Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones! I hope you find time to enjoy the season of our Lord’s birth and meet Him in a very personal way this Christmas. Sometimes it’s hard to find Him when it’s so busy and and all you want to do is stay in bed under the covers! But He’s there under the covers too! If we look for Him, He’s right beside us, waiting for us to stop. I hope you get the time to visit with Him.

Thank you for taking the time to read the blogs and comment.  It always blows my mind that someone would make time to read a message God gave me to write.  I am so grateful for your continued support and encouragement.

Thank you too for support the publication of Whole.  It’s been a great year seeing that dream realized.  I hope many have benefitted from reading the story of a faithful God.

Here’s a couple of links to Hopestream Radio with blogs I recorded or you can read them too. They are blogs that ran a number of years ago and I revised them and recorded them this year. I hope you enjoy them.

The Scandal Of Christmas

New Insights from an Old Story

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

From Our Family to Yours

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When God Seems Silent at Christmas

Christmastime.

Smiling kids, bright lights and the piney scent of trees all dressed up for show. It’s a magical time of year.

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Sometimes. For some of us, it’s a struggle. I’ve had years like that as I’m sure you have too. The very idea of putting up a Christmas tree is exhausting. Or makes you sad.

The pressure to DO Christmas seems to build more and more every year. Along with the pressure, comes the stress stealing the joy in our hearts. In many ways, Christmas brings out the worst in us as we fret and buzz around.

So I hide. I don’t think I’m the only one. Sometimes the busiest people are really just hiding in their business. Others of us, really do become hermits.

Why would we want to hide at Christmas? Isn’t it the time of miracles? The most wonderful time of the year?

One reason I hide is to avoid the inevitable disappointment. There have been times I’ve looked for Christ at Christmas but all I hear is silence. Ever happen to you?

I walk away from the holidays disappointed with God. Isn’t that the anti-thesis of Christmas? When it rolls around in twelve months time, I hide again, Afraid that down deep I’m doing something wrong. Christmas magnifies our hurts tenfold, doesn’t it? So we hide.

Pretty depressing, right? Isn’t Christmas supposed to be joyous? Maybe in our fantasy lives. Because in real life, stuff happens. Suffering happens. It doesn’t miraculously stop for Christmas.

Christmas in real life is very different from all the Christmas feel good movies and stories. But the miracle is still there if we can be open to seeing it.

In fact, the story of Jesus’ birth is not all unicorns and rainbows. Have you noticed that? Mary and Joseph didn’t have a place to stay and she was ready to give birth. Can you imagine the almost heart attack Joseph was probably having? Mary was going to give birth amongst animals. Without a midwife or help of any kind. I.Can’t.Even. Not to mention the gossip that followed them like a black rain cloud. What? You think that stayed in Nazareth? Probably half the village had to go to Bethlehem too. The gossips probably travelled with them. None of this was easy.

When we look at the story of Jesus’ birth we skip over some of these very messy details. One often overlooked is the four hundred years of silence from God between the Old Testament prophecies of Malachi and the birth of Jesus.

Four hundred years. Of Silence. We get fretful and anxious waiting twenty-four hours. Imagine waiting four hundred years!

It’s not like God’s people were cloistered either during those years. Those four hundred years were busy times indeed.

Major ancient world events were happening. Palestine was ruled by five different nations; Persia, Greece, Egypt, Syria and Rome.1 Some of it was brutal.2

The Jews were forced to worship pagan gods.2  It was a time of unrest and revolt.

Not a word from God.  His silence must have echoed like the winds of a hurricane. Here were His people under pagan rule and he wasn’t lifting a finger. Where was He?

Silent doesn’t mean absent.

I don’t know why God remained silent those four hundred years. I don’t even know why  he remains silent in my own life or in the lives of those I love. But what I’m learning is just because he’s silent doesn’t mean he’s not present. It’s just the opposite.  He’s right in the middle of it.

He had things under control back then.   He was putting into place the events of His Son’s birth and life and ministry. For the New Testament Church.

