Is it my prayer to be made comfortable, or to be made complete?
The topic of joy and trials linked together has been on my mind lately, and since I haven’t shared one of these “on my heart” kind of posts in a while (it’s been mostly poetry, life updates, and trying to convince you to buy my books! XD), I thought I’d try to gather my ramblings into a blog post.
Can trials seriously be an opportunity to rejoice?
In spite of having James 1:2-4 memorized for years, I’ve been reading/recalling it wrong this whole time. In case you aren’t familiar with it, here it is…
Honestly, whenever I read or recited this verse, most of the last part was drowned out by the first part: My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials… And to be honest, I pictured this joy as a “grin and bear it” sort of thing. A grimacing endurance of hard times because we know that good things are ahead for us as Christians (see Hebrews 12:1-2).
But in listening to this message and recent sermons and small group discussions, it finally hit me that joy isn’t just something that we’re supposed to cling to as we weather the storms of life. It’s something that can be found because of the storm.
“…count it all joy…knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”
Sure, the trial itself isn’t any fun. At all. (Unless you love pain.) But we can rejoice in the fact that the trial will refine us, revealing to us our weaknesses and showing God’s strength through us, and ultimately conforming us more purely to His image.
“But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
I mean, if that’s not encouraging…
Then this verse popped up in my Bible time the other morning, and it made me ask myself how often I pray to be made more mature, more complete, and then come crying to God when the very trials that will give me maturity slip (and sometimes pour!) into my life.
Quite honestly, it’s often.
But I want to stop living that way.
I want to get in the habit of embracing the struggles. Of choosing to see the end result instead of simply wailing about the current mess, while somehow managing to delight in the lovely moments of now instead of being lost in an eternal chasing of the future.
So there it is…a sort of brain dump of what I’ve been processing lately. It’s by no means an exhaustive essay, but I hope it gets some wheels turning in your head and pushes you deeper into Scripture and prayer like its doing for me.
I was going to apologize for my lack of posting for the last couple of weeks, but then thought maybe I shouldn’t…because I’m not sorry for sparing you hastily pulled-together words just for the sake of saying I posted. So…sorry, not sorry.🙃
Just because I haven’t posted, though, doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. I’ve been working again on the project I started this summer and *cough cough* another project that I will likely be announcing sometime within the next few months. There’s a lot happening behind the scenes right now, and I am so excited to be able to share it with you!
Anyway, here’s September’s review…
Things worth remembering
Fresh zinnias and snapdragons from our little flower garden
Charring an apple over a bonfire…it did not live up to my expectations. Its tumble into the ashes didn’t improve the taste. At all.
The lovely photos of the moon I captured
Learning what to do (and what not to do) when a faulty latch locks you in the tractor
Walks by the lake
Dancing the polka with my dad
Gorgeous road trip weather
Harvesting corn silage
Visiting a writer friend at Bible college
Worship in the stairwell, late night talks and laughter, and dancing in the rain on aforementioned trip
Wandering a huge cemetery with a friend
What I’ve been reading
The Westing Game – Ellen Raskin
A most uncommon-looking delivery boy rode around town slipping letters under the doors of the chosen tenants-to-be. The letters were signed Barney Northrup. The delivery boy was sixty-two years old, and there was no such person as Barney Northrup.
This mystery both cracked me up and blew my mind. It’s the perfect autumn read!
The White Cliffs – Alice Duerr Miller
Ah, they forget they cannot write their parts; the bell has rung, the curtain rises, and the stage is set for tragedy – they were in love and young.
I read this novel-in-verse last fall, and enjoyed it so much I decided to read it again.
The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip – Sara Brunsvold
As if sensing the widening gap, Admin Gal looked over her shoulder and came to a stop. “I can get you a wheelchair if you’d like, Mrs. Kip.”
“I think a race car would serve me better, honey.”
I’m halfway through this one and am loving it so much! The dual timeline, the different perspectives in the same scenarios, Clara Kip in general…it’s just so good. The descriptions are fresh and poignant. It’s perfection.:)
From the journal
Oh, Father, may I not mourn the death of this season. May I rejoice in You, gladly giving You all of me. Regardless of where it leads me.
