Unknowns, Courage, and Creativity

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A photo of my author copy the day it arrived in the mail.

Tomorrow, my debut novel launches. 

I’ll be honest, a cocktail of emotions are brewing at the moment. A hearty mixture of excitement, nervousness, and outright fear of failure. It feels rather like I’m about to fling my heart out into the world hopeful it won’t get flattened. It’s always that way when trying something new, don’t you think? Maybe even more so with creative pursuits because a part of you is sewn right in with it.

Yet, where would we be without the kind of courage creating requires? Without those brave first strokes of ink or paint, our bookshelves would be barren and our walls unadorned of colourful masterpieces. There would be no music to make us merry. No architecture to take our breath away. No sculpture to stop us in our tracks. No gardens to still our souls. No chocolate—I go too far! Our beings would be bereft of nourishment without people answering the creative call.

I admire the courage of creators, those who bring life to their ideas despite the naysayers and critics. I applaud those who keep creating, keep trying, and keep overcoming obstacles to do both what they love and what gives them life. I’m inspired by the ones who continue to show up and don’t give up even when their inner critic won’t shut up. I’m grateful to those who pursue their gift as a gift to others.

But it’s not easy. 

As a recovering control freak, unknowns make me uneasy. The blank page—that sacred inhalation of breath before beginning—is crowded with both possibility and nightmarish uncertainty. And right now, I’m on a new precipice of uncertainty and in desperate need of exhaling.

But there’s hope. I’m considering reframing my concept of unknowns. Instead of attaching fear to them, I’m thinking of renaming these unknowns “new firsts” and viewing them as dynamic opportunities to explore something new. 

So let’s say it together: An unknown is a dynamic opportunity to explore something new.

Feel better? I do… for now. Ask me tomorrow when I’m standing at the book launch trying to wax eloquent about my book! I’m slowly easing into my “new first” by only inviting family and friends to the launch. I’m going to take that nervousness I feel toward introducing my book to the world, and all that goes with it, and view it as a dynamic opportunity to explore something new. 

I wonder, do extroverts require this much reflective self-talk? And at what age did I begin to be unsure of creative pursuits? But that’s another blog.

What it always comes down to is a conscious effort to hand over control. It’s not a one time fix. It’s a trust thing, and for me, there’s only one who can be entrusted with it—God. The unknowns, ahem, I mean the dynamic opportunities to explore something new are also an exciting chance to grow closer in my trust journey with my Creator.

So let me expand my definition: An unknown is a dynamic opportunity to explore something new and trust God more fully. 

Boom. There it is!

I hope you’ll join me on this trust journey. Let’s do this!

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  1. Do you have a fear of the unknown?
  2. What creative pursuit have you been putting off for fear of failure?
  3. Breath in, breath out, and begin that sacred journey trusting God every step.

OneMoreTomorrow_Cover_042919
Available September 17th, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4866-1537-7

Print Availability: Chapters/Indigo, Amazon, Word Alive Press, and wherever fine Christian books are sold. 

eBook Availability: Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, Scribd, and in Adobe PDF format for additional vendors.

 

Illuminating the Dark

shutterstock_301363406Who of us has never doubted?

We could easily insert the word dark in place of doubt. When I doubt my circumstances, myself, or God, it’s a lot like stumbling around in the dark. I can’t see where I’m going, and I can’t find my way.

How do we find the faith to trust God when we can’t see? What will get us through the dark days of doubt? How do we keep going when there’s no sign of either the direction to take or a shift in our circumstance—some of which truly bring us to our knees?

When our finances are stretched. When our loved one’s health is failing. When life as we know it is crumbling around us. When what we’ve prayed for remains unfulfilled. It’s easy to wonder if God’s promises were meant for us personally. It’s easy to believe He has forgotten us.

But will we only believe if things go well with us?

In such trials, I need to be reminded that God is faithful. Rock-solid. No matter what, He is loving. All that He does, how He acts, is an outpouring of his love. No matter if all that’s happening around you is falling apart, no matter how hopeless it looks right now, no matter if you feel utterly alone, God is still with you. He still hears you. He can make beauty from the ashes (see Isaiah 61:1-3).

