A Heart’s Cry

Talk to Jesus copy

“I want to talk to Jesus the way that Attie does.”

Oh my gosh, I’ve heard this so many times from fans of Salvaged. This statement (or statements very similar) make my heart dance but at the same time, leave me a bit tortured. Tortured because in the sweetness of the story, a truth was lost. A truth that I knew well. So well, that in my brand new world of writing and not really knowing what I was doing, I missed making the point more obvious. I felt that the subtlety of the message would still make a point, when in reality I should have shouted it from the rooftops.

If I could go back now, I would add a note at the end of the book, and this is what I would say:

Readers:

First and foremost, thank you for reading this story. The reality that you could pick up a story that I wrote from such a place of brokenness, and read it to the point that you have made it to the end – to this note – it means more to me than you could possibly understand.

The old saying goes that ‘writers write what they know’. That’s very true. But for me, writing Salvaged, was a lot of writing about what I wanted to know. What I needed to know. Questions and pains brimming from the depths of my soul that needed a clear word from a Savior that I believed in but that I didn’t truly know. A savior that I needed a true relationship with.

The questions, the fears and anxieties; the temper tantrums the “huh? Moments” – all that Attie experienced, I experienced. When she needed an answer, I needed an answer. When she felt rejection, I felt rejection. And when Jesus walked her through those things, he was walking me through those things. Many of her experiences actually happened to me in similar fashion at some point in my life.

Attie is me. I am her. And I believe that part of the reason that you have made it this far into the book is because she is a part of you as well.

One night, in the middle of my brokenness, I literally cried out to Jesus. I begged him to show up in my room and tell me what to do.

He did.

And he will for you too.

But as in any relationship, you carry some responsibility.

[Please allow me to take on more of a Tammy role and just tell you like it is. No sugar-coating.]

Jesus is there. Always. And he is always speaking to us. The question of hearing him is more about us than it is about him.

You won’t hear him if you don’t actually sit with him for a while each day.

One of the reasons that Attie was able to talk to the Lord is because she continually made herself available to him. She made time for him.

If you aren’t taking at least a few minutes out of each and every day to communicate with him, you certainly won’t be able to hear him in your most desperate moments.

Spending time with him each day isn’t a rule. It’s not something that you have to check off a list. He isn’t making you do it. He will never force himself on you. He will wait. Patiently.

You don’t have to sit with him each day but if you don’t, the consequence is not hearing his voice and that consequence is on you— not on him. He’s always there. You’re the one that won’t sit and talk. [That was harsh. Sorry, not sorry.]

You won’t hear him if you won’t shut your mouth.

He absolutely wants to hear what’s on your heart. All of it. Good. Bad. Ugly. He wants it all. The more important question is whether or not you want that in return. Are you truly willing to not only listen, but hear what he has to say? As with Attie, sometimes what he has to say doesn’t feel so great at first. But it is always said in love and it is always best for us to hear it.

He is a comforter, yes. He is a friend, yes. He is a counselor, absolutely! He is a healer. A warrior who fights on our behalf. He loves us unconditionally. He is for us. He believes in us. He has a plan and purpose for our life and he’s excited to share it with us. He wants us to take a step. He wants us to face our monsters. To be triumphant.

And he will tell us all of that… if we’ll shut up long enough to listen

[That was me preaching to me]

You won’t hear from him if you only go to him with a list of wants, needs and demands.

Our agenda isn’t his priority because he sees the bigger picture. It’s his plans and purpose that are most important. It’s about a willingness to say (and mean) “Thy will be done”. It’s about offering ourselves to be his hands and feet. Trust me, from life experience I have learned that it is through being his hands and feet and putting his agenda first that my (true) needs are met. He’s amazing like that.

Should we take our needs to him? Absolutely! But we are to take them, lay them at his feet and let them go, having completely handed them over to him.

You won’t hear from him if you’re putting on a show.

He wants you. The real you. The heartbroken, yet hopeful. The fearful, yet courageous. The lost, yet searching. He doesn’t want you to do what you think you’re supposed to do, or say what you’ve been told you are supposed to say. He wants your heart. He wants your truth. He wants your honesty. He wants you raw, he wants you real. Put down the act. Quit trying to fake it. When it feel like there’s no place else in the world that you can be the real you, at his feet is the safest to let the walls down and come as you are – a beautiful mess.

You won’t hear from him if you’re distant and angry.

When my son Caleb was little and he was mad at me, he would sit in a corner with his back to me. When I would try to talk to him he’d say: “You’re not my friend no more!” I hated it. It broke my heart.

I wanted our relationship repaired but I wasn’t willing to give in to his temper tantrum to get it. I knew what was best and I wasn’t about to give up because for the moment, he was upset.

How often do we get offended with the Lord because our (perceived) needs, agendas and wish lists aren’t met? We turn our back. Walk away. Tune him out… until we need something and then we run back to him and wonder why we have such a hard time hearing him.

Sometimes when I sit with the Lord, I literally have to start with: “I’m hurting. I’m bitter towards you right now…. I’m so sorry. Help me get over it.” And sometimes it takes a while to move on from that place but I do… with his help.

Let’s face it – life can royally suck. Big time. Life doesn’t make sense and it can down right be painful. But to harden our heart towards God not only doesn’t make it better but it puts up a wall that makes it impossible to hear him. And trust me, when the walls are up and we can’t hear him, things only get worse.

