Tag Archive | perspective

Getting Off This Roller Coaster

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I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster these last few weeks and months. I must be rising toward the peak today, because I feel excited and jubilant, though I couldn’t tell you why. Nothing has physically changed in my life. My circumstances haven’t changed. But my view of some things is slowly changing. Maybe that’s the “why.”

If I’m on a roller coaster, then two Saturdays ago, I was at the lowest point of the deepest plunge, a place I hadn’t been in a long while. Although I hadn’t planned to write that day, I ended up with a little bit of time after breakfast and thought I’d quickly write for 30-45 minutes and pound out maybe 500 words or so. They didn’t have to be stellar words. Just something to slide me a little further along on my WIP. Easy, right?

I couldn’t do it.

It took an hour to wring less than 100 c.r.a.p.p.y words from my cottage-cheese of a brain. And then…time was up. Had to move on with my day. Tears pooling in my eyes, I stood, gathered my cleaning supplies, and as I started for the master bathroom, I began to pray for God’s help—

Wait a minute. His help? He’d had the last hour to help me, and He’d remained silent.

Something black and rancid shifted inside me. I dodged it before it became a full-fledged thought. Couldn’t go there. That wasn’t “Christian.”

Then again, God knew all my thoughts, so what was the point in avoiding what He already knew?

“I hate You, God.” The words rasped against my tongue as the nylon scrubber grated against the porcelain sink. “I hate You. I thought I was a writer. Didn’t You and I have some kind of heart-to-heart a few months ago where You pretty much confirmed I was on the path You wanted me to be? Then why has it been almost a year since I’ve written anything of significance?”

Oh, sure, I’d brainstormed, I’d mulled around different ideas, I’d written a couple thousand words over the last ten months…but none of those things were enough to produce the next book.

Why, God?” Scrub, scrub, scrub. “Whywhywhy did You give me a desire to write but not equip me with the ideas needed to fulfill it? You could have taken away this passion—I’ve begged You so many times to do just that—yet still, crafting stories is how I want to spend my days. So what’s the deal? What am I doing wrong?”*

In one breath, I said I hated him, in the next I asked for forgiveness, in the next I begged for help. I tore myself down, compared myself to others, and shook my fist at God.

I had probably cried for at least two hours by the time I sank to the bedroom floor, my chest aching, my body so empty, it should have caved in on itself. “God, help me. Help me.” Over and over, I repeated those words, incapable of much more than that.

Then my phone rang. Swiping at tears, I rose to grab my phone from the bed.

My father-in-law? Calling me? A tiny part of me hoped he hadn’t dialed by accident, intending to talk to his son, instead.

“Hey, there,” I answered, pushing all kinds of “happy” past the tears clogging my throat. “What’s up?”

Now this is a man who I’ve respected all my life, the one who’d been my pastor throughout my childhood and college years, before he moved on into a new ministry. When he talks about God, I listen. And when he shares the things God’s shown him, I lean in closer.

You know what he said to me that day?

“Laurie, I just called because God wanted me to tell you something. He wants you to know how much He loves you.” My father-in-law’s voice broke with emotion. “He loves you. You can’t please Him any more than you already do right now. He. Loves. You.”

It took longer than it probably should have, but eventually, the weight of his words caught up with me.

There I’d been, throwing my little private tantrum, telling the Creator of the Universe that I hated Him, but instead of smiting me (or spanking me and sending me into a time-out), He tapped my father-in-law’s shoulder and said, “Laurie needs to know I love her.”

God loves me. My Abba—Daddy—loved me in that ugly state, and because of my father-in-law’s sensitivity to His spirit and his willingness to obey, Abba was able to wrap me in a hug that day.

There’s nothing like a Dad’s hug to begin melting a stubborn heart.

Jesus has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, so I don’t have “before Christ” and “after Christ” snapshots of how I used to live and how He changed me. But this…this comes close to it for me. To tell the Creator-God I hated Him, and for Him to hug me in return? I don’t ever want to forget that.

I’m done with this emotional roller coaster ride. I’m getting off and driving a stake in the ground. Yes, there will be days I’ll falter and succumb to the fog of depression; there will be times I take three steps forward only to take two steps back; but may I never retreat farther than this stake today.