What we must decide is whether we will only follow him, love him, and believe in Him if all is well in our lives. Faith is most itself when we can’t see with our eyes. When life gets hard, when we can’t find the answers, and when our prayers don’t seem to be answered.

Trials have the hidden potential to help us see properly. When the superfluous falls away, the things that matter most crystalize. We realize the degree to which we trust the one who can fully be trusted with everything.  We learn our God is the one who can lift us up and can help us to walk through the darkness. We relearn that he is faithful.

Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” It appears that God’s word, the Bible, can help to enlighten the darkness and help us find our way. It makes sense that this spiritual practice, taken up regularly, will remove doubt, provide encouragement, and bolster our faith.

If you’re in the dark right now, take up the lamp of God’s word. Read it and be reminded of his faithfulness, his love for you, and how, time and time again, he rescues. Notice how the darkness is transformed by the light of his word, even if your circumstances are not. Note how his word stirs up heavenly hope, peace, and joy to dispell the darkness within. Watch and see how the darkness of doubt is illuminated enough for you to take the next step in faith.

You don’t need to see the entire path; the journey is taken one step at a time.

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  1. When was the last time you sat still and soaked up God’s words?
  2. Set aside time each day this week to read the Bible to be filled with God’s promises and reminders of his faithfulness.

 

 

A Word of Encouragement for You Today

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Life is full of disappointments, hurts and hardship. When our lives don’t unfold as planned, it’s easy to become discouraged. Below are a few thoughts to encourage you to not give up, to keep going, to persevere through whatever you are facing today.

I pray…

That you would always keep your joy and wonder.

That you would continue to dream big.

That you wouldn’t allow others to dilute your dreams,

Or let obstacles or disappointments crowd out those dreams—

Even when you must scale the mountain or take the long route around.

If some scoff at your goals—say it’s a long shot or that it can’t be done—smile, disregard their lack of faith, and keep going.

Someone needs to persevere. It may as well be you.

Nothing worthwhile comes without dogged effort. No effort is wasted.

Fight fear with faith.

Be brave; bring courage with you wherever you go.

Keep trying hard things.

If you fail, you’ve learned something priceless.

Love.

Be patient and kind to yourself and others.

Forgive quickly so you remain free.

Choose to remain positive—

Don’t allow the negative voices or treatment of others to detract from what you know to be true and good and right.

When hurt, embrace the hard work of healing.

Avoid comparison.

Use your unique skills, knowledge, intellect, voice, talents, and resources to help those around you, to influence and change the world for good, and to glorify God.

Keep your sense of humour. Don’t take yourself too seriously, but be serious about your intentions and integrity.

Remember life is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. Not everything will happen instantly.

Keep your eyes on the finish line, but enjoy the scenery on route—

Life is composed of all the moments made while you move forwards and reach your goals. Don’t miss or mistake these moments that matter for distractions;

The main event is never really the main event; it’s all the bits between.

Be thankful for everything. Even the hardships—they make you beautiful, strong, and mature.

God is your help and is cheering you on.

He has a plan.

Trust Him in everything.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11

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  1. What discouragements are you struggling with today?
  2. Bring them to God, hand them over to him in prayer, and find his comfort, help, and peace in your time of need.

Brokenhearted

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By virtue of being alive, and living any length of time, there will come a point when you experience the agony of a broken heart. Its initial impact brings you to your knees as soul-searing pain rips repeated and relentless at your insides. Bewildered and vulnerable, you struggle for air as internal bleeding threatens to overcome you.

This wasn’t the way it was meant to be.

Betrayal, sickness, death, abuse, neglect, broken relationships, and broken dreams can bring the kind of heart-sickness that tears strips off our faith, hope, and trust. Such is the devastation of brokenness that at times we fear we are impossibly damaged.

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Hope deferred makes the heart-sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.  ~Proverbs 13:12

A positive attitude, an improved meal plan, a lengthy holiday, a workout regime, a self-help program, a new hobby, the numbing effects of substances—or another’s body—are all Band-aids. And we are so accomplished at finding fixes and fillers that we think it’s helping. And maybe it does, for a time, but a broken human being is a difficult thing to fix.

