Words, words, and more words!

I’ve been writing like a house afire since the beginning of the year! Just not on my blog. Having only so many hours in the day I find I must choose where my words go, and lately that’s been to my novel. I’m 65,000 words in. The end is in sight! Of course when the last word is written – it’s not really over. Then the revising and editing process will begin.

I feel a confidence in my current project I didn’t feel in my last novel, Sisters. Sisters had beautiful moments, and was an unbelievable learning experience. But this novel is different. I’m different. Hopefully my skill level has grown. I also feel a greater sense of purpose and vision with this book.

My goal for this novel is to use the characters to challenge the church’s status quo and stretch our desire for compassion. It has been a transformational, painful, and invigorating process.

Many days I’ve spent six or more hours writing. I write while the kids are in school. I take notes of ideas in my phone when I’m out. I dream about my characters, literally. I chat with them in the shower. I have no doubt I’ve often sat with a glazed expression at the table as I picture a scene and test out dialogue in my head. My poor family, they’re becoming used to such quirks and neglect!

In the past I found it difficult to ignore dirty dishes in the sink, piled up laundry, and floors needing vacuuming. Writing now seems to trump all else. I don’t seem to notice the mess until I resurface!

I have piles of books stacked around my favorite chair. Not pictured is the pile of writing books on the floor. And for three days I’ve had piles of laundry stacked around the living room. To me this is a good sign! It means I’ve taken my passion and commitment to writing to a new level. Which is what it’s going to take to land a book deal and become an honest to goodness author. So far I’ve been dabbling. It’s time to role up my sleeves and get this done!

The message of this book motivates me to keep going, it’s a tribute to every wounded, rejected, lonely person I’ve known, just looking for a place to belong. (Which includes me.) We are good at building walls, even, and maybe especially, in the church, but that is not in keeping with a Savior who walked among the broken, touching the desperate.

It’s my desire that this book honors God’s heart, and builds a bridge. If you think of it in the days ahead I would love a prayer for blessing and favor!

Risk Rejection – It’s Worth It

Risk, it doesn’t come without rejection.

A brave band of bloggers are exploring this idea at the invitation of Amy Sullivan. She’s a crazy lady, and always inspires me!

For the next month we’re risking rejection. And you’re invited! Because if you’re going to stand in the face of risk and take the plunge, it’s nice to do it with friends!

Tetons Risk

Before I tell you (next week) about the risk I’m taking, first, I want to look back. I need to remember and draw courage from my past risks.

I’m familiar with risk, I’ve even been known to like it. Some of the best things in my life have come from taking a risk. Risking rejection to ask my husband on a date was one of the best things I’ve ever done!

Risks have made a difference in my life.

Leaving home for the strange world of college was intimidating for this homeschooled girl. It was the first big risk of my life, and I did face rejection there. (Well, maybe the mission trip to Europe for 7 weeks at 15 years old, away from family – before email and cell phones – was the first big one, hard to say.)

Even now volunteering at my kid’s school is hard for me. I feel like a foot shoving its homeschooled self into the glove of the public school world. But I face the risk of offering my help, of getting involved, and maybe being met with rejection, for the sake of my kids.

Every single move I’ve ever made (and there have been a lot) has been a mine field of rejection, new faces, new friends, learning the ropes. It’s exhausting. But I’ve learned to value the hard work of relationship, I’m resilient, and I love diversity because of all of those moves.

So often one risk leads to another. After one of those risky moves I met a young lady. Her mom had died, she was in college, and my heart went out to her. I couldn’t imagine being without my mom so young. Other than “hi, how are you” we had no relationship. But at the nudge of the Holy Spirit I asked her to join me for coffee. I offered my ear, my understanding. It was a rejection worth risking. But we clicked on our first coffee date. Now, many tears, much laughter, and five years later I’m watching her move into the new season of becoming a wife. What a sweet payoff!

My most recent risk started with an email. Sent to a person I’d never met, in a country I’d never been. I’d heard horror stories about orphans, mental institutions, abuse, etc. in Eastern Europe. I had to see for myself, I was compelled and God’s compelling love led me to go. I wrote to the director of one of those institutions in Serbia and I waited for a response. After silence and a second email I was invited to come see for myself. For the last 18 months I’ve walked the tricky tight rope of risk by traveling to Serbia twice, building more international relationships than I could have imagined, and finding myself linked to the hope of God for a whole people group. And I pray this is just the risky beginning!

What Risk taking has taught me

Over a couple decades of risk taking I’ve learned a few things.

– Because I’ve risked and survived I’m more willing to risk again, experience works to diminish fear.