Sometimes he’s literally screaming to us, but our ears are so jam packed with crap, we can’t hear him. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that you can only watch Christian stuff and listen to Christian music and read Christian books – but come on. What are you watching? Listening to? Reading? And which “voice” is louder?

Okay, now for the nicer stuff. :)

Prayer doesn’t have to be a chore. It’s simple.

Speak.

Listen.

Just because Jesus isn’t actually standing visibly in your room wearing jeans and a t-shirt doesn’t mean he isn’t there. And just because you can’t audibly hear his voice doesn’t mean he isn’t speaking.

If you feel something in your gut – chances are that’s not your internal organs speaking it’s the Holy Spirit. He will nudge you. He will speak to you. It may sound like yourself but of course he will talk to you in a way that you can relate to. Don’t expect to hear him speak in King James Bible form.

How do you test if you’re hearing from the Holy Spirit or talking to yourself? It takes practice. Practice takes time. A huge hint – if what you are “hearing” doesn’t line up with his Word – it’s not him.

One of the ways I trained myself was to keep a log. I literally wrote down any nudge I got. It could be a nudge to go outside and make sure the car doors were locked. Or it could be to tell a person something that I felt the Lord wanted them to know. Next to the “nudge”, I wrote the outcome. What did I learn? I talk to myself a lot.

Just kidding.

I learned that he talks to us a lot and about a lot of different things both big deal and small. And I learned that it’s sort of a fun game to play and it just so happens to be a faith feeder.

He talks to you through his Word. The Bible. Read it. Often.

He talks to you through friends, family and mentors. You know when someone says something that was a “God kiss”. You feel it in your “gut”. Call it what it is – the Lord communicating with you.

He talks to you through books… and three specifically that I know of, called Salvaged, Rise and Collision. (Just kidding… sort of)

He talks to you through journaling. Write what floods into your mind – no filter. Then, go back and read it and write the thoughts that come to you as you read it. I do this all the time. Love it.

He talks to you through music.

He talks to you through sermons.

I literally listen to sermons all the time. That’s what iTunes is for as far as I’m concerned. I listen to tons of different pastors and it keeps me in tuned to hearing his voice.

He is everywhere, which means his voice is everywhere – we just don’t see it that way. Train your spiritual ears to find his voice. As you do, you will hear it more and more.

 

The two most common things said to me from fans:

“I want to talk to Jesus like Attie does” and “I want a Riley Bennett”.

I hope this helped you with the first of the two. I hope you see that you can talk to Jesus and he wants to talk to you too… and does. I urge you to give your relationship with the Lord the time that it deserves… that he deserves.

And as for that second cry of fandom: “I want a Riley Bennett” – talk to the Lord about that. He didn’t give me the gift of match-making (or the time). But let me end with this – don’t settle. Wait for the guy worthy of you.

Again, thanks for reading Salvaged. I hope that it inspired you and leads you towards a REAL relationship with your creator.

Blessings,

Stefne

 

Questions? Comments? Rants? Leave a comment!
(Link to comment at the top of the post)

 

 

 

The Enemy Within

Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Speak well of those who curse you.

-Luke 6:27-28

If there are “go to” topics that we constantly hear about in church circles, loving our enemies has to be one of those spouted the most. Least lived out, if I may dare say, but most spouted. This one, loving our enemies makes us feel good because it sort of gives us permission to have enemies at all – as long as we find a way to love ‘em…. in the words of Prince Charles: “whatever ‘love’ is”.

The “Do good to those who hate you” portion of that scripture is a little more painful. What? You mean I gotta be nice? To him? But he… But God if you only know what he did to me…

And the “Speak well of those who curse you” part – dang it, now that’s just not fair. That means no gossiping about that person who did you wrong or going around and telling your side of the story of how they messed up your life, even if it’s just in defense of your character or reputation. Speaking well of the very person that spoke horrible of us – that’s not easy. I mean, people say some really horrible things.

Good grief, when we have to deal with our enemies in such a loving way, it sort of makes this whole following Christ thing a little more uncomfortable and may make use wish for an escape hatch from time to time. Not an escape from Christ, just some of the less appealing things that he asks of us.

Loving our enemies. Smh.

I’ve talked about forgiveness. Not once, not twice but three times. So, if you need help in that area, maybe go check out those posts. As always, if you read them you’ll notice I was preaching to myself while writing them. It’s still a struggle for me and always will be. It’s my hiccup, my trigger, the thorn in my side so to speak. Just when I think I’ve got this walking with God thing figured out, it’s the thing that makes me trip and fall flat on my face.

But today, I want to talk about the other enemy we’re supposed forgive and love and speak nicely of and not dis. What enemy is that, you ask?

Ourselves.

Oh dear.

Some of the things I’ve heard said about me from others, don’t come close to some of the things I’ve said about myself, if we were to rate them on a condemnation scale. Like some of you, I think I’m probably harder on myself, more impatient, more hostile, more hateful and more unforgiving of myself than anyone else out there could ever be. Mostly because it’s the voice of THE enemy in my head and I choose to believe every stinkin’ lie he’s whispering. I accept them as truth and become my own worst enemy.

I shouldn’t have said that…. done that…. thought that….  I should’ve done this… or that…. or maybe that other thing…. Man,  I hate myself for doing that. I’m an idiot. I’m weak. I’m lazy. I’m horrible. I’m ugly. I’m fat. I’m… .