I’m afraid to hand my plans to You. I’m afraid to let go of hopes I’ve held for so long. It’s ridiculous because I know You. I know You always handle things so much better than I do. Lord, I choose surrender. I choose to let go. I choose to raise open palms to You, waiting blindly in the darkness…
The devil tempted Jesus with that which belonged to Him, but it was not yet time for Him to take hold of it.
Let me carve my legacy in souls, Father!
“Whoever of you does not give up all claims to personal rights, ambitions, and dreams for My sake cannot be My disciple.” (paraphrase of Luke 14:33)
What were the highlights of your September? Have you been reading anything lately?
Goodness sakes…this was most definitely a month to remember.
You know the writing challenge I told you I was doing this July? Well, I got about 5k words written of the 20k I wanted. But I’m going to let myself be okay with falling flat on my writer’s face, because this month took the cake in terms of real-life plot twists and adventures. So much of it made me laugh. A lot of it made me cry. But I saw God’s hand and knew His presence so clearly this month, and we’ll close it out in His praise. ❤
Things worth remembering…
Sitting by the lake and just drinking in the beauty of all of the sights and sounds and smells.
Taking goofy photos with my sisters.
Fresh veggies from the garden!!
Holding my brand-new cousin in the hospital…my heart! *happy sigh*
Being there with my family when my Grandpa left his earthly home to see the Lord face to face. I had never experienced anything like that, and the raw pain and beauty of that evening was beyond belief.
Lots and lots of hugs. ❤
Completing 20 revolutions around the sun.
Gifts and a handmade birthday card from some guys in my youth group…they have no idea how much that made my week. ❤
Bingeing Doctor Thorne with my Grandma into the wee hours. 11/10 recommend.
A weekend with cousins…the sweetest and weirdest memories made with the sweetest and weirdest souls. May Morgan, the Jensens, the fruit kabobs, and the couch (was it really free?) live forever in our hearts.
Getting my brothers graduated!!!! Another weekend with cousins and the dearest friends.
He looked confused and ashamed, and said, with embarrassment, “I beg a thousand pardons. I did not know you had a burglar alarm, else I would have rung it.”
Oh, this short story gave me a good laugh!
From the journal
A new month = new mercies.
My mood is very fragile…I woke up and the fact that everyone had polished off the bagels before I’d had one nearly ruined my day. (I have to laugh at myself sometimes…XD)
I was getting a headache, borderline snapped at people, and morphed into a silent, weary, glowering, ham-gobbling state of torpid existence. (…) Oh, Lord, let me bow only to Your heart, not the selfish dictates of my own.
It’s one thing to grapple with death. It’s another to realize that someone will never again be in your life, making new memories with you.
The Spirit in me is the one that gave Samson his strength; give me the strength, Lord, to love fully and abundantly, and to live this day to the hilt.
How was your July? What were the highlights? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
Whether we like it or not, comparison seems to be ingrained into our very souls…or at least, the very soul of our culture. I never thought I had a significant problem with comparison because I truly love my life and don’t obsess over what people think of me…
But the whispers still come…
I’m not doing what she’s doing. Does that mean I’m not doing enough? She’s writing so many more words than I am…and is doing it better than I am? What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I seem to keep up?
There are so many people in the Bible that fascinate me, but Simon Peter takes the cake. My soul has a good laugh (or sometimes a good cry) whenever I read about him because he’s just. so. relatable. I’m glad I’m not the only Jesus-adoring soul who talks too soon, too much, and too thoughtlessly. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has had to work through my own unfaithfulness to realize Christ’s faithfulness is unfathomable.
And I’m glad I’m not the only disciple Jesus had to call out of the comparison game.
In the last chapter of John’s account of the gospel, Jesus has just told Peter, “Follow me.” And what does Peter do?
What most of us do, honestly.
He turns around and looks at someone else.
John. The beloved disciple. The favorite. The one who didn’t deny his Lord three times after vowing to die for Him. The one whose seeming perfection likely made Peter feel more ashamed than he already was.
“But what about him, Jesus?”
I can just see Jesus turning to Peter, looking him straight in the eyes, and replying,
“What is that to you? You follow Me.”
Jesus doesn’t ask us to look to those around us for condemnation or validation. He simply calls, simply and clearly, for us to walk after Him.
What is it to me if my journey looks vastly different than the lives of those around me?