– I find I remember the successes of risk more than the rejection, because really when I’ve put myself out there I’ve found people are more gracious than I imagined and God is always faithful.

-Rejection is an opportunity for growth, reevaluation, and clarity. (If we’ll take it)

-And when risk pays off it’s worth it, it keeps me coming back for more.

Ultimately risking rejection isn’t so scary when our eyes lift from the rejection of people to the face of One who would never reject us. Actually I think he likes it when we leap because that’s when our faith coils back and aims right for his arms.

Of course, I think risks should be somewhat calculated, motivated by God’s glory and not our own, and not taken at the cost (or at least detriment) of others.

There are a couple of risks I’m taking this year. I’m nervous, but excited nonetheless. I’ll tell you about them in the next couple of weeks!

How about you? Is there a risk you’ve been putting off because you’re afraid of rejection? Why not jump in the company of friends, we’ll hold your hand! 

What would you add to the list of lessons learned from risking rejection?

A New Year of Purpose

Out with the old, in with the new!

This past year has held some truly beautiful moments, as well as some very difficult ones. I didn’t accomplish all I wish I had, but I have come to know Jesus’ faithfulness more intimately, his sufficiency in spite of my weakness, and grace’s balm for every circumstance. I imagine you can relate.

Big things have happened in the last twelve months. Our new home stands out as one of God’s’ dearest gifts. As if he leaned down and kissed my cheek tenderly. I could almost hear him say, “I know my heart has become your home, and it always will be, but you need a place to lay your head and raise a family, this is for you.” There are no words for such kindness, so I raise my head and my hands and the praise flows daily. For those of you who know my story you know I’ve spent many years in temporary places and living in other people’s homes, it just makes the gift that much sweeter.

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Enjoying summer

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Home

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Little cousins

Gordana, Beck, Vesna

Serbian sisters

Along with the amazing moments – traveling to Serbia, sweet family time, growing friendships, my son’s baptism, a new kitty friend, lot’s of writing and learning – there have also been moments that have knocked the air from my lungs. Friendships have unraveled, my heart has wrestled with cancer as an intimate part of our family, criticism, a messy move, and unrealized dreams. For sure it’s been a full year.

As Christmas is drawing to an end and the new year looks me in the face I feel frayed at the edges. The only explanation I have is my awareness of what life is capable of being. There are no guarantees that cancer will leave us alone, that the house will stand untouched by tragedy, or the dream of publishing my book will be realized. The weariness of doing it all again stands at my shoulder reminding me that the need for submissive trust and sacrificial love calls out unabated. None of us can escape the hard work of living.

As my mom and I were talking lately we agreed this new year is reminding us that we can’t escape the need to die to ourselves and live to Jesus every, single, day. Putting into practice the lesson’s of joy we’ve learned and walking in obedience is necessary, and hard. So I lay down the last year and it’s contents, trusting Jesus’ grace is enough to cover every single moment; and I pick up the task of living this new year and rest on the only certainty I have, God is faithful. 

Not a Resolution but a Purpose

I’m not much of a resolver. Resolving to stop a habit, start a habit, change my behavior, or accomplish a goal is just an invitation to disappointment for me. I don’t have that kind of will power. Instead I choose to embrace purpose for the year ahead.

Perhaps you feel the same way. If we embrace the purpose God has shaped in our hearts, pealing away the distractions and evaluating all we do against that purpose, we will naturally find our dreams being realized, goals being accomplished, good habits established, relationships thriving.

What is your purpose? I think we can start here: All who follow Jesus have been given the purpose of elevating God’s glory, making disciples, and serving our world. What that looks like for you and what that looks like for me is where the creativity and adventure comes in.

What dream has God whispered into your heart? What makes your heart race with excitement? What circumstances do you find yourself in? Those are starting places for worship, for making God known, for loving others. They are the building blocks of your purpose.

I’m honing in on prayer, communicating truth, loving my neighbors, building bridges, and serving my family as I flesh out purpose in this new year.

And you? Where are you focusing your energy, what purpose are you pursuing? 

Let’s Pray For Our Kids

Bone tired. That’s where I am, this whole nurturing thing – not for the faint of heart. Are you there too?

I love my children, but I’ve got to confess I’ve always been a heart wanderer, never content to stay still. Sometimes the monotony of peanut butter sandwiches for lunch every-single-day, laundry never ending, whining at the crack of dawn, makes my heart quake.

Just when I feel the cycle of give and take, give and take, heavy on the take, will never end – magic happens. Jesus pulls my attention from day dreams of saving the world back into the here and now, and thankfully I don’t miss the sweetness before me.