Really, do I need to continue? You’ve got your own tapes playing in your head. You know them well.

What if, when we were told to love our enemies, Jesus knew that he was talking as much about loving ourselves, doing loving things for ourselves and speaking nicely of ourselves – than of others?

Maybe he knew that loving and forgiving ourselves would put us in a better position and frame of mind to then turn around and offer that same gift to someone else.

Maybe he knew that what he was asking, if applied to ourselves, was more difficult than doing it for others… and more beneficial.

Maybe he knew that if we discovered the ability to forgive ourselves, love ourselves, speak kindly of ourselves and such, that we would experience more joy. More freedom. More blessing. More love for others.

He’s a smart one, that Jesus.

When we loath ourselves, we can’t help but loath others. And it shows. All the makeup in a Cover Girl warehouse can’t cover hateful. Especially when it’s self-hatred that’s behind the mask of creams, powders and sparkle.

The Lord asked us to be his hands and feet in a hurting and broken world, and guess what? We are that hurting and broken world. If we can’t find a way to, through Christ, heal and repair, then how can we help others? How can we expect to truly love those who need the love of Christ if we ourselves haven’t even truly accepted it?

It’s through Christ that we are able to love ourselves. It’s through being in the Word and learning truth about Him and ourselves, that we can begin to speak kind words, true words, over ourselves. It’s when the Holy Spirit is alive and active in our lives that we treat ourselves with love, patience, understanding and grace.

Okay, I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna give that old example that we’re always given: When we’re in a plane, they tell us that in case of an emergency place the oxygen mask on who first? Ourselves. Only then do we turn and help the less capable person next to us.

Well, here we are. You’re the more capable one. You’ve accepted the Lord into your life. He is alive and active and moving through you. It’s time to take care of yourself so you can then turn and help the less capable… the lost… the suffering… those who need to experience the true love of Christ.

A true love of Christ that you must first accept for yourself and believe for yourself.

Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Speak well of those who curse you. – Even when that enemy is you.

I Am Peter

When I said I wanted this blog to be authentic and transparent, I wasn’t kidding. So here we go: As much it makes me sick to my stomach to admit this, I was very recently a Peter.

The disciple was one of Jesus’ closest friends. He sat at his feet and heard him speak. He personally saw Jesus heal people, cast out demons and raise Lazarus from the dead. He saw it all – and yet, when put to the test, he denied ever knowing him.

I hate to include in so many posts, the words: “When my journey with writing started”, but that is where so many revelations of my life and my life in Christ began to take place, so I can’t help myself. I was saved at a young age, but my testimony is what God has done in me over the last four or so years. It’s almost as if I have a BW (Before Writing) and AW (After Writing) world.

This particular story, of how I got to my time as Peter, starts during a time of great need and serious confusion. I was crying out to the Lord to use me – in any way he saw fit. I swore to him, gave him my word that I would use whatever it was he gave me to do, to glorify him. Within weeks I woke up and started writing the scenes he gave me in my dreams. Salvaged was birthed, Rise and Collision soon followed.

At the same time I wrote the books, I was keeping a blog. It was an outlet to share stories out of my life and attach a spiritual lesson to them. Some things were serious, a few controversial, some were more for laughs. They ran the gamut, but pretty much always had a spiritual message pointing back to the Lord and how he’s moved in my life.

Fast forward a few years. Three books are out. Three books written at his prompting. Three books that I truly believe chased after the heart of God. Three books that impacted the lives of people in a mighty way. More attention came their way, I began to feel pressure. The pressure to please – everyone. The pressure to build my audience. Collision became the avenue for that. It is much more mainstream than the other two books. It became my chance to reach the masses (or at least the masses in my little part of the publishing world).

As the pressure built to grow my audience, I closed the blog portion of my website.You know, in case I might offend someone who was coming to check out Collision. I justified it by telling myself that I wouldn’t want to turn someone off. If they came to the site and saw that I was spouting Christianity, maybe they wouldn’t give the book a try. Maybe it was best if I weren’t so obvious. Trust me, the justifications came in floods.

I think what shocks me the most, and makes me the most disgusted with myself is how quickly it happened and how clueless I was to the fact that I was actually making the choice to hide my beliefs in order to please man. Honestly, until recently, it didn’t even cross my mind. I thought I was making a smart business decision. Since when did denying or hiding Christ become an acceptable excuse to  build up your own popularity or earn more money? Sickening isn’t it?

Throughout my entire life and especially through the last four years, I have witnessed the Lord do some amazing things. I’ve sat at his feet. I’ve built a personal relationship with him. Yet, when attention turned to me – I denied him. I’ve never come out and said I wasn’t a Christian, but I certainly tried to keep it a little more on the down low. It’s shallow and shameful. I’m disappointed in myself and I can only fathom what Peter felt when he did the same.

My life  would be nothing if it weren’t for Christ. I wouldn’t have the family and friends I have, the opportunities I’ve been given. And I wouldn’t have told  the stories I’ve told, without him literally placing every word in my head. Why on earth I would try to hide that from anyone, is nothing less than selfishness and pride. It’s also the breaking of my word.

