Fear of Missing Out on God's Word?

I have always been mystified by the complexity of God. I love his grandness and his nearness, his Creator-hood but not creature-hood, his love and his justice—it is the chasms between what I understand these things to be that makes God good to me. That I cannot fully understand or empathize with him or rationalize him is what makes me worship him. But I also, at times, have found myself caught in the chasm between his characteristics. My flesh wants a plan, a clear path from A to B, an X marking the spot, any spot. I can waylay my growth until it all makes sense to me. And, in my effort to receive the whole counsel of God, I can trip myself up between these extremes.

I had a conversation with a friend the other day who knows Scripture and wants to do right by it, to honor God and others, but who is in a season of simply needing to remember he is loved by God. I asked him if he could ask the Spirit to turn off the cacophony of voices in his head, all saying he is failing or will failed or might fail or could fail, and simply camp on one attribute of God: his love. Can you, I asked, just sit in the reality that God “holds all your tears in a bottle" for one day, one week, one month? Can you meditate on what it means that God communicates in metaphor? Or is this metaphor? What might it mean that God has a receptacle prepared just for you, with your name on it, with your tears in it, and he knows when they fell and why and with whom and for how long? What does it mean that God is a collector of our joys, pains, fears, insecurities, angers, and more? How do you envision God carrying your tears in a bottle? What does his willingness to hold them say about his character? What does it say about you? What does it say about the value of your emotions? Your story? His creativeness? His sovereignty? The questions are endless, you could ask them for days.

I think one of the reasons I and many Christians suffer with our minds is because we believe if we sit in one phrase of Scripture for an extended period of times, then we will grow emaciated or unsanctified. And while there is truth that we need the whole counsel of God, what will it profit a man if we know a lot of verses but have not truly wrestled with the truths they contain? This is why I often read the same book of the Bible 20-100 times straight through over a period of a few days to a few months. When I sit with a singular truth about God, I learn far more than when I try to grab it all and make it fit within the particular day or moment or season of my life.

Right now I am learning about what it means to “nourish and care for my body” and to “love my neighbor as myself” and to truly believe that God’s first observation about man was “very good.” These concepts are tripping me up all over Scripture. Because I am meditating on very small, intricate concepts, I begin to see them threaded through all of God’s word, and it is gradually changing aspects of my heart and mind that have been stuck for decades—aspects I tried to change by applying massive truths about God to them. They needed detail work, not overhaul work.

Because we live in a time when there is a message, sermon, book, meme, or quip for everything we can have a fear of missing out on the pivotal truth we believe will really change us or set us free. Just one more of anything because it might offer the fix. But what if God’s blessing and goodness to us is a book full of sufficient truths about him, us, the world, suffering, love, justice, fear, doubt, salvation, our future, our tongues, evangelism, faithfulness, and everything else? And what if our problem is we come to the Word of God with the same fear of missing out we attribute to news, views, social media, information, and books? Fearing if we miss this one part, we’ll miss something big? What if God’s goodness to us in that is to make his Word unchanging? We don’t have to approach it with a fear of missing out because the words within it are always useful for life and godliness.

So today, camp out on one truth from God. Just one. One verse about his character, or yours, or whatever. Stay in it as long as it takes for you to really believe it. Risk a few days or hours or weeks of hoarding tomorrow’s manna, and just subsist on what God is feeding you with right now. Here are a few verses from Scripture that might be helpful to start with:

You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe.

And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?

Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace.

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Good Enough in a Never Enough World

I shared a table with a woman this past week who felt within her a call to write and had a story to tell. I know nothing of her ability to tell her story, but I saw the lament on her face when she said, “But I’m not shaped like the women who get book deals. I’m not pretty or skinny like them.” My heart splintered.

I remember the first time I realized I was not a pretty girl like the pretty girl who commented on the size of my nose at age eleven. Eleven year olds should care little about the sizes of their noses but with more and more frequency, the age lowers at which girls begin to care about the sizes of not only their noses, but also their hips and budding breasts and thighs. They make bras for toddlers these days.

Some are born pretty and some starve or surgically alter themselves to make them so. I was neither born pretty nor given the financial means to pursue a nose job or braces or a constant stream of hair highlights, lowlights, or extensions. I was given this body and given to this body, and this body has known its temporality since a young age. A big nose is the least of my concerns as I grow older, now it is the womb that cannot hold children, the torn meniscus I never got properly repaired, and the hill toward 40 I am nearly cresting. I know my form and it is dust.