Lately it’s come in the package of my littlest one’s tender heart. God’s word is shaping and living in her and prayers are bubbling up from deep down. (Big shout out to our children’s pastor Kathy and her wonderful team for the way they nurture my kids!)

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At dinner lately, after her brother prays, Maggie is quick to pipe up “My turn!” And oh those prayers, full of “touch Max’s body and help him feel better… thank you for my brother, I love him… help my heart to be sweet and not sassy… Jesus I know you love me, and I love you too” they melt my heart.

In those moments I’m reminded that the beauty of protecting, nurturing, teaching those innocent hearts is not a burden but such a dear gift. And I love my little ones in the memory of the children an ocean away, whose abandonment to an institution I can never forget, but right now can do nothing to save.

I press in to the here, and am faithful in trusting for the later. I believe God will produce fruit of faith in my children, and fulfill dreams yet unrealized in my own heart. One of my deepest desires is to see my children walking in their own knowledge and love of Jesus, and it begins now.

Let’s pray for our kids today to experience God in their own lives in personal ways, whether your child is two or twenty two:

Father, would you enable our children to draw near to you and as they come would you make yourself known to them. As they pray, would you answer, as they seek, would you be found. We’re trusting you to develop a faith in their own hearts that rests on an experience and knowledge of your faithfulness. Help us as parents to press in to the now and not miss opportunities to teach. Thank you for these hard days of motherhood as they shape our own hearts as we are shaping our children. Amen.

If you’re weary, hold on, the weary fades and the sweetness will remain. No matter what kind of mama you are, God’s got you, he’s working through you, using you, strengthening you. Don’t miss the right now as you hope for the later. The later will come and God will be in it.

Just Serve

teacupThere are moments I read the words of the heavy hitters, you know the ones; Ann Voskamp, Jen Hatmaker, Lisa-Jo Baker, and I shrivel inside. Not because their words aren’t amazing, beautiful, life giving words. No, it’s because I would give anything to join their ranks. And so some moments I choke on the goodness because of my own ego.

A few years ago I started blogging and writing more seriously. The traffic of my blog grew, I was ambitious. I was reading Michael Hyatt and Jeff Goin’s blogs. I was learning how to build a platform. But something ugly was happening in my heart. I found my words becoming a competition. “Could I out grace, out beauty, that writer and attract an audience?” I hated what writing was becoming.

So I laid down my platform and wrote for the sake of the words and trusted that Jesus would cause them to find their mark. And occasionally they do and once in a while someone is kind enough to say so.

The only antidote to unhealthy ambition that I’ve found, is looking for feet to wash. Whatever it is that consumes us, gnawing away at our hearts, creating a hollow dissatisfied space, can only be put to rest by the compelling love of Jesus. The kind of transformational, imitating, love that turns us into his fellow foot washers.

Because “strength is for service, not status.” (Romans 15:1 MSG) Anything strong about my words comes from Jesus. Only when they are serving do the words really come alive and sing. As soon as I use them to leverage my own position they turn to dust. It’s all about the attitude.

Maybe you adore being a mama, it’s what puts joy in your heart and purpose in your days. But as soon as the comparison starts and you find yourself wishing you were like the mom with the perfectly dressed kids, adorable crafts, and clean house you find you can’t escape frustration. Or perhaps you can relate to my struggle, each book contract or viral blog post of your friend leaves a bad taste in your mouth. You’re happy for them but you find yourself striving to succeed, the harder you grasp at success the more joy evaporates.

Whatever we delight in can turn into a burden when it’s leveraged for our own good and not the good of another.

Serve your family, serve with your words, serve in whatever capacity you find yourself and you will find that because strength is meant for service, not status, it’s where joy is found!

Who has God created you to serve? Do you find it fulfilling or are you looking around at the success of others and wishing that was you? For the rest of this week serve in that capacity without worrying about getting ahead, or who’s the best, and see if you don’t find joy!

What Did You Want To Be When You Grew Up?

What did you want to be when you grew up? I didn’t dream of being a mama. I wanted to be a missionary. Raised on the stories of Jim Elliot, Adoniram Judson, and Amy Charmichael I dreamed of walking in the footsteps of giants. Sometimes in the ugly, hard moments of the last decade I’ve wondered if I made a mistake in getting married and having kids. Did I miss what God had in store for me?

But I don’t think that way anymore. That kind of thinking limits God’s amazing creativity and generosity. Even though I accidentally became a mama God is more gracious than I often give him credit for. The daily friction of sacrificial love that a marriage and raising children brings has shaped my heart. What I didn’t know I wanted has become a gift.