There are a few comforting moments through this time of reflection and having the scales removed from my eyes. First, I take comfort in knowing that although Peter denied Jesus three times, Jesus turned right around and gave him the chance to proclaim his love for him – three times. (I blogged about that special moment – you can read it here) I also take comfort  in knowing that I’m not the only person who ever chose to make the decision I made. Peter, Jesus’ closest friend made the same mistake. And Jesus in his loving  way, never turned his back on Peter in a time of need and he won’t for me either. Jesus’ love never changed. Never has, never will, no matter what idiotic things I end up doing. No matter how much I may grieve his heart.

I pray that I never again lose  sight of  what’s most important. I pray that I never again put the thoughts or opinions of man against that of the Heavenly Father who has never left my side. And I hope the next time I compare myself to Peter, I’m comparing myself to the fact that the Lord was able to use him to spread His message and he’s using me to do the same.

I share this story of my utter failure because we’re all such flawed people and we all royally screw up from time to time. Maybe you don’t deny Christ the way Peter and I did, but you’ve done some things you aren’t so proud of.  Take comfort in the truth – that Jesus will never leave or forsake you. His love will never lessen or fail.  And when we come to a point where we can see what we’ve done and repent, we can then continue on our way – on that wonderful personal journey with the Lord.

Embrace the Place

When I was a little girl, my family and I lived in Hawaii.

Believe it or not, I wasn’t a fan. For many reasons.

First – hula lessons.

It wasn’t that the hula lessons were bad, it was that knowing how to hula meant that every time someone came to visit, I had to throw on a hula skirt and put on a show.

Second – the beach

My parents drug, yes drug, us kids to the beach every single weekend. At first it was probably great, but we got tired of it. It was the same ol’, same ol’ and we wanted to do something different but were limited seeing as how we were on an island.

If you’re asking yourself if I realize how  ridiculous I sound the answer is “yes”. I would almost kill to live by the beach now and you can bet that if I did, I would drag my kids there every weekend too.

It’s that old lesson of not appreciating something while you have it OR only realizing what you had once you didn’t have it anymore.

I have a completely new appreciation for Hawaii now that I would have to pay thousands of dollars to go back and can’t manage to actually get  to do it.

I find that I’m that way with a lot of things in life. When we’re in the middle of something, especially a difficult something, we can’t appreciate it for what it is or what we’re learning from it. We’re so busy focusing on what we don’t like about  it, we miss all the good.

There have been moments during my walk with the Lord where things/seasons were downright painful. I would cry out to the Lord for him to deliver me, to take the pain away and change my circumstances but when I got to the other side and realized all that I’d gained through the pain, I wouldn’t want to change any of it. I realize that as crazy as it sounds, the pain was good. Necessary, even.

We’re human, so I’m not sure if  we’ll ever actually enjoy pain or like it when life seems unfair, but I hope that we can start to give God the benefit of the doubt. When he doesn’t reach in and pull us out of that pit, we should rest in knowing that he has a mighty good reason for it and when it’s all said and done, we’ll be glad he didn’t.

I mean really, if he would’ve pulled me out of Hawaii when I wanted him to, would I be such a great poi-ball performer? :) {Actually, my mother brought those back for me from a recent trip. It was the first time I’d tried them in over thirty years!}

Embrace the place you’re in while you’re in it. Learn from it and use it to better your life. That’s why God has us there in the first place.

Crossing the Line

I went to lunch with a friend a while back and couldn’t find a parking spot to save my life. But, of course, had this person parked like they are supposed to, either myself, or someone else would’ve had the opportunity to park close to the restaurant rather than across the street.

I’ve told my children that the space within my vehicle is a bubble and nothing that is said in the car is allowed to leave the car or be repeated. I’ve told them that partially because my tongue has a taming issue and part of the reason it does is people like the one that parked in the picture above. My mind goes to a bad place when I see stuff like this, and usually where my mind goes, my mouth follows.

I can’t help but wonder what kind of person does something like that. I assume they are a person who puts them self and their stuff above everyone else. A person that finds their self so superior to others that even their car is more important than a grandmother who walks with a limp or a single mother with three kids that needs a break every once in a while and a good parking spot may be just what the doctor ordered.

I can’t help but wonder if a person who does stuff like this even thinks of anyone else. Ever.

Crossing the line. We all do it. Maybe not so obviously, but we do. We do  it in the way we put ourselves before others. We do it when we do what we want to do no matter the outcome or how others will be affected. We just do it. All the time.

I’m sure that the guy that parked like that (I’m going to assume it was a guy because I can’t fathom that  women do that) had what he thought was a great reason. I’d bet that he’s had more than one person open their car door, slam it into  his car and leave damage. Maybe if it didn’t happen to this particular car, it happened to an earlier one and he  wants to ensure that this car doesn’t get damaged too.

Isn’t that why we go outside the lines too? We have our reasons. We have our damage, our hurts and much of the time we can excuse our behavior away with the  belief that we are protecting our-self or watching out for our best because, by gosh, nobody else is going to. Since we can’t control what others do, we’re just gonna do what we have to do – even if it isn’t fair – or right.

This is a prime example, for me, of noticing the splinter in someone else’s eye while totally ignoring the log in my own. While I have never and will never park like that dude did, it does shed a light on mindset and how similar mine can be to his. Sometimes I’m just out for myself. To heck with anyone else, I do what’s easiest. I do what’s in my best interest and I don’t consider anyone else in the process.