I’m to follow Him, and that is all that matters.
Let’s jump out of the comparison game, friends. Let’s take a hard look at ourselves in the light of God’s word and leave the clamor of the world behind. There’s only one Voice whose approval truly counts.
I’ve been reading this one for some research I’m doing…it’s the autobiography of a WWII fighter pilot, and goodness, was he ever a naughty little boy!XD It’s been pretty enjoyable, although I get a bit lost in all of the pilot jargon sometimes.
He had seen the pain, the evil, and the sin within him, had lifted his face in gentle hands, caressed it as a father does a child with a nightmare whose tears streak their cheeks, looked him in the eye and said:
“I love you. All of you.”
This book. I can’t even tell you how much I needed to read this one. Not only is the theme incredible, but the plot is so tight, the pacing incredible, the characters endearing…
And can we talk about the romance?? The romance is beautiful…and you have to understand that this is coming from the girl who cringes through most bits of romance in books and runs for popcorn during sappy parts in movies.XD The true love and restraint shown by the characters…I wanted to cheer and shout for joy. Please can we fight for such reform in the romance genre?
*tumbles off soapbox*
Anyway…I have an official review of the book coming up soon…plus an interview with the author! Stay tuned!
From the journal…
Oh, Lord, I only conquer in Your strength. Be my mighty defense…let me love what You love and hate what You hate.
I was so cranky today. …finally ate lunch. I hadn’t eaten anything and was so hungry and cranky. (Just keeping it real…)
Let ours be a story that makes people shake their heads and murmur in awe, “Only God could have worked such wonders.”
Whatever the future holds, Father, keep my heart soft and obedient.
The church must set aside what is good so that we may be about the business of what is best. And so must I…soul, defend yourself against distraction from what is highest and holiest.
Because of Christ’s blood shed to atone for my sins, God no longer sees any of my blemishes, and rejoices over me like a man head-over-heels in love with his bride. He delights in me. He wants me. The Master of the universe is enraptured by what He sees in me. Oh, Jesus, it is all because of You!
Oh, Father, make me like Abel, who, though he is dead, still speaks through the story he left behind. Let my life echo Your goodness and grace long after my voice is silenced.
Writing update + prayer request
Disclaimer: I’m okay. Don’t freak out about the prayer request part.XD
About the writing…
I haven’t worked seriously at drafting a novel since last November, when I attempted NaNoWriMo and got 11k words in before I became an emotional dumpster fire. (A translation for the sane people in the world: NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it’s a time in November when maniacs armed with laptops decide to quit life for a month to write a novel, or 50,000 words, in November.)
After that experience, novel writing got shoved to the back burner as I scribbled poetry, published a poetry book, lived normal life, and scribbled more poetry.
Honestly, I was scared of attempting a novel again.
But a story idea kept haunting me. And haunting me. And haunting me.
I started sharing the concept with some friends, and the responses I got poured fuel on the fire of my desire to see this book through to publication.
So here I am again…committing to the goal of writing 20k words on this new heart project this July. And praying. A lot.
I’d love it if you would join me in prayer for this project. To me, this concept is more than just another story. Bits of it have been brewing in my mind since I was eleven or twelve…and so many topics that are near and dear to my heart have found their way into this book. It’s amazing to see how God has helped me to pull so many different elements of my experiences and passions into one story!
Last July I wrote 20k words for a story full of heartache and confusion. This July, I want to pour out 20k words of healing and redemption. Eeek! I only have a few thousand words written so far, but already I can’t wait to share this story with you all. ❤
When I hit 30k words on this project – which I’m currently terming Project Redemption – , I’m going to start sharing more details about it on Instagram…so if you aren’t following along there, click here so you can join the tribe and be among the first to hear updates!
What were the memorable pieces of your June? Writers, what’s been flowing from your pens/keyboards of late? Readers, what books have captured your imagination lately? I’d love to hear in the comments!
The cliff soared high above the churning lake below, its face rugged. The jutting rocks were perfect for giving fallen explorers a false sense of hope in their dire situation.
Without help, they had all lost their hold.
The young woman clung with her fingers and feet to the most prominent holds she could reach, sweat trickling down her spine in the cool of the evening. She clenched her jaw and adjusted her grip.