“Many things occurred that made the time just right for Jesus’ ministry and the writing of the New Testament. For example, the Greek language spread throughout the world, providing a common language, and the Roman period provided a time of unprecedented peace, magnificent highways, and uniform laws that aided the spread of the gospel by the first century church.” Kids Answers website

God was working everything together to put His plan of salvation in place.  And later, to spread that Good News around the world. He was there and he was getting ready to send His Own to us.

“All of these changes set the stage for the long-awaited Messiah, Jesus Christ, to come ‘in the fullness of time’ (GALATIANS 4:4).”1

In the fullness of time. It all rolled out just as God had planned. When everything was in place, God’s Son came down to earth to save us.  To be present among His people.  In the flesh.

Emmanuel. God with us. God may seem silent in our lives and maybe during the Christmas season but that doesn’t mean he’s absent. Look for his hands at work. Wait with expectation until you can see Him. But most of all know that He is with us, whether silent or not. Emmanuel. God with us. At all times.  In all circumstances.  In all joy.  In all suffering.  All.The.Time.  This is the miracle of Christmas.

1.  https://answersingenesis.org/kids/bible/years-of-silence/

2.  https://zondervanacademic.com/blog/what-happened-between-testaments/

Things Learned from a Month of Perceived Insanity

So here it is twenty-three days in to National Novel Writing Month and The End is in sight. Literally.

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The idea of writing a novel in a month is a little crazy town but so worth it. Not only will I have accomplished a goal and have the skeletons of a novel by the end of November but I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process. Which for me, is a win all the way around.

So what have I won? Well hopefully I will win Nanowrimo with a 50K word count by the end of the month. Here are some other things I’ve won( or learned over the course of this month):

  1. I am much more capable of “doing” than I give myself credit for. I quit things so  easily. Maybe quit isn’t the right word?  I get done the required amount and quit after that. Maybe you find yourself doing this too? We do just what is asked for, no more. Rarely do we push ourselves beyond our own feelings, or fears to something  bigger, more.
  2. Having a deadline looming is a good thing. Having a deadline looming with a cast of characters watching and cheering you on, motivates you even more. I did not want to come back with anything less than 50 000 words.  They preach it at Nanowrimo.  Telling people makes you accountable!
  3. I waste a ton of time. I don’t need to say anything else. Ugh.
  4. Reading is actually research. Hooray! I’m closing in on 130 books read this year and honestly felt a little guilty. But here’s the thing; I would not have been able to write so quickly if I hadn’t read so much. Reading lots of different genres makes you a better writer. It’s advice seasoned writers always hand out to up-and-comers.
  5. The excuses of why I wasn’t writing do not hold up any longer. I told myself I couldn’t write at night because I was too tired. I told myself I could not get up early to write because I’m tired. I told myself I didn’t have stories to tell that came from my imagination. (Even though I have been telling myself stories since I was a little kid when I couldn’t sleep at night. What did I do during those long dark hours? I made up stories in my head with characters from tv shows. Early fan fiction when it wasn’t even a thing. I think a lot of writers have this experience.) But this month, I wrote at night. I wrote in the morning and I wrote in the afternoon. Did I have time frames that I was more productive? Yes. I am a morning person. The words flowed easier in the am. BUT I still got my word count at other times. Huh. I’ve almost written 50 thousand words. I had a story to tell. Maybe more.

Some Practical Do’s & Don’t’s of NaNoWriMo that I learned:

a. Stay in your chair or on the couch or bed until you have your day’s word count. Wrimos (People doing Nanowrimo) tell you this and it’s true. Do not get up to do dishes (Well, really, why would you do that?) or any other chore that suddenly occurs to you. Stay still until you reach your goal. It’s amazing what your brain will do if you give it a chance and still your body.
b. Don’t get caught up in a good book during this month of novelling. Why? Because if you’re like me, you will get caught up in someone else’s characters and not care as much as you should about your own while you are reading said book. I read mostly what I call fluff stuff and books that had no intense plot lines or were totally different than the book I’m writing. Because you know, I couldn’t stop my research! 🙂
c. Do have a separate folder entitled NOVEL NOTES opened when writing. The wise people at Nanowrimo suggest this and it is pure genius. You will be adding things or coming up with new ideas as you write and you want to be able to put them somewhere easily accessible. For example when the protagonist’s parent’s job changes from a mechanic to an engineer by the end of the book and as an author you don’t catch this nor do any other early readers.  So after publication, your reader is left going, “Wasn’t he a mechanic in the beginning?”  And then has to search through the book to find it.  Hence Novel Notes. It saves everyone from going crazy or thinking they are!
d. If you have a family to feed while trying to writing an outlandish amount of words in a month, do invest in a lot of easy prep food. It will save your butt more times than not. You will be a superhero because chicken wings and fries are awesome! Instead of being the person who at five o’clock in the afternoon, is searching feverishly through the freezer, looking for somehting, anything to eat that will be ready NOW. FYI no one fainted from hunger here during the month of November. Next year they learn to cook for themselves!
e. Do have some writing buddies who are writing along with you. It is inspiring and fun. It takes the solitude away and they can talk you off a ledge better and faster than anyone else.
f. Finally Do have a pet rabbit or any other kind of pet who will keep you company as you type feverishly. Who will listen to plot ideas or character assassinations. Who will let you pet them to relieve stress. Or provide you with a good laugh as they give you fodder for material for your book.

So will my first nanowrimo be my last? Definitely not. This month has been everything I hoped it would be and worth the insanity.  It was also a lot of fun.  In some ways I am sorry to be done.  But I’m not really done, there’s revisions in the months of January and February.  You know, adding flesh to that skeleton I’ve created this past month…

 

Why NaNoWriMo Now?

So we are two days before NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) officially begins, November 1st. Then the insanity commences.

It’s my first year attempting to write 50 000 words in 30 days. Why am I doing this crazy thing in the middle of one of the busiest times of the year? (We’re only about seven weeks off Christmas, right?)

It’s doesn’t appear to make sense, I know, but last year I thought about it. This year I AM DOING THIS THANG.

Usually if I’ve thought about something like this for any length of time, it’s because deep down, I really want to do it. In the past, I would make excuses not to, justify them and feel let down and disappointed in myself because I didn’t do what I really wanted to do, deep down in my soul. That’s all changed. I now listen to my soul whisperings. And it’s telling me to do this wild, crazy thing.

I like a challenge but I used to run from them too, even though I’d be drawn in. Again I’d make excuses and justify why I couldn’t. I am done with justifications on why I can’t.  Like the Little Red Engine, my motto is “I think I can, I think I can.”

Another reason for attempting this little project? It’s my dream. Why not chase it now? I have no other answer but “Yes”.

Since I have no writing deadlines or projects in the immediate future. Except for this one: 50 000 words in 30 days.

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Also, I believe God is leading me into this adventure, saying “Follow me. This is the next step.” I know, right? Why would he lead me into this adventure that seems so frivolous? It’s my experience that God doesn’t always lead in what we would term rational ways. He is radical and we follow Him radically. Do you have similar experiences?

I also love the philosophy of NaNoWriMo. Quantity not quality. It’s not as bad as it sounds. The idea is to get the story told and worry about perfecting it (rewriting) later. Just get the ideas down on the page. The first draft. It’s for your eyes only. This is how I write. Fast and with a lot of mistakes. I form the idea and then go back and make it work. A friend gave me this advice a long time ago and I find it works for me.

Chris Baty, the founder of National Novel Writing Month, called it “exuberant imperfection.” He writes in his book, “It dictates that the best way to tackle daunting, paralysis-inducing challenges is to give yourself permission to make mistakes, and then go ahead and make them.” (p. 38, No Plot? No Problem) He goes on to make even more sense, “By giving yourself the gift of imperfection, you tap into the realms of intuition and imagination that your hypercritical brain normally censors. (p.39)

So true! I’m eager to see what comes out of this month of intense writing!