Sad thing? That doesn’t even really bother me until I realize that they probably look at me the way I look at the dirt bag that intentionally took two parking spaces. They look at me and think: “Look at that turd! Who do they think they are?”

Who do I think I am? Apparently I think I’m more important than you. Ouch.

So, what in the world is the point of this blog post? I have no idea, other than that a stupid car parked wonky opened my eyes a bit. It’s amazing what God can and will reveal to us if we’re just open to hearing what he has to say. It’s all for our benefit, anyway.

I encourage you to be a person who is  open to a little introspection and a little talkin’ to by the Lord. He’s gentle when he does it – much more gentle than life experience tends to be. He can use many stories, life experiences, or even idiot drivers to teach us a thing or two. We just have to willing to listen and change… and stop crossing the line.

Enough

Image

I started my journey into writing by complete accident a little over four years ago. I had a dream, felt the leading of the Lord and followed. Now with three published books, one movie in development and a growing speaking ministry, I look around and wonder: “Who am I and what am I about?”

One reason I’m asking that question is because a very wise person asked me the question first. She asked me what as a author and speaker makes me different than every other author and speaker out there. I didn’t know. I mean, how can I possibly know what every other author and speaker has to offer and what I do differently from them? How can I look at myself objectively and say: “Ah-ha! That’s it. That’s where I’m different!”

My tag line has been: “Reaching People Through Real, Relevant and Relational Ministry”, and truly, that’s what I try to do. It doesn’t sound catchy and it probably doesn’t set me apart from other people, but it’s what I’m trying to do.

I want to drop the show of “Christian perfection” and be authentic and transparent to women of all ages. I want to tell them that life can really suck at times but that if they’ll walk through that dark valley, good will come on the other side and they’ll realize that the Lord was with them every single step of the way. And I want to be able to use the word “suck” without having to remove my “Christian” label because it doesn’t follow guidelines or might offend sensitive ears. [I’m convinced that the Church is having the PR nightmare it’s having because it’s had no problem pointing the finger at others and offending them, but isn’t willing to point that finger back at itself and offend it’s own sensitivities.]

I want to tell stories where the characters are far from perfect and God uses them anyway. I want to talk to girls and tell them that they aren’t perfect and never will be – and that’s okay. That they’ll never have a perfect love on this earth – but that they are loved perfectly by the creator of the universe and that His love is never ending and will fill them with a well of living water that will never run dry. I want to tell them that if they’re holding out for a hero, there’s no need to hold out any longer – they already have one!

I want people to know who they are in Christ and that THAT identity is their true identity and anything else they believe about themselves just isn’t true. That if what the voices in their heads are telling them does not line up with scripture, then it should be revealed as lies.

I want to be broken, vulnerable and honest. I believe it’s in that place that lives are truly changed.

But how do you say all of that in a “tag line” that will make people say: “Wow, she’s different”?

So many experts tell me (and other writers/speakers) what we need to be doing and just how we need to be doing it. It’s great advice. It’s also overwhelming. It feels like a grown-up version of High School, really. People telling you that what you’re doing isn’t quite good enough and that if you’d only do this other thing, you’d be popular. You don’t have the looks, but you have personality – so use that. Or, you have looks, but no personality so just look pretty but don’t talk much. Or… well, you get the point and some of that might just sound familiar. Now, like then, it’s searching for that perfect combination so that enough people will like you. Enough people will see you as valuable. As worthy of their time – and sometimes their hard earned money.

It’s been three years of trying this way and that way. Spending money on this campaign or that one. It’s a necessary evil of having to beg people to like me and prove it by liking my Facebook page, buying my books, following me on Twitter and subscribing to my newsletter, all so that I can prove to someone more important than me in the publishing and speaking world that I am, in fact, enough and in return they might give me a chance to prove it.

All of this focus on “Someone please like me!” has shaken my confidence and dwindled my bank account while doing it. I’ve been left reeling – and wondering who I am and what on earth I’m trying to do and why on this earth am I still trying to do it against all odds.

Over the summer, during a time of deep reflection and pouring into the scriptures the Lord gave me a word. ENOUGH

I’d been asking: Lord, am I good enough? Am I a good enough writer? Am I a good enough speaker? Am I a good enough wife and mother, especially when I’m so focused on being a good enough writer and speaker? On and on…

I had all my focus on ‘was I enough’ – and in return the Lord stepped in and said: “ENOUGH”.

“Enough of these, ‘am I enough’ questions.”

“Enough of trying to fit into everyone else’s box.”

“Enough of this.”

“Just… enough.”

He continued:

“I am enough.”

“You are enough, through me.”

“You’re just enough to accomplish exactly what I want you to accomplish in just the way I will have you accomplish it.”

And while what I really wanted to do was go right back at him with a bunch of “But’s”, I closed my mouth and let the word soak in.

Enough.

Do I actually believe all the things I so desperately want others to learn through me?  In reality, all of those things come right down to people realizing that they are ENOUGH, just as they are.

As am I.

I’ll never be Francine Rivers. I’ll never be Beth Moore. I’ll never be anyone other than myself and what I’m realizing is that that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

What makes me different from everyone else? The very fact that I’m me.

I don’t know where you are on your own personal journey with the Lord. Each of our paths are different. We’ll have experiences that may be similar to others, but the lessons we glean from them are very different all together. I share my struggles, through authenticity and transparency because through my own journey, I learned that I was judging my true self against other people’s masks and the show they were putting on so that their own questions of “Am I enough” wouldn’t show through. In other words, I was judging my own truth against someone else’s false.