But I lament with the woman who shared my table because if all women see in the women teaching them is the embodiment or pursuit of perfect bodies, families, homes, clothes, hair, intelligence, appeal, marriages, understanding of God, how will they know they are fearfully and wonderfully made too? We can know it because it’s in the Word of God, but how can we know it with our hearts? Our bodies? Our souls? Knowledge is only one part of who we are. It matters that we believe all truth with all of who God has made us.

This isn’t to shame women naturally given to beauty, or those with the means to make themselves more so, but is it any wonder women are drawn to quick, easy tropes for what ails them? Is it any wonder we’re still taking the fruit that promises us godlikeness? Biting off bits of it in the form of Instagram images, Pinterest perfect homes, four steps to finding a good husband or having a good marriage, or swallowing the many iterations of diet culture in the form of food restriction? Is it any wonder we’re googling how to make our pores look smaller and have drawers of unused anti-wrinkling creams because each one promises to do it better? I have a smattering of persistent gray hairs on my part that no amount of color covers for long and still I try.

My friend Andrea and I have been chewing on these quick fixes, tropes, and mantras that women around us believe and asking ourselves, “Why?” and “What can we do?” We can’t do much—especially because we are two people who are familiar with sorrow and feel it most acutely in these bodies we’ve been given—but can we do something? Can we speak to these spaces where women discount themselves from the work of God because they wear a size 18 or no amount of primer can mask their pores or “believing in themselves” just hasn’t had the same effect on them that it seems to have on the Insta-stars?

We want to bring you along to 14 conversations with men and women on some of the unique struggles we see women facing in 2019. We’re calling our conversation Good Enough: Finding the Good in a Never Enough World, because we want women to realize God created them as complex bodies, minds, spirits, and souls and called them “good.” Sin has wrecked our world in many ways, but God in us is renewing and building and forming and ushering in his new kingdom. The old kingdom says we’re never enough, but the new kingdom says, “Christ in you, Sufficient!” How does that apply to things like social media and diet culture and friendships and meditation/mindfulness and “clean living” and more?

Coming in May 2019, Good Enough.

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Is He The One?

We lay in bed last night, my head on his ribs, and I reminded him today would be the anniversary of the first time we gathered together socially. He was going on dates with another girl I knew and I just kept tamping down the flares of interest rising in my heart about him. “Not for me,” I’d remind myself. But when I wandered over to the sink with a handful of dishes to wash that night and he joined me there a moment later to dry, the flare rose again. It was not the gnawing monstrosity of what I knew to be a crush, a curiosity coupled with a desire to manipulate the situation so I looked more appealing. It was a gentle gulp, a careful knowing, a submitted acknowledgement: “Not to be trifled with,” it said.

Our conversation was easy, deep, memorable. He was the first person I’d met in Texas who grabbled with a subject I cared deeply about too. I left after the dishes were washed, dried, and put away. I drove home that night with no hope in my heart but surety in my veins about God’s goodness still. He had been doing something deep in me in the months previous and I was seeing the answers to some prayers I’d prayed for a long time. Meeting and marrying was not my priority. I knew God was in the process of answering my prayers, but what I didn’t expect was the man with whom I’d washed the dishes that night would be the man with whom I’d wash dishes the rest of life.

“When did you know that you knew?” my still unmarried friends ask, curious, I’m sure, about what that mysterious knowing feels like and if what they feel for someone is it. I don’t know, I answer. And I really don’t. What I always say is there was an absence of doubt which is not the same as a presence of assurance. There was never some moment when I looked at him and thought, “He is the one.” There were just many small moments when I checked my heart and found there no residue or evidence of doubt, no question, no worry, no “What ifs?”

I have liked and dated many men and boys, and could have (and indeed, did) convinced myself that any one of them were it, the one. I had dreams in which I met them at the altar, imaginations about our future children, went to sleep with the surety that these lonely nights would someday be remedied by this person in particular. I liked them so much I convinced myself I loved them. But not until Nate was there an absence of those things and a presence instead of a kind of faith I couldn’t describe to you if I tried. When a friend talks about just knowing about their future spouse and the unmarried clammer to know what does that feel like? no one can answer. Not really. I suppose it’s different for everyone.