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Baty also addresses the fear. Fear is what has kept me from attempting this in the past. Fear I couldn’t tell a story. Fear I wasn’t good enough and didn’t have the talent. Baty writes, “At the first awkward line of prose or botched brushstroke, we hurriedly pack away the art supplies and scamper back to our domains of proficiency.” (p. 38) Don’t we though? I see it in my kids too. They don’t want to try things because they are afraid they’ll make a mistake. Or they think they should have it perfect the first time through. Why do we get like that?

For this time, I’m going to bash that fear of imperfection. Believe me it wins more times than I care to confess, but this once I’m not going to let it take over. I have permission to make mistakes and make it ugly at first.

I’m hoping that the courage to be imperfect is contagious and it catches on in more areas of my life. And maybe with my kids too. That they’ll be able to have fun trying and not worry about outcomes all the time. I think it’s a valuable life lesson.

I’m not alone in this either. I know there are lots of you out there that just need permission to make a mess and have a glorious time doing it. That’s part of what this next month is about. That’s somehow liberating.

The only thing fear is going to do is motivate me to finish the 50 000 words. That’s considered acceptable.  And if for some reason I don’t, I’m still ahead any words I do write.  Win-win.

So starting November 1st, if you see my family, you might want to extend a hand of sympathy to them as they are going to be witnessing the frantic writer/crazy person in first person. My best friends will be pre-made food (not a regular dinner guest at our table), coffee in my Wonder Woman mug and my chiropractor (aching back, headaches and carpel tunnel syndrome all possible in the next 30 days).

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Feel free to encourage, ask my word count (not every day please) and generally give friendly reminders to not give up even when the muse has walked out the door.

NaNoWriMo 2017: 50 000 words in 30 days or BUST. (That’s 1667 words a day for those of you who are challenged mathematically, like myself.)

What crazy dream are you following right now?  

PS: It’s very hard to push the Publish button on this one.  Once done, I’m accountable.  Ahhhhh!

The Life of Un-ease

Recently I travelled to a conference on mothering but quite honestly didn’t come away with too much about being a mom. Not because there wasn’t a lot of good information on mothering and raising the next generation. There was. The speakers and workshops were fabulous. What I heard however was something completely different.

It was an echo of a lesson that has been reverberating through my life the last couple of weeks. The lesson being an answer to a long held question. An answer I’m not sure I want to accept. Because it doesn’t make things easier. At least not my circumstances. That’s what we all want isn’t it, circumstances that are smooth, that slide along the journey of our lives barely making a ripple. I want ease and quiet. Our world in so many ways, tells us we can have it, that easy lifestyle within our grasps, if we only do this and this and this.

We chase after it, this lie of ease. At least I do. It beckons me and I reach and grab, only to lose it again and the chase starts again. Relentless.

Wouldn’t it be better to just face the circumstances?

I’m wondering if our lives have no ripples maybe we’re doing something wrong? The enemy would have us chase after ease because then we are too distracted, running after the wrong thing, to see the truth. Our lives are not supposed to be easy peasy. Following Jesus is not a crutch into an affluent, carefree, prosperous life that many mistakenly believe it is.

Jesus himself tells us this in the gospel of Mark 8:34-37 (MSG)
Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for? (emphasis mine)

This is what I learn from these verses:

1.  We Follow, He Leads. That’s just the way it is. I’d like to say that I want to do that but if I’m really honest, no, I want control. I want to lead. My husband says that I want to lead when we dance. I like to blame it on my dance training but in reality, I want control. So we look good.
2.  We Follow wherever He Leads. “Don’t run from suffering; embrace it.” Most days I want to run from suffering and not follow wherever he leads. I fight Jesus every step of the way. I.Don’t.Want.This. I scream. Do you do this too? I feel like a two-year old. Maybe because I’m acting like one.
3.  He’ll show us how. How to embrace suffering, to stand and face our circumstances. If He shows how to do that, doesn’t that mean that He’s here, beside us, through it all? The suffering, the difficulties, the challenges, the good, the bad?