I learn more through my brokenness and wandering than through moments of being on the peak. Maybe that’s why I reach the peak so rarely. Or, just when I think the peak has been reached, a new peak appears in the distance and I’m off on a new adventure.

How am I different? I’m me. And I want you to be you. The real you. The broken, scared, doubting person you are. There is freedom and victory in living in the light.

There is also freedom in accepting that you are ENOUGH.

So, I’m relaunching my blog. When I was trying to fit everyone’s box, I stopped blogging because I was scared that I would “offend” one side or the other of my possible audience. But recently I realized: if I stop being who I am because I fear the rejection of others, then I am falling right back into trying to be enough rather than realizing that I already am.

I’m enough.

You’re enough.

And the only one who has to agree with that, is the very One who makes it so.

So, a few times a week I’ll be blogging. I can’t guarantee how many days because I can’t guarantee anything and trying to do so puts me back into the category of trying to do enough.

I can’t promise you anything other than that I will be authentic and transparent. I will take you on this journey of life as a wife, mom, author, speaker and now, movie something-or-other. I share my ups and downs in hopes that you’ll comment and share the same with me – not so that I can get “enough” comments, but because we’re all in this together.

I will re-release some of my earlier blog posts from over the last three years and I will add new ones. Sometimes I’ll be controversial. Sometimes I’ll be spiritual. Sometimes I’ll be funny… or at least try to be. But all the time, I’ll be me.

And now I realize, that’s just enough.

I’m Sorry, But I Can’t Apologize. Neither Should You.

I’ve been so blessed by anyone and everyone who has read one of my novels. It’s beyond an honor and sometimes impossible to even comprehend that people are holding something in their hands that I once sat in front of a computer and tried to create.

For the most part, the stories receive wonderful reviews. For the most part. But there are always going to be a few who don’t like what I have to say or the way in which I say it. That’s okay.

The critique isn’t about the way I write. Nobody (to my knowledge) has ever said that I can’t write. Or that I suck at putting words together or telling a story. The critique usually comes more from certain parts they didn’t like or there was too much “message”.

What I mostly hear or read in the critique is: “I wanted…”. “I wanted ____ to happen.” Or “I wanted to feel _________,not ________.” Or “I wanted more ______ and less ______.”

I won’t lie and say it isn’t painful when someone tells me they didn’t like something I put so much heart into, but I certainly understand where they are coming from and sometimes I even agree with them. But ultimately what it boils down to is that I can’t apologize for any of it.

I can’t apologize for content. I write what God gives me. Period. There are a lot of instances when I want to write something differently because I think it will make the story more romantic or emotional or exciting, or… but I just can’t. I’m not writing the book to just give romance… or to tell a good story. And therefore…

I can’t apologize for the message. Every story I write has a message to it. An overall theme that everything, and I mean everything, must fall into. I see the message run throughout the work and it all falls into place as to why certain things happen the way they do, even if it was against what I wanted (just as in life). It’s because there was a purpose to it. A bigger picture.

I can’t apologize for that and I can’t please everyone.

And neither can you.

Let’s face it, when you stand for something, anything, someone isn’t going to like it. They aren’t going to like the way you do it or the way you say it or the fact that you believe it at all. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is. And their critique doesn’t make you wrong or bad or ….

If you try to give in to the pressure of what “they” want, guess what? Someone else will then take issue with you… maybe you’ll even be one of those people and take issue with yourself.

God didn’t put us on this planet to please man. He put us here to please Him. For us to do His will – what He has called us to do. We can’t do that if we’re consumed with worry about other people not liking what it is we have to say or how we choose to say it. As long as we’re doing our part, and coming at it from the right place (in love, kindness, with mercy, without judgment, not out of pride, etc) then we have nothing to apologize for.

Either we stand for something or we don’t. Either we believe we’ve been called to a higher purpose, or we don’t. If we do, then we have to expect the critique/criticism to come. We have to prepare to take our stand and say “No matter what, I can’t apologize because I have nothing to be sorry for.”

Sometimes I think we’re in the trouble we’re in because people refuse to rise up and take a stand for what they believe. We’re all sitting around waiting for someone else to go first. Well, I want to be that person that gets up. That takes a stand for what God has placed in me. I want you to be that person too. This world needs us to be the person that stands up…. and doesn’t sit right back down at the first attack.

Don’t be afraid to do something because of a someone. As long as you have THE one on your side, the others don’t matter.

Let the criticism come. Let others question your motives. Maybe in the question, you’ll be able to give them the ultimate answer…

 

Let’s Drop Our Stones

I was on the phone with a friend when I first saw news of Invisible Children Co-Founder, Jason Russell’s arrest. I read the article out loud and was literally sick to my stomach. Not because of what he had done, but because of what it meant.

I am a huge supporter of Invisible Children. Not financially, necessarily, but I tell others about their organization, follow them closely, dedicated my novel, Collision, to them and am giving a portion of the proceeds of copies sold from my website, to them. The non-profit changed my life and I am forever grateful.

I was ecstatic when the #kony2012 campaign burst on to the scene. I was elated by the response and seeing my Twitter and Facebook streams fill with screen caps of the film and photos of Kony. I bought my kit and my family made plans to cover the night on April 20th.