God loves me.

If He can love a hater,

If He can love a BFF that denied Him three times,

If He can love a zealous Jew bent on destroying followers of the Way,

If He can love a king who committed adultery and murdered an innocent soldier,

If He can love a coward with a speech problem,

If He can love a drunk,

If He can love and welcome into Paradise a thief on a cross,

If He can love and hang out with the fallen, the imperfect, the hopeless, the broken,

Then there is nothing stopping Him from loving you, too.

Now it’s time for us to own it and move forward, ever closer to Him.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~Romans 8:38-39, NLT

 

(*Just want to point out my messed-up theology back there. My knee-jerk reaction when I’m stressed or depressed is to think (incorrectly) that God won’t bless me if I’m doing something wrong. Hello! Fallible human being here. I’m always going to do something wrong. God doesn’t withhold or dole out blessings based on our (in)ability to get something “right.”)

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Ah, the joys of motherhood. Not.

I frowned at my youngest daughter, sure I’d heard her wrong. “No? But you’re taking a shower later today. Your body’s going to be clean and—”

“No! I don’t want you to change my sheets. The more you wash them, the more pilly they get, and then it annoys me when I go to bed.”

“Okaaaay.” So the dirty sheets remained. But later that night, minutes before she had to slip into bed, out popped her question: “Did you wash my sheets?”

Seriously?

Up went my eyebrow. “You didn’t want me to.”

“Nooo!” Her face crumpled and her fists clenched. “I just took a shower. My sheets are dirty.”

“You told me you didn’t want your sheets washed—”

“I never said that!”

Seriously?

Days later, with twenty minutes to spare before heading to school, she was still in her pajamas. I pointed to her room. “What are you doing standing around? Go get dressed.”

“I don’t have anything to wear.”

“Your bureau is full of clothes. Pick something.”

“I can’t. They’re clean and I’m not.” Pause. “Do you have any of my clothes hanging in your closet?” (It’s where I hang the wet clothes to dry.)

I jammed my hands onto my hips. “Let me get this straight. You refuse to wear clean clothes out of your drawer because you’re dirty, yet you want to wear clean clothes that might be hanging in my closet?”

These are just two snapshots of dozens of scenarios I deal with every day from daughter #2, who insists on arguing over almost anything, whether tangible, intangible, or choice of words. Heaven forbid I don’t remember exactly how the conversation went when trying to defend my position (and if I don’t use the exact same phrasing, then “you never said that!”). This is a child who will insist the sky is green and the grass is blue just for the sake of argument.

I’m mentally exhausted.

If I didn’t know I was in my right mind, I’d think I were going insane.

(My apologies to her grandparents reading this post. Just love on her all the more, please.)

For some reason, God in His infinite wisdom chose to pair up this mother with that daughter. Not only does He believe I’m the best mom for her–and that mothering her will iron out some wrinkles in her character–but He knows that having her as my daughter is the only way to iron out some wrinkles in my character. Because if it weren’t for daughter #2, I wouldn’t have realized I have such a problem with impatience. And anger.

See, scenarios like the above typically go on too long and end in a power struggle. And on really bad days, you’ll want to retreat along with daughter #1 into another room. Though it may seem like I’m being glib about this behavior from both myself and daughter #2, I’m not. I’m not proud of my actions and reactions. A yelling, angry mom is not the motherhood I envisioned when I was a child, myself.

But I share it with you because I suspect I’m not alone in this. I’m guessing many parents share my inner conflict. We think we’re decent people—kind, considerate, easy-going, polite—until we have children. Until we come up against a strong-willed mini-me who doesn’t want to obey and instead demands to do things his/her own way. Then out come our fangs, our insides curl and boil with heat, and we start doling out punishments and consequences as our voices rise in volume until it’s not one child throwing a fit…it’s two!

Lately, it’s gotten worse in this household, since my and my hubby’s tolerance threshold for her behavior is at an all-time low, and daughter #2 does not like that. So she’s pushing back. And it. Is. So. Exhausting.

