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Letting Go and Letting God

Letting GoDon’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect His will really is. ~Romans 12:2 NLT

 

It’s your baby. You birthed it, fed it, stayed up late at night with it, watched it grow. Then you sent it out into the world of publishing only to watch it slowly die. Now the decision is obvious: you have to let it go.

Letting go of ambition and letting God take control of our writing is difficult. After all, for most of us writing has become our identity—and who wants anyone, even God, to mess with that? But letting go and letting God is the very thing we must do if we wish to succeed in this business. I don’t mean “succeed” in the sense of financial gain or notoriety; what I’m referring to is success in the sense of becoming secure in the writer God made us to be—even if that means we don’t write the next bestseller or are never picked up by an agent or publishing house.

Is letting go easy? Heavens no! Take it from me, a control freak. Letting go is like pulling teeth without Novocain. But when all is said and done, when the “bad tooth” is out, letting go takes on a whole different meaning.

LORD, why is it so hard to let go? Why do we hang on to so many things You’ve tried to pry from our fingers? Whether it be our work in progress or something personal in our life, control sometimes feels like a safety net when it’s actually a pit of doom. Help us, LORD, as we write, to let go of our own desires and hang on to what’s precious in Your sight. Help us let go of our “baby” when you say it’s time to let go. And give us the discernment to know when what we’re writing is from our own selfish ambition or from You. I praise You, O LORD, for calling me to be a writer. May all glory be given to You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

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Finding Your Way

Finding your wayLean on, trust in, [and] be confident in the Lord with all your heart [and] mind and do not rely on your own insight [or] understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, [and] acknowledge Him, and He will direct [and] make straight and plain your paths.~Proverbs 3:5-6, AMP

 

 

Writing is hard. It can be a love-hate journey one moment and a feel-good journey the next with the ups and downs, as well as beauty of, a rock-strewn, backcountry mountain road. It’s difficult to walk that road sometimes—and even more difficult to find people who will walk it with us. That’s where American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and HIS Writers (ACFW North Denver Chapter) come in.

Realizing we’re all in this together—regardless of where we are in our writing journey—the goal of HIS Writers is to walk that road with you. Not just for the short-haul, but for your entire journey.

As a writer’s adventure progresses, they pick up nuggets of information along the way: writing skills, marketing ideas, social networking nuances—things like that. And like a walking cane or road map, these nuggets help ease the journey along. But sometimes a walking cane or road map isn’t enough, especially when we feel crippled or lost. Sometimes we need the strength and prayers of others.

If you are serious about writing, becoming part of a healthy writing community is a must! No one understands writers like other writers. No one else “gets” how difficult it can be to write one simple sentence, or to find that pièce de résistance word or phrase, or to determine why one’s plot or POV is off kilter, except other writers. PLUS, trying to explain those strange “voices” in your head can seem pretty psychotic to someone who’s never dealt with creating story characters.

Like any other community that supports one another through life’s journey, healthy is the key operative. Make sure the writing community you belong to is gentle, yet direct. That they are more interested in helping you become the writer God created you to be than the one they want you to be. The atmosphere of the community should be one of building up, not tearing down. Critiques should be salted with love as well as expertise, and instruction should be sound.

Prior to running into ACFW seven years ago (actually, running into Kathy Kovach, who told me of a new ACFW writing group they were starting up north called HIS Writers), I was on the verge of giving up. The group I had been involved with had sucked the life out of me, and the call God placed on my life to write seemed hopeless. Earlier that year God had promised me new wineskins, and He kept that promise by providing me with a great group of ladies (Kathy Kovach, Paula Moldenhauer, Margie Vawter, and Bonnie Doran) as well as an awesome support community that has put up with my silly questions and insecurities, and taught me more than I ever could have imagined.

My prayer for you is that you find our community of writers an oasis in the desert. That like with me, HIS Writers can become your “new wineskin” as you walk the path God has laid before you as writer.