Of course, it was her fault that she’d fallen. He’d told her not to go anywhere near the edge of this cliff. But he loved her; she knew that. He loved her like no one else would ever love her.
He would come.
She knew he would.
Fingers aching, she glanced down. The moonlight shattered and glinted on the face of the roiling water, mocking. Boasting. Beckoning.
Don’t look down.
Her father’s voice echoed in her ears, and she tilted her face to the sky. Studded with stars, it brought memories rushing back.
“Can you count the stars, sweetie?”
“No, Daddy. I keep trying, but there are too many. They keep going on forever and ever!”
“They do, don’t they? Just like the way I love you.”
She had giggled and snuggled close to him. His beard had been rough and comforting against her cheek, his arms strong and safe around her. “I love you, too, Daddy.”
“I know, sweetheart.”
Tears glistened with the sweat on her face now. Did he still know she loved him? Even as she clung here, fallen from the precipice he’d marked off-limits? What would he think if they found her body in the lake far below? Did he have the same confidence in her love as she had in his?
“Daddy…” she whimpered, burying her face in her shoulder. Her muscles screamed. Her fingers ached. “I can’t hold on much longer…Daddy, please…”
The lapping of the waves on the shore far below was a taunt, loud in the silent night. The waves had closed over many wayward souls. She had shaken her head with her father as the rebels had neared the cliff’s edge, dancing closer and closer to destruction. She had cried and prayed with him for wisdom for the prodigals…
And now she, too, had fallen.
She tried to close her mind to what had led her to this place, but her memory dragged each image before her eyes, refusing to let her drown the past in obscurity.
There had been dancers on the cliffs. Beautiful, skilled, other-worldly. They had caught her up in their dance and drawn her nearer and nearer until she’d forgotten where she was. Finally, she’d gotten close enough to grasp one of them…
Her fingers passed through him like he was a mist.
Ghosts. She’d been chasing phantoms.
By then, it was too late. Her toes were already clinging to the cliff’s edge, and the horror of her discovery sent her reeling. She fell, screaming, over the edge, and mercifully found a hold on its face.
Or perhaps it wasn’t mercy. Perhaps it was judgement, giving her ample time to reflect upon her misdeeds before falling to her death – like so many other fools – into the lake below.
“Forgive me.” Her words were a gasp. “Daddy…”
The world blackened, and the stars burned like beacons. Streams of sweat ran into her eyes…or perhaps they were tears? She couldn’t tell anymore. She couldn’t hold on anymore.
He would come. She knew he would come. She just had to hold on…hold on just a little longer…
Minutes felt like hours. Hours felt like decades. Her muscles felt like fire.
The night crawled on, agony in its essence. She clung to the rock face, her lips moving in silence.
He loves me. He will save me. He loves me. He will come.
As dawn broke in the east, his voice boomed from the top of the cliff. “I’m coming, love.”
What happened next, she could never remember. All she knew was that she awoke in her father’s arms, in the safety of their castle, with love smiling at her from his eyes.
Right now my computer is slower than a lame tortoise and my brain feels like a mashed potato in a tornado, so I’m grateful I wrote this post as I lived through May so I don’t have to remember everything on my own! I hope you enjoy my glance back on this month with me.:)
Things worth remembering
wandering through some war memorials
sneaking over to my grandma’s house with my siblings in the early morning to fill her yard with pinwheels as a birthday surprise
pizza, ice cream, and good talks with a study group
a long sibling walk that ended in a rainstorm and sprinting…too bad we weren’t headed to Netherfield, huh?
exploring old farm buildings and finding bones
scaling fish for the first time and immensely enjoying it
The way I feel isn’t a good excuse to be unproductive, and neither is a lingering winter. I am completely responsible for myself, and my actions do not hinge on the whether the weather outside is frightful or delightful. What’s inside me is what ought to drive me.
The spiritual parallels of the physical seasons are my favorite, and Makayla has some wonderful thoughts in this post!
I’ve opted for a new and much more effective approach; manipulating them using the unconquerable force of peer-pressure. I can do this because I’m college-age and therefore a god. At least, in their opinion.
Sarah’s posts always leave me laughing and in awe of her ability to use my beloved snark so beautifully, and this one was no exception…except this one wrung my heart a bit at the end. Do yourself a favor and give this one a read.
remember that no matter how tiny the fragments this time, how far apart they are scattered, how long you must search, he will help you find the pieces of the person you once were and the image you once bore.