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My two gifts

As the season of sleepless nights and diapers has faded away I’m learning that following God comes in all shapes and sizes. I hear people talk about God’s will as if it’s a set plan, but that doesn’t resonate with me. How many relationships do you know that follow a blueprint. God’s will is clear for his people, Micah 6:8 sums up what he wants from us succinctly, “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Within those parameters is a lot of room for variety and freedom. How do you go about living justly, loving mercy, and knowing and embracing your place with God? 

I’m finding that God is amazingly kind in leading the hearts he created. I still dream of walking in the big footsteps of other worldly faith giants. A world in need of compassion consumes my imagination. And I only fall in love with Jesus more in realizing he gives me both. Marriage and motherhood, and missions. Of course it all looks different than I expected. But that’s part of the excitement (and occasional panic)!

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Novi Sad, Serbia

What dreams have you put on the shelf that God may be calling you to dust off? He made your heart and he is a generous God. What looks like an opportunity missed may only be an opportunity postponed. Do you trust that God is kind as he leads you and understands your heart? If not consider praying that he expands your view of his nature!

Detours and adjustments are part of life but God knows our heart and we can trust him to lead us.

Keep Dreamin’

I still remember my “life’s verse” from the summer I turned 15, it was Romans 10:14-15.

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!

Isn’t that stirring?! Even now I want to jump up and shout news that is good, that people are waiting to hear! That’s exactly how I felt then.

I followed that verse all the way to Eastern Europe on a mission trip; 7 weeks abroad at 15 years old with no email and no cell phones. Just letters home. It was hard, and exhilarating.

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I loved Europe. My heroes were Jim Elliot and Amy Carmichael. It was a no-brainer, I was going to be a missionary!

Fast forward almost another 15 years. The pregnancy test says positive and all I can do is chant a pitiful mantra, “I’m going to have a baby, I’m going to have a baby, I’m going to have a baby,” in a tone somewhere between a whine and a wail. It’s all I said until I thoroughly freaked out my husband and he made me stop!

However, it was less than 72 hours before I fell in love and was glowing. Motherhood, now that’s an adventure, right? I read everything I could read about my little bean, in awe of the miracle I had become a part of.

Fast forward a handful of years later; I feel disillusion and as close to despair as my personality will allow. I asked myself, “Is this all there is?” I loved my sweet son and now new daughter but I felt trapped. I was walking the valley of death we all have to go through eventually. Wandering in the wilderness, faced with the option of choosing my way or God’s way. On the other side of brokenness, I chose his.

After that I walked with a limp and a certainty that while my life wasn’t what I had thought it would be it was a gift.

Fast forward another year plus some, and God breathed fresh life into the dream that for years had lain dormant and forgotten. About three months after my visit to Serbia (if you haven’t heard that story, and it’s a good one, you can catch up here) I was pondering what the trip meant and what was to come next.

At that moment God reminded me of Romans 10:14-15 which I had prayed with youthful sincerity. “God send me.” He hadn’t forgotten. Twenty years after the first prayer was prayed, the first trip taken, a second “God send me” prayer was prayed and another trip was taken.

The creativity with which God has sent me back to Europe is astonishing, and the relationships growing are so dear. But without the training I received in the humbling fields of motherhood and broken dreams, I doubt I would have deep faith and compassion to be my traveling companions.

God is the dream planter. He imprints us with his nature and our own unique flare, inspires us with himself, sets our hearts on fire, and calls go! When dreams die, and our old selves with them, they can be reborn with a purity that was missing before.

Is there a call, a dream, a passion you’re grieving and wonder if you’ll ever see again? This season doesn’t last forever, rebirth follows death!

If healthy Beck could have told discouraged Beck one thing it would have been, “lean in to the sorrow and learn to trust God’s voice.”

If you’re discouraged may I tell you, “lean in to the sorrow and learn to trust God’s voice.” He will not lead you into danger, he will revive your soul, and he himself will become your dream.

Where are you on the journey? Have your dreams died, are you in hot pursuit of them, or are you living your dream? Let’s have a conversation. I want to hear about your dreams!

(A little side note; I read this verse to my 9 year old Max, telling him how I had prayed this verse when I was a teenager. I said wasn’t it neat how that’s happened and God’s sending me to Serbia. His twinkle eyed response, “yeah and he gave you two beautiful children to tell.” Knowing wheels were turning in that little mind I asked him what he meant and he said “well what’s better than teaching children about God, then you have experience to teach others.” Bless that boy!)