LORD, like I said earlier, writing is hard! I remember how many times I wanted to throw in the towel and walk away, but you kept bringing me back, providing me with amazing people who understood my struggles as a writer, and who patiently took me under wing and shared with me their knowledge and forbearance. Please be with those who are currently part of HIS Writers, LORD, as well as those You are drawing in. Help them to trust us with their writing journey, and keep us forever sensitive to their needs, struggles, hopes, and dreams. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

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At All Times

[Chorus]
And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
Every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm
1

These past fifteen months have been a challenge for my family. We’ve experienced death, divorce, family upheaval, and two engagements. Except for the latter, these aren’t experiences most people enjoy going through. Myself included.

With all the stress, I found myself shutting down from time to time. Daily household chores became difficult. Even putting together my children’s weddings was no longer fun. Writing monthly columns for The Inkwell, newsletters for HIS Writers, maintaining social media, was added to the long list of things I dreaded doing. And the joy I felt for the book series God called me to write ten years ago, flew out the window with everything else.

How did the LORD expect me to maintain life? How was I supposed to be there for my family—my adult children—during these difficult times? What about those outside my family who depended on me? Who leaned on me for strength? What if I let them down as well? My heart was crumbling as I watched myself become my own worst failure.

Then the LORD spoke to me in that still, small voice I’m so familiar with. He said, “Jill, this is not your burden to carry. It is Mine. Didn’t I say in this world you would have trouble? Didn’t I say I have overcome the world? And I overcame it to give you peace. Peace that passes all understanding. Peace that is burden-free. Peace that comes from trusting Me in ALL things. Jill, do you trust Me? Can you praise Me in this storm?”

The next few moments were sobering. God was right. He didn’t expect me to carry burdens that weren’t meant for me. And even during difficult times, the times He said there were no promises they’d go away, He vowed to be with me and give me peace.

To trust God when things are going good is easy. To praise Him in the storm, not so much. But even when life is difficult I know trusting Him, praising His name, is the only thing that will get me through.

LORD, I give my burdens to you. I lay them at the foot of the cross and give you permission to carry them. And if the troubles of this world don’t go away, then I give you permission to fill my heart with joy despite what my head says. Thank you for Your peace. Thank you for being there for me during good times and bad. Your ways are perfect, and although I don’t always understand them, I will trust them because you are God and You are good. Praise You, LORD, even in this storm. Amen.

1Casting Crowns. “Praise You In This Storm.” Mark Hall and Bernie Herms. LifesongBeach Street and Reunion Records. 2006

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Out On A Limb

 

Out on a limb

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

~ Philippians 4:8, NLT





The above saying by Mark Twain caught my attention the other day, as did the verse in Philippians. I was about to dismiss both as something nice to ponder when I felt the LORD say, “Write about them.”

“Together?” I asked. “Write about them together?”

“Yes.”

So there I sat, trying to figure out what going out on a limb had in common with fixing your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. I mean, sure, a tree limb is where the fruit is. But in all honesty, at the end of a limb isn’t exactly where I’d normally fix my thoughts.

Then it occurred to me. Fruit. Not just any fruit, but fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The fruit found in Galatians 5:22. The only fruit against such there is no law. That’s the fruit found at the end of the limb, and that’s where we’re to fix our thoughts.

As most of you already know, attaining fruit of the Spirit is no easy task. It would be great to wave a magic wand and say, “Fruit of the Spirit, appear!” But God doesn’t work that way. He wants to know if we’re willing to go out on limb to get it, and trust Him as we do.

Nobody wants to eat fruit that has gone unpicked and withered or, worse yet, rotted. So when we go out on that limb and take the fruit of God’s Spirit we are, in essence, harvesting, which is a necessary procedure if we expect more fruit to grow.

Of course, whether or not we’re willing to head out on that limb has no bearing on how much God loves us. He loves us no matter what. Nor does it affect our salvation. That part is sealed by Christ’s blood. However, what it does affect is our growth as a person in Christ.

So next time the LORD urges you to go out on a limb, instead of focusing on the ground below, or whether or not the limb will hold your weight, focus on Him–the only one who is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. For it is focusing on Him that will get you to the end of that branch and allow you to partake of the ripest, juiciest, best fruit on the tree: the fruit of the Spirit.