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Enter the healer:

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. ~ Psalm 147:3

We go to great lengths to mend ourselves, often ignoring the one who was sent for this very purpose and the only one qualified for the job. We can wander in the wilderness a long time, thirsty for something we can’t put our hands on, trying to fill a God-shaped hole that nothing else fits. When that emptiness, sadness, or brokenness threatens to swallow us alive, Jesus is there. He was always there.

He is the saviour, healer, counsellor, and lover we’ve needed all along. He’s the only one able to take the fragments of our once tender heart and piece it back together so we can begin to trust, live, and love again.

I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.  ~ Jesus

Jesus meets us in the middle of our pain, our brokenness, and loneliness. He doesn’t expect us to fix ourselves. We can’t anyway. We’ve already tried that. But until we accept that we are irreparably broken—unfixable apart from Jesus—we can’t be repaired.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  ~Psalm 34:18

Like us, Jesus experienced all of this messiness while on earth. He wasn’t immune to betrayal, sickness, death, abuse, neglect, broken relationships, and the broken dreams of others. He came to stand with us in our brokenness to heal us, to love us, to point us heavenward, and then to die for us.

Once we’ve experienced the devastation of brokenness, it feels impossible to entrust our heart to another again. It’s much easier to close ourselves off in an attempt to protect ourselves for fear of being hurt again. This protective measure leaves us cold, angry, distant, and joyless. We become untouchables—the walking wounded—never really opening ourselves up. It takes an act of courage, and a measure of faith to love again.

Hearts are a notoriously fragile but remarkably mendable. Entrusting your heart to Jesus—the only one who is fully faithful—will not only secure your eternity, it will secure your heart for the here and now. You are loved by God, fully, unconditionally, endlessly. You cannot be unloved, abused, neglected, or left by Jesus, no matter what you do or fail to do. His is a forever kind of love.

He has said: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” ~ Hebrews 13:5

God’s love gives us the boldness and strength to love others, more purely, more patiently, more unconditionally, and more fully. Even if that love isn’t reciprocated, even if others are incapable of loving you the way you’d like to be loved, even if you are mistreated. God gives you the faith, hope, and love to overcome your own messes and brokenness and love others in theirs. There is beauty and abundant life on the other side of brokenness, and it’s gifted from Jesus.

“I am the way, the truth and the life.” ~ Jesus

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  1. Have you ever felt so brokenhearted you feared you could never mend?
  2. Bring your brokenness to Jesus, and trust him to heal you.

Doubt, disbelief, and finding faith.

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I read these words the other day: Doubt does not discredit faith – disbelief does.

If we’re being truly honest, I hazard it’s impossible to be human and live without doubt. For some, the admission of doubt may seem unholy. I prefer to think that it’s impossible to have faith without it. Indeed there would be no need. But we mustn’t confuse doubt with disbelief. If, on occasion, we are assaulted with uncertainty, it doesn’t equate to a complete lack of faith.

I love this passage where a father brings his son to Jesus to be healed. The father’s honesty is striking:

…the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

~ Mark 9:24

His words seem so contradictory, but we can just as easily echo his sentiment. We believe not because we have all the answers, not because all the things of God make perfect sence, or because we have seen Him with our own eyes. We believe because we came to a point that disbelief was no longer an option. That enough of this love story stretched across the dividing line between reason and experience and penetrated our hearts, that whatever else was left (the doubt) became secondary. Then, we leaped from disbelief to faith.

For some, that leap requires much more effort. The gap to God can seem so vast. It’s often blockaded not only with a plethora of doubt, but others things too. Things like hurt, pain, pride, reason, disillusionment, and distortions of God’s true character. It makes finding – and often keeping – faith an extraordinary act of will. But it took more than that. It took an extraordinary act of love.

Jesus broke through the hurt, the pain, the pride, human reason, disillusionment, distortion and doubt to reach us. Into all the confusion, He injected love. Love so pure, so real, so sweet and unconditional that our hardened hearts and stiff resolve softened. All the things that seemed so dear, so certain, so important, paled in significance. That’s where faith had a fighting chance.

