Birthday Lessons

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I thought, on this birthday of mine, I would share some of the lessons I learned in year thirty-three. Where do I even start…

To say this past year of my life has been crazy, stunning, overwhelming…to say all of that would be exactly right. There were some of the highest mountaintops of my life, and then some of the deepest valleys of my life.

All in one year.

I had some health issues this past year. Nothing life threatening, but issues that made me not myself. That was hard. I know God is there when our bodies are not well, but it is hard to press in and find him when we are physically word down. I was beginning to question if I would even be able to do the things he has called me to do.

When I was at my lowest point physically, I (finally) cried out to God. “I don’t know what to do, but I need your help!”

Would you believe, he is the one who gave me the idea to do a whole foods diet for 30 days? It was almost instant, that when I asked for help, that idea came to me. I followed that whisper and just finished 30 days of eating nothing but whole foods – food He created. It changed my life, and I am not saying that in an internet evangelist kind of way. I mean it literally changed my physical body. Every symptom I was having before I did it went away. My sleep drastically improved. My mental clarity improved.

I learned this year that God is very practical.

He is the creator, the one with the insight we need. Do we think to ask him for the practical, day to day help we need? I admit that until this year, I had a tendency to separate the practical from my walk with God. As if he was not interested in my sleepless nights or lack of energy.

This season taught me that when I ask God for the day to day help, it makes my faith even more childlike, and it has deepened my relationship with him. 

I took a big risk in year thirty-three. 

I took the little story I wrote a couple of years ago and went to my first writers conference. To say I went as a naive newbie would be an understatement. There I was, clutching my little manuscript to my chest, eyes wide and heart pounding. My expectations were rather low, too. I just wanted someone who knew what they were talking about to tell me that I was a decent writer.

Notice that little lie sneaking in there that I needed man’s approval. 

I got more than I bargained for in that experience. I received instant praise for my story, and had people I didn’t know before that moment searching for me during the conference, because they “had heard about me.” I was completely unprepared for that.

Then, in a twist of the plot that sucked the wind out of me, all that praise and hope ended with a “Just kidding, this isn’t going to work.” Perhaps you can imagine some of my conversations with Jesus in the months that followed.

“What in the world was that about?” I railed.

“This is going to be too hard. Find someone else!” I ranted.

“Why would you let that happen to me?!” I shook my fist.

I came to the lowest place I’ve been to date in my writing journey. For the first time in the years since I began this journey, I came within a hair of giving up. I came up with all the things I could do that would be good things, but not require so much risk on my part. I was ready to throw in the towel on all this “stuff” God has called me too. I’m just being honest, lest you think I’m some kind of spiritual giant. Turns out I am still a baby in the ways of God.

I had some pretty intense reckonings with Jesus during this season. If you can picture it, the scene was often him sitting on the couch watching me pace back and forth, flailing my arms around in dramatic and frustrated fashion. I wasn’t asking him his thoughts, mind you. I was just telling him all the things wrong, and all the reasons this just wouldn’t work. When I finally wore myself out with all the struggling and striving, I did turn to him and ask him his thoughts.

He invited me to dance with him, like I had done before, and it broke down every last line of defense I had built. 

I remembered, after all the emotions finally drained out of me, that my God is still on his throne, and his plan is not subject to the ways of man. I dance with him, have danced with him, all this time.

I learned that the word God speaks does not change, nor does it return void. 

If he said it, it will happen. I don’t need man to approve. I don’t even need man to get on board with it. I can take great risk, and keep taking great risk, because the word of God is my firm foundation.

Jesus worked that out in me, this year. I stand now, after having faced a storm with the potential to blow my dream right out of the water, and I am more resolved than ever.

My God will not fail me, and I will not give up. 

One final thing I learned, or maybe finally accepted, this year might surprise you…

If you know me then you know that I have been speaking regularly for a couple of years now. In the past year and a half it seems that the doors have flung wide open and I’ve spoken at retreats, churches, moms groups and even overseas…and the doors just keep opening. What you might not know about me, is that I have wrestled with the speaking gift God has (apparently) given me.

I mean wrestled.

I come from a long line of preachers. Some of them were rather well-known, too. While I did see some good in all of it growing up, I saw a lot of bad, too. I saw how the spotlight destroyed some and how easy it was to lead a double life: one for the stage, one for behind closed doors.

While I have said yes every time the door has opened for me to speak, I have always done so with a guard in place, and even a bit of a “I’ll just do it this one time” idea in my heart. Every time I would come off the stage and receive all the compliments and encouragement I would resist in my heart.

I was afraid that the spotlight would destroy me as I had watched it do to others before me.

Once again, I came up with a list of things I could do instead of speaking – good things and noble things. Yet, in my ranting and list making, Jesus’ reaction was to open more doors, give me more platforms. Finally, it all culminated in my heart, when Jesus asked me to dance with him, yet again.

The bottom line is I was afraid, and I was letting fear dictate my path. I was reserving the right to believe that I would not break the cycle or remain faithful to Jesus in the spotlight. How could I? It looked impossible based on the history in my hands.

Jesus asked me to surrender that fear, when we began dancing, again. He whispered things like,

“I am faithful,” and “Trust me with your heart.”

I finally did. I surrendered my fear, I surrendered my resistance and, at long last, fully received this gift of words God has given me. He’s called me to speak out, and he’s given me a spotlight.

I don’t have to fear the past because He has already written my future. 

So, there you have it friends. Lessons I learned in year thirty-three. All of it points to one thing: God is faithful. He hasn’t left, even when I’ve wandered around,  ignored his voice and tried to resist the gifts he’s given me. He has stayed close by calling to me, offering his hand, smiling…waiting for me to return to his dance. I don’t know what year thirty-four will hold, but I know that next year when I look back, no matter the journey, I will return to the truth.

He is faithful and everlasting.

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