LORD, why is it so hard to trust You? Why is it when I find myself inching across an unsteady branch high above ground that I am always looking at the earth below instead of up at You? My heart knows that You are the one I’m to fix my eyes on but my head sometimes tells me otherwise. I see the fruit–and I want it. But trusting that You will safely get me to the end of the limb so I can partake of the fruit is another story. Therefore, help me, LORD. Help me to fix my eyes on You. To trust You so I can have all that You desire me to have: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The only fruit “against such there is no law.”

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new beginnings
And He Who is seated on the throne said, “See! I make all things new.”

~Revelation 21:5 AMP






2012 was a rough year for our family. Lots of change—some good, some bad. Because of this, my two oldest daughters (both adults) decided to usher in 2013 with matching tattoos to remind them this year would be one of new beginnings.
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Our family heritage is a mixture of German, Scottish, Welch, and Swedish, with the majority of it being German. So it was fitting that their tattoo, a balloon (which represents soaring), has a string scripted into the word “anfangen,” which means “to begin” in German.

“Begin” is an action word. A word that holds promise and newness. A word that says if you messed up you can start over. Dictionary.com defines “begin” this way:

  1. to proceed to perform the first or earliest part of some action; commence; start
  2. to come into existence; arise; originate:
  3. to proceed to perform the first or earliest part of
  4. to originate; be the originator of
  5. to succeed to the slightest extent in

To me, “begin” means no matter how rough today is, no matter what fire we walked through yesterday, no matter what storm we have to face tomorrow, God has a plan of new beginnings for our life—full of hope, forgiveness, and promise.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” ~Jeremiah 29:11

As you enter into this new year, remember God will never leave you nor forsake you. He will be there for you with GOOD plans—plans to prosper, not harm, you, plans to give you hope and a future. Plans for new beginnings.

* * * * * * * * * *

Lord, as I walk into this new year I ask that You walk with me. I ask that You help keep my eyes focused on You and not on present circumstances. I thank You for the grace You extend me and the new beginnings You present me with each day. Your love for me is great, O LORD, and Your compassion never fails. It is new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness!

 

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Giving Thanks


Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
 ~Psalm 106:1 NIV

Giving thanks. It should be such a simple thing. After all, we live during a time when things are delivered to us in a blink of an eye, and opportunity is just an Internet click away. Even during the most dire times we can still turn to Facebook or Twitter to vent our frustrations, get as much moral support as needed, or “give thanks” in our misery by saying at least I’m not going through what so-and-so is.

Unfortunately, leaning on these things as a litmus test of what it means to be thankful will always leave us feeling empty in the end.

Thankfulness, true thankfulness, is not man-made. It relies on leaning ourselves against God and trusting He is good and desires the best for us, regardless of life’s circumstances. It relies on being satisfied in the deep-seated truth that the LORD’s love endures forever. And it relies on us surrendering to the One who exampled the true meaning of thankfulness to begin with.

LORD, I don’t want my thankfulness to be shallow. I don’t want it to rely on whether or not I’m having a good day or bad. I don’t want it to be finicky; I want it to be deep-seated and true. Help me be satisfied, LORD, so I can rejoice in nothing more than the fact you gave Your life for me. Bore into the depths of my heart the true meaning of thankfulness, and teach me how to walk without grumbling. I praise You, O LORD, and thank You for all You’ve done, are doing, and are about to do. In Jesus’ precious name I pray. Amen.

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Anticipation

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.  ~Isaiah 40:31 KJV

Remember what it was like as a child waiting for your birthday or Christmas morning to arrive? Sleep was hard to come by and the anticipation, agonizing. Yet, despite our anxiety in the wait, both came. We didn’t have to “do” anything to make them come, they just did.

As adults, we have anxiety over other things: family, children, health, bills, etc. We wait for our ship to come in, for God to answer prayer, for life to get better. We forget God is in control–that He loves us and hears our cries. We forget He promises in all things He WILL work for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Instead, we replace anticipation with fear, anxiety, and doubt. And because of that, sometimes–just sometimes–we jump ahead, on our own, without waiting for Him.

Scripture promises those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. Those who wait will mount up with wings as eagles. Those who wait shall run, and not be weary. Those who wait shall walk, and not faint. Waiting means to anticipate, with joy and certainty, that God will come through for us. It means trusting in God and not in ourselves.

