This online world where I find myself is a strange world indeed.
I have written since I was a little girl in notebooks and notes passed in class. Poems were my teenage language and I had written my first “novel” by middle school. Somewhere along the way my creativity got pushed aside for the practical work of life and I thought of my art as a part of me I could to pursue one day when I had the time again.
God had other plans. The burning desire to write turned to promptings from others and everything coming together in such a way that saying “no” would be paramount to disobeying what God was telling me to do.
Then, I found myself in this odd place where writing turned to building websites and graphics, social media and promoting, studying magazine styles and submission guidelines.
These beautiful online communities have sprung up where it is so easy to have a voice and get heard but it has also given way to the need to build the dreaded “P-word” before anyone will pay attention to your work.
Yep, if you have spent any amount of time online you know that you have to build a platform.
But wait, I just wanted to write!
I have been so fortunate to find beautiful tribes of women that have accepted me into their online worlds, writing for places like SheLoves Magazine and The Mudroom. I feel like I get to know these women through their vulnerable, raw work and am privileged to have written alongside them.
I was accepted into the amazing ranks of the Redbud Writer’s Guild this summer as well and have never been part of such an encouraging community, a sisterhood really.
But that also means finding myself among some of the most talented, incredible writers out there. And I find myself feeling like I fall quite a bit short.
In the midst of struggling to be heard in all the noise, to build some sort of following so that I have the ability to write the kind of things I feel led to, there comes comparison. And if I am not careful a heart full of envy follows close behind.
That friend got a piece in the magazine I pitched to but was rejected. Her writing is light years past my own. Why can’t my writing sound like that? That is my world at the moment.
Yours may be that guy that has the job you want, that lady who is the size you wish you were, that friend that got into the school you didn’t, that mom who gets to stay at home when you have to work…
Whatever you don’t have, someone else does. There is such danger in comparison, such high stakes for our own hearts.
“A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh,” Proverbs 14:30 says, “but envy makes the bones rot.”
I got the privilege of hearing Jennie Allen speak tonight and looked at my mom before she began and said, “I have a bit of a writer crush on her.” I have read Jennie’s books and had my life changed by her words. I admit there was a bit of an “I wish God could do some amazing things through me like that” feeling.
By the time the night ended and I heard her passionately speak about how we all have our unique place and story that God has ordained for us, there was no envy in my heart. There was only a desire to go out and find my place, my unique story and live it out.
It isn’t going to look like her story – or anyone else’s. It isn’t supposed to.
That quiet heart we have been striving to keep – it can be undone in a second by envy. A quiet heart can turn to rotting bones when we compare ourselves to others.
It is a trick of the enemy and we have to look that enemy in the face and say, “My worth is in Christ! Not in what I have, who I am, or what I accomplish!”
Let’s look for our own purpose today and ask God to protect our hearts from comparison that kills a quiet heart.
It’s no secret that I am a restless soul. I love new experiences and get bored if I am in the same place too long. I always have a project I am working on, like to read several books at once so I can pick one up if I get too tired of the other.
International trips simply light me up! There is nothing I don’t love from the flight to trying exotic foods, meeting new friends and experiencing the local culture to seeing the sights.
When we lived in the Middle East every day felt like an adventure. After six short months we returned to the States, to the same house, the same jobs. Such a big part of me grieved the season we had just left behind. Life back home felt mundane and for a long time I looked back.
It was five years before I stepped foot out of the States again and I needed that time to learn a valuable lesson.
So much of our lives can be spent looking anywhere but where we are - looking back at what we left behind, dreaming about that change ahead that will make everything okay again.
We often jump to the famous verse of Jeremiah 29:11 as we struggle with some unknown in our lives, when our purpose doesn’t feel clear, when life feels hard. It is wonderful to know God has plans and a purpose for us, plans for good.
But more often, I need to dwell on the earlier part of that chapter of Scripture. Jeremiah is speaking God’s people in exile in Babylon. I am sure they spent much of their time looking back at the Promised Land, on the plans God had for them in the Holy City and how good it was there.
When Jeremiah’s words came to them, I believe they probably turned an eager ear to his prophecies, just waiting for the day when he would tell them God was going to rescue them, allow them a new start and a bright future.
The words he delivered weren’t about Jerusalem, as it would be 70 years before their return. He came to them with a command from God to flourish in Babylon.
Build houses. Plant gardens. Get married and raise families. Seek the welfare of the city you are in. Pray to the Lord for the place where you find yourself. Bloom where I have planted you.
Sometimes this is the last thing we want to hear but for me, it was exactly the lesson God needed to teach me and is teaching me still.
In the five years after our time overseas, we started a family, served in some amazing ways, found life in community like never before, and saw our extended families through some really difficult times. Each new turn was evidence that we belonged exactly where God had placed us, that this was our assignment for this season.