Whether our circumstances and situations are mothering challenges, marriage challenges, health challenges, work challenges and/or relational challenges, whatever they are, He is there right in the middle of the mess, the frustration, the angst. We don’t have to run away, instead we need to run towards Him and He’ll show us how to live, really live, even in those uneasy, desperate, noisy circumstances.

We can trust Him to stay because He has said He won’t abandon us. We don’t have to chase Him, we just have to grab onto Him or jump into His arms. He’s got us and He’s already gone ahead of us right into what we think is a murky future.

The choice is really up to us. Run after the relentless pursuit of ease only to find in the end, we chased after the wrong thing or face the suffering, the challenges, the difficulties, the unease and know He is right there, navigating us through it it all.

Navigating us through the darkness to a light and a reward. A heavenly reward yes, but today, the prize is Him. Jesus. Following those footsteps enables us to have an intimate, deep relationship with the real deal. But we have to let him lead. We follow into a glorious, loving relationship.

Successful Failures

What happens when you’ve done great things for God, followed what He’s told you to do but in the world’s eyes (including the church) you look like a failure?

Have you ever felt like this?  Have you ever given one hundred percent, and more to God, only to have things tank?

It’s not something we, in the Christian community, like to speak about because it raises some questions, doubts. Why would God do that? It makes no sense to our mortal, small minds. Do I even want to serve a God who would do that? These are not thoughts we are quick to ease into conversations in the church foyer or even over coffee with a good friend. These are doubts we harbour deep inside, sometimes even afraid to whisper them to God, himself.

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No, we like to talk about the blessings that come from obedience and the success stories of following God’s will against all odds. The growing churches, the faith-filled mission trips and the walks of faith that defy all odds. But what if it seemed the odds were not in your favour? Are these stories still considered ones of success?

For the most part, I think many are dismissed as failures, even by those who live them out. We think to ourselves that the results speak for themselves. That our doubts about God and His ways, speaks volumes about failure and little about success.

We see the look people give us, the small shake of the head. “What did they do wrong?” or “What’s wrong with them?”

We begin to fall for those lies. We ask ourselves, “Is it me?”

I think this is a good question to ask ourselves sometimes. We need to do a heart check every once in a while. If, after examining our hearts and motives, asking God to reveal truth, if, after all that, we still would have done the same things because we knew that was what God was asking us to do, than we have an answer. No It’s not me.

Guess what? We are not alone in our successful failures.

I think there are some prophets in the Old Testament, some missionaries and their families and many other Jesus followers who defy the definition of success in today’s world. Jeremiah was thrown into a cistern because people didn’t like what he had to say in Jeremiah 38. He was put into the cistern and “sank into the mud.” Stuck in a pit, sunk in mud. That’s success for you, right? It doesn’t say how long he was down there but if I were Jeremiah, I’d probably be questioning God about my purpose right about then, wouldn’t you?

Was Jeremiah a failure? Not even close.

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We have heard stories of missionaries who have been murdered and we think to ourselves, “What was the point of that?” Does it make them a failure? No.

They were following God’s instructions and direction. It probably didn’t turn out they way they hoped or even prayed for. It wasn’t that they were sinning or disobedient. God had and has other plans. Divine plans that don’t fit with what we think of as success here on planet earth.

In God’s eyes, His servants did exactly what He asked of them. As long as we are obeying God, the outcomes are not our worry. God gave us free choice and so the outcomes lay in God’s hands not ours. All we need to do is keep our eyes on Jesus and follow where He leads us. Even into successful failures because wouldn’t we rather be deemed a failure by the world and be right in God’s will, than have all the success of the world and have sold our souls?

He Goes Before You, Mama

He was entering the great unknown of high school and I couldn’t hold his hand anymore like I did when he was a little boy. I felt like I was in over my head. All the worries, what ifs and question marks threatened to drown me.

I’m sharing over at Raising Generations Today this beautiful October day.  To read more click here.