LORD, it is so difficult to wait with confidence. To wait without being anxious. And because of this I ask you help me learn how to wait, so when the waiting is over I can bask in the renewal of Your strength. Teach me how to keep my eyes on You and not on my circumstances. Hold me close. Take away my anxiety of tomorrow and replace it with the anticipation of knowing Your promises WILL be fulfilled. Thank you for all You’ve done and are about to do. In Jesus’ precious name. Amen. 

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Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer


Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest. ~Mark 6:31 NIV

As crooned by the late Nat King Cole, “Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer” are now upon us. A time for rest, relaxation…and a ton of activity.

So much for the rest part. Right?

The LORD knew a time of rest was important. In fact, it is one of His commandments:

“Six days a week are for your daily duties and your regular work, but the seventh day is a day of Sabbath rest before the Lord your God. On that day you are to do no work of any kind, nor shall your son, daughter, or slaves-whether men or women-or your cattle or your house guests. For in six days the Lord made the heaven, earth, and sea, and everything in them, and rested the seventh day; so he blessed the Sabbath day and set it aside for rest.” ~Exodus 20:9-11 TLB

Notice the “rest” God is referring to in the above passage is not just any rest. It is rest in HIM. Rest that is meant to revive and nourish body, mind, and soul. Even the word “Sabbath” points us toward an extensive intermission with the LORD.

So next time you’re stressed out with deadlines, WIPs, or just plain life, grab yourself a nice cool glass of lemonade, find a tall, lush, shade tree, pull up a favorite lounge chair or blanket, and spend a lazy hazy “un-crazy” day with the One who put the “R” in rest!

LORD, why is it that we feel the need to “do” all the time? Why is it so hard to rest? And even when we think we are doing the “rest” thing, why is it that we still allow our minds to race a million-miles-per-hour with the cares of this world? Teach us, LORD, what true rest is. Lead us beside still waters so we can drink of You and learn of Your peace–the peace that passes all understanding. Take us to that quiet place where we can bask in Your presence and lay all our burdens at Your feet. Thank you, LORD, for desiring to spend time with us. And thank you for exampling what true rest is all about. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

 

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Mother, May I?

Choose my instruction instead of silver,
knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her. 
~Proverbs 8:10-11, NIV

As a child, did you ever play the game, “Mother May I?One player is the “mother,” the other players are the “children.” To begin the game, the “mother” stands at one end facing the “children,” while the children line up at the other end facing the “mother.” The children then take turns asking, “Mother, may I ____?” and fill in the blank with a movement suggestion. For instance, someone might ask, “Mother, may I take five steps forward?” The mother either replies “Yes, you may” or “No, you may not do that, but you may _____ instead” and inserts his/her own suggestion. If the child forgets to ask “Mother may I?”, he/she goes back to the starting line. First one to touch Mother, wins.

Sometimes I feel I play that game with the Lord. I ask, “Father, may I take three steps forward?” But instead of saying “Yes, you may,” He tells me no and keep me where I am or, worse, moves me back.

Don’t you hate being moved back? I know I do. Staying in the same place I can *almost* handle. But moving back? It makes me shudder. Especially when I “know” God should move me forward. Yet the Lord, in all His wisdom, recognizes that sometimes moving forward is not the best for me. In fact, sometimes it can cause irrefutable damage.

Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life. (Proverbs 4:13, NIV)

Oh how I wish that verse was my life’s mantra! How I wish I would trust God for every single moment of every single day. But, to be honest, I don’t. And many times when I see Him asking me to stand still or take a few steps back, I dig in my heals and do what I want. Yet even during those times of disobedience, those times when I ask, “Father, may I?” then turn around and do what I please, He’s there for me, offering unconditional love and grace with open arms.

Father, teach me how to listen. Bore into me a desire for Your instruction over mine. Remind me that wisdom—Yourwisdom—is more precious than rubies. That Your instruction and knowledge is more precious than gold, and that my ways can only lead to destruction. Even during those times when I feel like You’ve sent me ten steps back, help me trust that You know best. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting, for You alone are God. 

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