Then, the skeptics started talking, casting doubt and fear onto the waters and turning some people’s excitement into more of a muddy uncertainty. I’ve spent the last two weeks defending Invisible Children to friends, family and fans that are asking my opinion about the negative press the organization has received.

And now, Mr. Russell’s arrest. I fully expected the deluge of “what do you think now?” e-mails and yes, they came. So, this is what I say:

“Put down your stones.”

Did Mr. Russell just commit an indiscretion? Yes. We all do – his just happened to be in public (and if you’re pulling out the “but I’ve never done that” card, go back and read the Bible to see what it says about placing sin on a scale of bad to worse). The indiscretion was not only public in the sense of where it happened, but public in the fact that Invisible Children has the attention of millions around the world and a lot of those people want nothing more than to see the organization fail. I can literally visualize those people salivating over this “failure”.

Part of what makes me sick to my stomach is knowing that Mr. Russell must know that too. I can only imagine what he’s feeling right now. Shame, embarrassment, disappointment in himself, fear of what this means to his wife,children and the organization he loves so much. I’ve beat myself up to the point of being bloody and it wasn’t even over stuff with such possible negative consequences.

Instead of jumping up and down at someone else’s problems, why not actually give him some grace? Realize that we have no place to judge and stop to think about what he has managed to do through his good choices.

Do his actions of a few nights ago erase the slaughter of multitudes of human lives over the last twenty-five years? Does it erase the fact that women all over Northern Uganda, Sudan and the Congo have been raped? Or thousands upon thousands of children have been taken violently from their families and forced to kill in order to live themselves? Does one man’s weakness nullify all of that? If so, then God help us.

Even the most loved Bible heroes were complete and utter failures in at least one area of their life, yet they are still held up as examples of how to live. Why? Because we’re all moral failures, ours just look different and we tend to hide that reality from others.

I urge people to keep the focus where it belongs… On Kony. He is the criminal we are after. He is the abductor, the killer, the rapist, the mutilator. He is the enemy. And when he’s caught and brought to justice, then guess what? We’re going to be called to forgive even him.

Drop your stones of judgement and pray for Jason Russell, his wife, his children and his organization. Pray that the ultimate enemy, Satan, will not win in this. Don’t let him take our focus off of doing good because we’re so busy reveling in someone else’s “failure”. And don’t let the enemy convince you to use this as an excuse to do nothing.

If you’re waiting for the perfect person to lead us into battle, you missed him. He came two-thousand years ago and he’s begging you to rise up and be his hands and feet.

Let’s drop our stones, give grace and ACT.

Let’s Talk the “F” Word – Part 3

If you would’ve looked at my life over the last ten years or so, you would have said that “forgiveness” was one of the major areas in my life that I needed to work on. No need to go into specifics, but let’s just say I had many moments of hurt (as we all do). Many of those hurts I held on to and a few I let go. The one’s I held on to turned into some serious forgiveness issues and it impacted many areas of my life. I needed to deal with it but I also knew it would require some work – and trust me, I didn’t want to do it but I knew it needed to be done. I also knew that I wasn’t quite sure how.

Do you know what the Lord did? First, he gave me yet another major offense that I needed to work through – a little fresh meat so to speak. Then he taught me forgiveness in the strangest way ever – he had me write about it. I started writing a story about a girl who had some things happen in her life that required her to forgive. Her issues weren’t necessarily similar to mine, but I was able to walk through the entire process through the eyes and the “spirit”of someone else. It was fascinating. Somehow, that story became a book. Then, I wrote a second book  about the same characters and found myself writing about forgiveness again, although for a different type of “offense”. Again, learned the process through my character.
I can honestly say that for almost a full year, I studied forgiveness, wrote about forgiveness, pondered the topic of forgiveness and tried to live it out in my life. Here’s the interesting thing though, I’m as interested in what forgiveness is as much as what it isn’t.
Why? Because for so many years I had people telling me that if you’ve truly forgiven, you should be able to reconnect with the person(s) that hurt you. I battled with myself about it for years. I felt guilty, I felt like a failure and I feared that although I believed I forgave people, maybe I’d been wrong. Maybe I never really had.
So, I went back to the basics and looked up the word.
Forgiveness is typically defined as the process of concluding resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, difference or mistake, and ceasing to demand punishment or restitution. (That was completely copied off of Wikipedia so I’m not sure if the links will work or not).
Have you noticed what the definition doesn’t include? It doesn’t say you have to go back to how things were. It doesn’t say you must remain friends or close to the person who committed the offense. It doesn’t say you aren’t allowed to still hurt when you’re reminded of the offense and it doesn’t say that you have to explain your decisions to anyone else. All it says is that you will stop harboring resentment and anger and that you won’t spend your time hoping for some type of punishment to rain down from the heavens.
God knows we’re human. He knows we’re weak and although he asks a lot from us, he doesn’t ask the impossible. He doesn’t necessarily say we have to forget – otherwise he wouldn’t have given us a memory. He just says we need to forgive.

Sometimes we’ll reconnect with people and sometimes we’ll cut ties. Either way, as long as we’ve forgiven – we’ve done all that God asks us to do.

I’d be a total loser if I didn’t point out that the Lord isn’t asking anything of us that he hasn’t already done – time and time again. He’s quick to forgive . . . and forget.