Here’s what I do know, though: God can work a miracle of faith in a marriage begun in doubt and the enemy can create a chasm of doubt in a marriage begun in faith. There’s no guarantee either way. If marriage is a picture of our union with Christ, then our faith and doubt in it are too. None of us are immune from the quaking questions we have about the Spirit, the Savior, and our Father and none of us are too far gone for assurance to come in one swift swell.

But regarding the presence of doubt before marriage, I always think about Galatians 4, “When the time came to completion, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law,” whenever I think about marriage and singleness. Another translation says, “At the proper time.” The point in both is the same: at the right time, the groom comes, and not at all in the circumstances in which we expect him to come.

This is what that mysterious knowing is like, as best as I can describe it to my still unmarried sisters who wait with eager longer for the grooms they hope God has prepared for them. It means, at the proper time, God has determined your singleness over and the time for your marriage to begin. This isn’t some trite counsel that “You’re not yet good enough to get married,” or “God wants you to be perfect before you get married.” The onus isn’t on you to complete, finish, or determine what is proper at all. He knows when the fullness of your singleness has come to completion and when it is no longer good for you to be alone. Until then, though, you can trust, just as He was working in the lives of the Jewish people to turn their hearts toward Him until the time was right to send His Son, He is doing the same with you.

And the joy in that is he’s doing the same with all of us still. We’re all still groaning, waiting with eager longing, expectant, and hopeful for the coming of our King to rule and reign for all eternity. And we’re all tamping down these fires rising in our hearts for lesser loves that won’t satisfy. And while the swell of Maranatha, Come Quickly, Lord Jesus, is on our breath, we know too, there’s still work to be done in this space until He does.

If you’re in a relationship wrought with doubts and no assurance, I beg you, friend, step back. Don’t get married. I’ve been where you are and it’s agonizing. To accept the gift of doubt as a gift from the Spirit who desires to protect you is a humbling and hard, but to marry amidst doubts is a harder thing in the long run. God can bring assurance, I’ve seen Him do it, but how much better to trust the kind of assurance He can give in marriage is a picture of the kind He gives in salvation. No one can tell you what that assurance feels like. No one. Just as no one will stand before the throne of God to make account for your actions but you. But there’s this: God loves you and He wants you to be assured of His love. He loves you in your doubt but He doesn’t want you to stay in them. This is true of marriage too.

Marriage isn’t the only picture of the gospel, don’t let the preachers fool you. We’re all groaning in expectation and wait for the culmination of all things. And the knowing, when it comes, will be sweet and sure and absent of doubt. Wait for it, it’s coming.

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Spring 2019 Writing Mentorship

I am excited to announce year two of the Sayable Writing Mentorship. We begin on March 8th. Here’s what a few of 2018’s participants said about the guided mentorship:

“I cannot think of a way in which this course did not exceed my expectations. You served each of us so well over these last few weeks, pouring into our writing, sharing content that was both challenging and enlightening, and encouraging us as writers and followers of Christ.”

“It has been the single best thing for me as a writer. Pivotal.”

“It was cathartic, almost. I signed up to "find my voice" and "regain what I had lost." Lore took us on a journey to do just this. I found myself sitting and journaling after each reading. I highlighted pieces of her emails and tacked them onto my workspace so I would be reminded of why I was writing and who I was writing for. Her instruction was invaluable because she pointed us to authors and artists excelling in their field, and ultimately pointed us to Christ. My experience cannot be quantified.”

Before I issue the invitation to be a part of this year’s group, though, I wanted to say a few things.

If your aim is to be published, this is not the group for you. Most of the advice out there for folks who want to get published is all about making connections, networking, building a platform, getting an audience, etc. I don't want to disparage those efforts, but I think the thing our world is really thirsting for is not more writers, but better writers. Becoming better writers takes time, feedback, brutal honesty, humility, a willingness to edit and be edited, patience, the ability to hear the word no, and not see a no as a deterrent but instead as a tool to shape and hone writing.