Yet even this has a positive side when examined in the calmer hours of the day. In the Bible, James writes, “Consider it pure joy…when you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Really? Count it as joy?

Yes, because trials—if we respond to them correctly—are supposed to draw us closer to God. It’s in our distress we cry out for His strength, His patience, His wisdom. We are reminded yet again we can’t go it alone; we need the Holy Spirit to intervene and pull us along when we can’t make our feet move on our own. My walk with the Lord will be stronger tomorrow for the strong-willed child He’s placed in my life today. And if I press into Him now, then years later my patience will be mightier because I will have had so many opportunities to practice it, and my anger will not run as hot.

If I press into Him.

Lord, may I continue to press into You.

I’ve often prayed that He would help me love my kids the way He loves them, but recently one of my girlfriends recommended a more specific twist: to pray that God would help me love those qualities about my children that drive me crazy. Because He has plans for these kiddos and their unique quirks that I know nothing about. Daughter #2’s first and middle names combined mean “defender of the faith,” and the same defiance that rears its head against my parental authority is probably just the thing she’s going to need to wield in the future against a society that’s becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christians.

Now if I can just make her realize it’s not me she needs to defend against! 😉

Lest I leave you with an unbalanced view of this precious child of God, however, here’s an incomplete list of her awesomeness:

She’s hysterically funny.

She’s extremely intelligent.

When she’s determined, nothing can stop her.

She can be compassionate, loving, and considerate.

She loves little kids.

She loves the Lord.

She’s got a fertile imagination. It’s quite possible I got the writing talent just so I could pass those genes on to her.

She can draw amazing pictures with her tattoo pens.

She enjoys school (don’t think I could manage mornings if she hated to go).

She’s a loyal friend.

She’s overflowing with possibility.

When she’s in a happy mood, she’s an absolute joy to be around, and she loves to make people smile.

Thank you, Jesus, for my children. Give me wisdom and patience to parent them. Grow me, even as You grow them. Amen.

What if We Lay Aside the Blame?

 

glass-1818065_1280These days, the nation looks more like the Fractured States of America than the United States of America. There’s so much anger and fear, name-calling and hatred, bitterness and resentment. But what if…

WHAT IF, instead of accentuating our differences, we focused on what makes us the same? Each of us at one time or another has been somebody’s brother or sister, son or daughter, mother or father, wife or husband, lover or friend. Each of us at one time or another has felt sadness and joy, anger and forgiveness, grief and contentment. We’ve all experienced triumphs and setbacks, and we all suffer from insecurities and pride. We want the best for our children, desire financial security, crave affordable health coverage, need shelter from the elements, and we ache find that certain somebody who will love us despite our faults.

We want so many of the same things; we just don’t agree on how best to attain them.

But WHAT IF, rather than pointing a finger at others to lay blame and accusation, we looked at ourselves first?

WHAT IF we took accountability for our own actions and the parts we each play in this fractured nation? We call for tolerance and then become intolerant of those who have different beliefs and values. We speak of love, but our actions scream “hate” when we feel threatened. We desire our own freedom…at the expense of someone else’s freedom. We frown on bullies in the schoolyard but think nothing of bullying strangers on Twitter or Facebook.

Whatever your beliefs about Jesus Christ, I think most of us would agree with him when he said in Matthew 7:12, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” (NLT) How many times do I say this to my children? “Don’t treat your sister the way she treated you. How do you want to be treated? That is the way to treat your sister.” Because, like as not, what we dole out over time will eventually make its way back around to us.

Do you want respect? Be respectful of others. Do you want to receive kindness? Be kind to others. If someone insults you, compliment them in return. (We can always find something nice to say if we take the time to look.) It’s hard, though, huh? The adage, “Kill ’em with kindness” sounds good in movies and reads good in books. Yet when the rubber meets the road, when you’re the one on the receiving end of prejudice or sexism, discrimination or racism (and trash-talking a white person is no less racist than trash-talking an African American), it’s hard to implement. It’s hard to show humility when pride gets stuck in our throats; hard to keep quiet when our bodies tremble with the need to scream; hard to love someone who represents everything we hate.