There are losses in my life through offense that still hurt – 20 years later, 10 years later, 5 years, 1 year . . . we’ve all been hurt. We’ve all been wronged. AND – we’ve all hurt and we’ve all wronged. We’ve been on both sides of the coin – we’ve needed to forgive and we’ve needed to be forgiven.

The major lesson I’ve learned is: Forgiveness is a gift for us from the Lord. It’s a gift he gives us and it’s a gift we give ourselves. When we chose, as painful as it is, to forgive someone else – we free ourselves. We free ourselves from thinking about them, from dwelling on the offense and we free ourselves from any hold they had on our lives.

As a person whose finally dropped some chains of forgiveness – chains that have been attached to certain people, I feel a lot less pressure and weight on my shoulders and on my spirit. I wish those people well and I move on – and it feels good to have done so.

That’s it for my posts on the dreaded “F” word – unless of course the Lord prompts me to write something else. My prayer for you is that the Lord will reveal those places in your life that a little (or a lot) of work might need to be done. Where a gift needs to be given — or received.

I hope you’ll be willing to drop the chains and free yourself.

Let’s Talk The “F” Word – Part Two

Forgive U-University continues today!

Forgiveness.

I’ve written on the topic more than once. Probably because it’s been such a huge theme in my life over the last several years. Such a large theme that it was an important theme in both Salvaged and Rise.

I’ve come to know that unforgiveness is a lot like quick sand. It causes you to be stuck where you are – spiritually speaking. While you may wrestle around and try to make progress on your journey with the Lord – you’re only going to get so far. At some point that issue is going to come right back up and you’re either going to deal with it – conquer it and move on or you’re going to ignore it and fall right back to where you were.

The very fact that forgiveness was one of the last topics that Jesus mentioned (remember “Forgive them, they know not what they do”?) must mean something. Must speak to its importance. It’s almost as if Jesus couldn’t truly enter God’s presence if he hadn’t forgiven those who persecuted him. Maybe we can’t either. We can’t get as close to him as we need to be – if we can’t let go of those who have hurt us in the past.

I’m scared of people. I never was before a few years ago, but I certainly am now. I don’t let myself get too close to anyone. I put up a wall. I’ve realized it over time but it really smacked me in the face one night a little while back. I went to a Bible Study with my family – walked right over to my seat and didn’t look up until the speaker started speaking. I wasn’t trying to be rude, but I was literally afraid of the people in the room. Afraid that I would get to know them. Afraid that I would form friendships. Afraid that those friendships would eventually bring pain. And do you know why? Because of unforgiveness. I hadn’t forgiven those in my past who had caused me to be afraid of anyone new.

Holding on to hurts from old relationships keeps me from forming new ones. And holding on to hurts and harboring unforgiveness keeps us from truly reaching out to the Lord as well. It creates a barrier. A barrier I want removed.

Luckily, I’ve learned that it is possible to forgive and forgive completely and I’m pretty sure the act of forgiveness is a miracle. It’s a miracle of God. Why do I believe this? I’ve experienced it. Never thought I would – not to the extent that I have, but it happened and it was nothing less than a miracle.

My forgiveness of some people was so overnight and so opposite of how I felt about them, that it had to be a miracle. It had to be from God. I’d prayed that I would find a way to forgive them, but I never really “felt it” – if you know what I mean. I still harbored resentments. I still thought of things that had been said or done … I was still struggling. I wanted to forgive and I had moments where I truly thought I’d forgiven, but something would happen and I’d strap that unforgiveness right back on.

Then, one day like a light switch had been flipped – I found it. Complete and utter forgiveness. How did I spot it? How did I know that it had arrived? I hurt when they hurt. I cried for them. I prayed for them – and I mean really prayed for God to deliver them from pain. My heart literally ached for them and wanted nothing more than for them to be healed. Instead of wanting God to avenge the hurt they’d caused me – I wanted them to be spared. I wanted God to intervene and take away their pain and suffering. I wanted restoration. I wanted joy – for them.

Given all that I felt I’d been put through by these people – trust me, that’s the last thing I thought I’d ever do. If you would’ve told me that one day I’d pray on their behalf not out of duty but because I wanted to – I would’ve told you that you’d lost your mind. If you would’ve told me that I would want complete restoration in their life – I would’ve laughed in your face. If you would’ve told me that my relationship with these people would be restored – I would’ve immediately said “no way. It will never happen. I don’t want that to happen.”

But guess what? It has. And it’s nothing less than a miracle of God. Proof that he exists. Proof that he’s at work in our lives. Proof that he will intervene and bring about restoration whenever and wherever possible.

It’s a choice, forgiveness. He’s not going to make us do it. It’s a gift we can either accept or not. We must pursue it – ask for it. Give it time. Fight for it. Wrestle with it. Ponder what it truly means… what it looks like … how it feels. We must deal with whatever it is that keeps us from choosing to forgive. It’s hard work – but it happens. God will bring it about in your life and in the lives of those around you.

We so want it from the Lord. We want immediate forgiveness when we screw up. And we get it. No questions asked. No finger wagging in our face. No judgment. No ridicule. No scarlet letter or cone of shame. We just get it.

If only we could give it just as easily.

Accept the miracle. Break the chain of unforgiveness and move forward in all that God has called you to do!

Check out my latest novel, Collision! Now at a great price on Amazon.com.

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