“Every assignment is measured and controlled for my eternal good,” says Elisabeth Elliot, who certainly knew a thing or two about difficult seasons of life. “As I accept the given portion other options are cancelled. Decisions become much easier, directions clearer, and hence my heart becomes inexpressibly quieter.”
A quiet heart isn’t gazing back longingly for what is behind, isn’t worried about what is ahead. It is blooming right where God has planted it.
Today I am pleased to share with you a page out of Sharon Hoover's journaling Bible. Sharon says, "I love to draw as I ponder and memorize Scripture verses. It helps me cement the words into my wandering mind." Like last week's Word Made Art idea, I love the thought of art right alongside the word of God.
Sharon Hoover has written resources and curriculum to help create a space where people can experience God. Please check out SoulMotive, a one-stop virtual learning environment with tons of resources to help you shape your spiritual practices.
Have a beautiful Sabbath and keep seeking God in new ways!
God conceals much that we do not need to know, yet we do know that He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. -Elisabeth Elliot
My six year old is immensely curious about everything - the world, my life, God's truth. And she wants the answers now! I imagine she gets that from me. I am a planner by nature and I want all the answers up front before I make a decision. I have been known to make a list or two. To-do lists, packing lists, pro-con lists.
Don't make fun of me! It's a real struggle.
God, in His infinite wisdom, doesn't give us all of the answers to life's questions. He knows there is much we don't need to know. Perhaps it is because it is better for us to search out the answers, striving for a faith that is our own rather than easy answers. I believe if everything was spelled out for us we wouldn't need faith at all. As Proverbs 25.2 says, "t is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out."
It isn't just the answers that remain hidden, but when the answers will come to fruition. This is where I truly struggle to keep a quiet heart. My timing and God's rarely line up.
In the middle of the unknown, I'm not always the example of a quiet, trusting heart. I remember when I found out (surprise!) we were expecting our second child. We have never been in a season of more unknown than those days. We found ourselves searching for a house and both my husband and I searching for new jobs, with a two year old in tow and a baby on the way.
My usual agenda in circumstances like looks something like this: worry, plan and make it happen!
I found myself leaning on God more than I ever had in the middle of some of the biggest decisions, knowing it all had to happen in a very small window. We needed to close on the house before my husband switched jobs and we wouldn't qualify for a mortgage.
I remember the first few nights we spent in our new home when we would just look at each other and laugh, marveling and how God brought everything together in such perfection. We were outbid on several houses we thought were the ones, only to "happen to" to stumble upon this house that was move-in ready, in our budget and perfect for our family. We signed a contract on it before I started a new job and closed on the house before his job was to change. Something like this wasn't even on our radar.
In the middle of the unknown I don't find always find myself grateful for the questions or the waiting. Always on the other side of the answer I can see how God concealing certain things from me made the journey one that required faith and grew me in ways I never would have known had He just given me an easy solution.
In the waiting may we be able to tell our hearts...
Be quiet, why this anxious heed
about thy tangled ways?
God knows them all, He giveth speed,
And He allows delays. - E.W.
The one thing that has given me insight into God’s heart for us than more anything else is becoming a mom. When I held my first baby in my arms I thought I finally understood what His Father love for us must mean.
I had no clue.
As my children get older and venture out into the world more, I am daily gaining new insight into what it means to allow your children freedom when you want to protect them. I want to show them the world and shelter them at the same time. I need to give them the tools to solve their own problems when I really want to rush in and fix it for them.
I think I might have a firmer grasp of what this all means by the time they are teenagers or maybe by the time I have grandkids anyway!
I know how fortunate I am to have an incredible man in my life that has always shown me an accurate picture of how a father should look. But I didn’t always trust my Dad’s methods. I never doubted his love for me but that didn’t stop me from rebelling as so many strong-willed children do.
I have never struggled to see God as a good Father. I have, however, sometimes not trusted His timing, discipline, or testing of my faith.
And oh, how I have been a defiant child with Him!
As I struggle to show my kids love and discipline together, give them roots and wings, I grow in tiny steps towards trusting His methods, knowing His heart towards me is nothing but love.
I want to give my kids everything but I have to make decisions that will grow them into strong, godly, independent people. It hurts my heart when that means withholding something I know isn’t good or making them wait. It helps me see the truth behind Romans 8:32 that tells us “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
His heart is to be gracious and give us all good things. His knowledge of what is good and our limited sight of what we think we want don’t always line up – much like most dinnertime struggles at my house!
The haunting sound of organ in the small church where I once served on staff comes to mind. I can hear the words of this old hymn playing in my memory…
“There is a place of quiet rest,
near to the heart of God,
a place where sin cannot molest,
near to the heart of God.
O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
sent from the heart of God,
hold us, who wait before Thee,
near to the heart of God.
– Cleland McAfee, 1903
I believe those words are true, that the quiet rest we so want is near to the heart of God. I think the problem is that I don’t often look to know and understand His heart, to truly seek to see Him for the Good Father He is.
The more I do draw near to His heart, the quieter mine can become.
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