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But if we want to repair the hurt and disunity in this nation, then someone needs to take the first step and break the cycle. That someone is you. And me. Not our significant others. Not our children. Not the law enforcement. Not our leaders. Not in the passing of more laws or abolishing others. Not in sitting back and letting “someone else” do the grunt work. We—YOU and ME—must get up, dig in, break the cycle and move one step closer to that common ground. Day in and day out. Hour after hour. Tweet after tweet. 😉

It’s a daunting task, true. But WHAT IF the unity we find, the healing we can give, the forgiveness we experience, results in a far more attractive future than one built on anger and hatred? Isn’t that worth a try?

What’s Your Word for 2017?

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Happy New Year! Are you sad to see the old one go? Thrilled to see this new one come? Vice versa? When I sit down and take a moment to think back over the year, 2016 was a pretty good one, but I’m hoping 2017 turns out to be even better.

Last year, I had two words to propel me into 2016: optimism and perseverance. While I didn’t stay optimistic 365 days out of the year, I did see progress in tamping down my negative thoughts and not letting them drown out my self-pep talks. As for perseverance, my goal was to finish my latest (fourth?) draft of my Christmas story and start sending out queries by summer’s end. I told myself I’d send out at least 35 queries before taking a break and revamping my strategy, if need be. I ended up only sending out 30, because…

…Query #21 to a small publishing company was rewarded with an offer of publication!

Yes, my Christmas YA (young adult) fantasy novel, Tinsel in a Tangle, will be published by Clean Reads in October 2017! *happy dance* More on that in upcoming posts. The decision to sign with CR came with a few lessons and epiphanies, and I really should write down what I learned so I can refer back to it when Negativity comes knocking in the months to come. (Because you know it will; Negativity is relentless that way.)

So what’s my word for 2017? PURPOSEFUL.

Image result for purposefulPurposeful in how I spend my money, what books I choose to read, movies I choose to watch, but mainly, this word has to do with how I will spend my time. Because somehow I’m supposed to find the hours to research book marketing so I can help promote my book when the time comes, find the hours to begin writing a new manuscript, continue posting on my blog, and then there’s the whole non-writer part of my life in which, as wife and mother, I play the part of companion, confidant, laundress, cook, housecleaner, chauffeur, teacher, counselor, shopper, etc.

In order to do these things well—according to how God would have me perform these duties, not according to society—I need to approach my days with purpose and prayer. I need to remember God is in control of my book’s success, not the writing world telling me I’m supposed to do A, B, C, D, and E in order to see success, because that could easily paralyze me. While I will do what I reasonably can for the sake of Tinsel when it’s released, my talents do not fall under “marketer,” or “promoter.” I’m the type of person who’d like to be recognized without having to call attention to herself, yet I’m not naiive to think God doesn’t have some growing for me to do in these areas. 🙂 Somehow, He’ll help me bring it all together, but it will be done with purpose.

How about you? Have you chosen a word for 2017? Did you choose one last year and see an improvement in that area? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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New Perspective…?

My blog has been quiet because my life is not. But here’s a quick post until I have time to sit down and pen some exciting news.

Last weekend my family spent a good portion cleaning our house, and I got a little pushback from my daughters. “Why do we have to clean now for a party that’s not happening until next Friday?” one of them whined.

Up went my eyebrow. “Because I’m not waiting until Thursday to do it—only to realize I’m having to do it all by myself since you’re at school and Daddy’s at work.” Duh. (I learned my lesson of what happens when you procrastinate in high school, thanks.)

What my girls didn’t know then—won’t know until this afternoon—is that my parents are flying in from MA for a surprise visit today (my dad and I each turn a new decade this weekend). So I had to have the house cleaned before Friday. Thus, unbeknownst to my girls, they were going through the unpleasant business of picking up their rooms, putting away toys, etc., in preparation for something very fun in a matter of days.

I had to stop and wonder: how often does God require His children to go through unpleasant business because He knows it’s in preparation for something “fun” further down the road? I’m a spoiled American that can get whiny when life doesn’t go the way I want, but maybe next time I’m grumbling about whatever is going on, I’ll be able to look at it from a different perspective and keep the complaining to a minimum. 😉