over, last minute New Year party prep, New Year party until 5 a.m. with cleanup, and finally- football day until three a.m.. Whew! Busy, busy, busy. 

Admittedly, Rebecca did very well on her cantata and we girls enjoyed performing a song and skit for church, so it's not like we didn't have fun. (I decorated pretty much our whole gingerbread house by myself, so that was fun. Its carcass now sits in the kitchen where Dad periodically picks it over.) But 5 a.m.?! You've got to be crazy, even if it is New Years. The one day of the year that we try and kill ourselves off with no sleep. Who invented that, anyway?!

I'll stop ranting now before you get the idea that I didn't have a good time. The truth is, I did. But it's not like it used to be, you know? The holidays would always fill me with a sparkly, zippy feeling of anticipation. There were times when I couldn't sleep for hours after I went to bed. But now... not so much. The gifts aren't as important, the snow doesn't always feel magical, and your friends aren't the same people they were last year. Things change. Life changes. You change. But the one thing that stays the same- Jesus. No matter how crazy or even un-amazing the holidays get, the Bible promises that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever". (Hebrews 13:8) Just because we don't feel it, doesn't mean that Jesus didn't come to earth and that there isn't something worth celebrating. It doesn't mean we have the right to ignore Christmas.

So if you didn't get the Christmas you remember having as a child- or even if you did- just stop and think: Where does Jesus stand in your holidays? Is He as important to you as to the Romanians at this time of year? Did you think about the fact that He came into this depraved, sin-filled world just for you?

Have you thanked Him yet?