It didn’t mean we had all the answers, but rather that what we did have was enough. Enough to understand the truth of our circumstance and what could be done about it. And so, with our mustard seed faith, we reached out to the open arms that were there long before we were: arms extended on the cross, and then wide and waiting with massive expectation. All at once we were enfolded, engulfed, consumed, and filled.

It didn’t mean that we would never doubt again, that we had all the answers, that our faith was rock solid, or we ourselves were unshakable. It didn’t mean that some circumstances wouldn’t bring us to our knees, or to the brink of a darkness so complete our eyes of faith grew dim. It simply meant that, at one point, we began a journey by placing our trust in the One who can be trusted. It meant that ever since, we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7) by putting one foot in front of the other to find firm ground beneath our feet, even when we can’t see one foot ahead.

Some questions will be answered. Others will remain a mystery this side of heaven and preside in the wobbly area of faith. Even now, we may have doubts, questions, and confusion, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have faith. It means we require it. It means if we don’t let it go, our faith will grow.

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.

~ 2 Corinthians 5:6-7 

 

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  1. In what ways has your faith been tested? What has made it stronger?
  2. It’s okay to doubt. God is not threatened by our doubts and questions. Bring them to Him knowing some will be answered and others will require faith this side of heaven.

 

Moving Mountains: or how I was literally brought to my knees.

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Ten years ago I could barely walk, sleep, or carry my own purse. I could no longer drive. That’s how intense the pain had become. I’d been a runner for 28 years. My motto was, “Why walk when you can run.” Now I had no choice. It was nearing two years, and over ten health care providers, but no one could help me. On top of it, I became pregnant and couldn’t take enough medication to dull the pain. It seemed I was trapped in a hopeless situation. Continue reading “Moving Mountains: or how I was literally brought to my knees.”

Learning to Trust

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. ~ Proverbs 3:5-6

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Maybe you’re like me and you like to figure things out. You strive to understand why something is happening, to comprehend why someone is treating you a certain way, or attempt to sort out what God is doing.

I think: if only I could make sense of the evil I see, if only I could apply some overarching truth to the madness in this world, if only I could find some sort of pattern, or future hope that reassures me this circumstance will change, people will improve, or God will let me in on the divine conversation in heaven, then I could relax.

Which sounds fairly reasonable…but is it?

Not really.

Because if I think about it enough, I realize those “if onlys” are a by-product of fear.

Let me explain.

When I am afraid, I’m not faith-full and clutch harder to control events, people, even God.

This fear-laden control is detrimental to relationships. It steals joy, squashes trust, and hinders hope.

If I understood everything in the midst of a crisis, if God downloaded the step-by-step plan, there would be no need to trust, to have faith, and to hope in things unseen.

One thing I have noticed a pattern of is God asking me to trust Him. And it seems the longer I live, this invitation to trust repeatedly shows up, in a variety of ways and through various hardships. I’ve been invited to trust Him with my marriage, my kids, my friends, my health, and my future. Of course, I’m meant to trust Him with everything, but He uses circumstances to make it clearer when I’m not. I’m to trust that He is working all things together for good and that – though it might not bear even a small amount of resemblance to how I imagined or even prayed it would look – it will be beautiful, it will be better, actually…the best.

God repeatedly reminds us not to be afraid. I assume it is mentioned over and over because He knows we are so prone to it, and because He knows how limitless the opportunities are in this world to be fearful.

The verse above was highlighted to me to other day and is packed with all I really need to be fearless: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding (don’t try to figure it all out). In all your ways acknowledge Him (abdicate control), and He will make your paths straight (steer my life in the direction He knows is best).

And this: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

…the peace of God will guard my heart and my mind. Who couldn’t use a healthy dose of that?

It’s not as though God is asking us not to think. Of course we do! But preferably we do so “not leaning on our own understanding”, which is prone to be life-squashing and fear-filled, and instead by learning to apply Godly wisdom that partners with Him to make life-giving decisions.

Will we always get it right? No! But as in anything, we are growing in fearless Christ-likeness. And that’s a worthy goal.

May we grow in greater trust and more often experience the peace of God.