I’ve been digging into this one again. It’s one of my absolute favorites.
(If you’ve been here for a good amount of time, you’ll know how wonderful this is.XD) I loved it so much!! You can read my brief review on my Goodreads account.:)
From the Journal
Oh, Lord, may I ever remain set apart for Your purpose so that You may do wonders in my tomorrows.
All will be made whole…
Achan took the spoil because it was tempting…but God was going to allow the spoils to be taken lawfully in the next battle. Oh, Lord, help me to trust that You will satisfy my longings in due time.
Oh, Lord, clear my mind and give me the wisdom to discern between roadblocks You have set before me to turn my heart to greater things, and the rugged territory of fallen trees I must naturally clamber over on my way in Your will for me.
Lord, grant repentance. We cannot even come to the realization and regret of our sins if You don’t give us the grace to do so.
I can laugh without fear of the future, not because I am well-prepared and invincible, but because my Father laughs in the face of my greatest fears, and I trust Him completely.
How was your May? What stood out to you in this past month? Have you been reading/watching/listening to anything good lately?
(Don’t you just love how the lights are photobombing the mountains?)
The last week of April I got to attend my first writer’s retreat…goodness sakes, was it ever just what I needed! Here’s a little recap of the trip.:)
Highlights of the trip
The answered prayers.
I can’t tell you enough how much of a God thing this whole experience was. This retreat and my travels were bathed in prayer, and it was evident. I refused to let myself spend much time worrying about any aspect of the trip, but homesickness is a real thing for this homebody! The last time I spent a week away from my family, I was in bed crying and wondering how feasible it would be for my parents to drive twenty-four hours one way to come pick me up. Seriously. But this time? Not a bit of homesickness. I was so grateful!
I also wasn’t mentally exhausted by almost zero time by myself for several days. The more I think about it, the more I realize how much of a miracle that truly was. XD
It was also as if during this trip so many of my fears melted away. Fears of traveling alone. Fears of stepping out and doing new things spontaneously. Fears of living outside of my comfort zone. I can’t praise God enough for what He did on this retreat!
The whole flying thing.
I love airports, but I’d never flown alone before…or had to handle layovers. Layovers in huge airports, no less. Thankfully everything went very smoothly, and the trip was very educational. I learned how much a four-ounce carton of white fish salad costs in Philadelphia (it’s a rip-off), that Minnesota is a lucrative destination for jilted lovers (or, perhaps, the jilters), and that there’s nothing like watching someone being welcomed home to warm the cockles of one’s heart.
While in the airport, I also saw an Albert Einstein lookalike and someone who looked almost exactly like one of the main characters in a book I’m writing! Will wonders never cease?
Goodness sakes, did I ever meet some amazing ladies! It was so, so beautiful to come together with ladies I’d never met in person and have this instant soul connection, simply because of our shared love for Jesus and lifting Him high through our words. It was like discovering long-lost sisters!
Thinking we were witnessing an arrest. Seeing baby bears near our picnic spot. Spontaneous ice cream runs. Wandering through a cemetery after a photoshoot. Scrambling over rocks near a stream. Watching a potter shape a vase. Desperate phone calls to wise fathers when the brakes started smoking in the mountains. Movie nights. Laughter around the pool table. An impromptu dance party on our last night together.
Memories I wouldn’t trade for a million books.
Seriously, guys. The number of times I got goosebumps during conversations at the cabin, realizing the amazing things God is doing with and through these young writers…it was almost surreal. He is using these ladies and their stories – both the ones they’re living and the ones they’re writing – to shake the world and strengthen His kingdom. It’s beautiful.
How has God been working in your life lately? Where has He been stretching you and showing His powerful sovereignty?
In last Monday’s post, I said I would be sharing a recap of the writing retreat I attended last month, but, alas, the week was full of other adventures (such as writing a prologue for my new WIP [!!!] and having my guitar accidentally stolen by a band) and I didn’t cut out enough time to write the post.
So here is a post that I shared in January. I still get goosebumps reading it. If the weight of guilt and desperation is weighing heavy on you, this piece is especially for you. It’s my prayer that it gives you hope and a glimpse of God’s redeeming light. ❤