I will not be helping you get published quick because I think quick publishing is one of the worst things that's ever happened to good writing. I will also not be connecting you with any publishing platforms or sharing your social links or blogs during these weeks. My job in this mentorship will be to help you become a better thinker, writer, and submitter of your own work on its own merits—not the merits of your story or who you know or wherever you think your work belongs. That said, most of the writers who went through the 2018 mentorship have seen remarkable growth in their reach, not only on their personal sites, but publishing on well known sites, essays in books, and a few book deals.

Now that we’ve talked about what this mentorship won’t be, what will it be?

It will be a place where you will exercise the muscles of non-fiction first person narrative writing (much like the sort you find on Sayable). We will not be doing fiction writing of any sort. These will be short and long essays. Let your personal ideas, thoughts, and perspectives flow. The best writers know what they think about all kinds of things, instead of simply regurgitating whatever research or popular opinion is floating about. What piques your interest? Gets you excited? Makes you sad? What do you fear? What are you willing to confess? What do you know about God? What do you not know about Him? This is the stuff we’ll talk about and work through. There are plenty of deeply theological writers out there whose lives are woefully uninspected, who find themselves caught off-guard in all kinds of pride and arrogance and fear and doubt and more because while they knew much about God, they overlooked inspecting their own hearts. Calvin said, “Nearly all the wisdom which we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.”

You will be annoyingly aggressive with your own writing. You will let others be annoyingly aggressive with your writing. You will edit, embellish, omit, and extend. You will “kill your darlings” and you will cradle them rarely. You will not force your words using cheap tricks like alliteration or cliche.

You should expect to commit about 15-45 minutes a day to writing, depending on how quickly you write and how much you procrastinate. There is also one book you’ll need to read, plus one article and podcast each week. Plan on spending about 2-3 hours a week on this.

You will need to purchase one of these books: On WritingWalking on WaterBird by Bird, or The Writing Life. It doesn’t matter which one, just pick one that looks most interesting to you. You will need to have it read by the beginning of week two, so buy it soon and get started.

You will need to find two people in your life who know you, flesh and blood, in real life (no online buddies), who will commit to reading a few of your pieces before you hand them in (as assigned). You will need to commit to listen to their advice. These should not be your mom or your aunt, unless your mom or aunt are handier with a red pen than they are with effusive praise.

You will need access to and familiarity with Google Docs as it will be our main tool. I will not be mentoring on how to use it. If you have questions, google them. I will explain more in the syllabus, but familiarity is a must.

The cost for this eight week mentorship is $250. You will need to paypal the entire amount before March 8, 2019, to have access to the group. Once you’ve applied and been accepted, I will send you the paypal information.

If you can do all this and want to commit, then by golly, I want you apply! Apply here by February 17th. I will let you know the final decision by February 22th. I will choose ten applicants and we will begin on March 8, 2019. Last year I received over 200 applicants within three days and closed the process earlier than I anticipated because I couldn’t wade through that many applicants. I won’t do that again this year but I am just setting a shorter deadline. I’m anticipating fewer applicants this year, so if you applied last year and want to be considered again, please apply! Get to work! I can’t wait to see your words.

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Second Wife, Second Life

Someone called me a second wife recently. I am not the offendable type and I took no notice of it until my husband later casually mentioned something about his first marriage. “It is true,” I thought, “I am the second.” The second wife, the second marriage, the second chance at death do us part. 

There was another wife, another human, another once best friend and I have never known her. She is not a part of our lives or our marriage, but she shaped the man I now call husband, for a third of his life. I have her to thank, in part, for the man he has become, the good and the bad.

I never dreamed of being a second wife, or of marrying a man who had been divorced. At twenty, twenty-one, twenty-six, the child of a crumbling marriage and then a messy divorce, I imagined marrying a man unsullied by the thing I hated more than anything: divorce. 

Yet in this marriage, I have never thought of myself as the second of anything. I am fully his wife, his only wife today, his one wife. 

Divorce is not usually the best choice and should never be the first choice, but sometimes the choice has been stripped from you and you’re the only one willing and working. When I was simply the child of divorce I could not understand it. I looked to both of my parents and the litany of faults fell equally on both sides. “If only he…” I thought. “If only she…” I reasoned. There was no sense to be made of their selfish choices to stop loving, stop respecting, stop listening. 

I suppose there is such a thing as no-fault divorce, but I have never seen one. 

Continue reading Second Wife, Second Life at Fathom Magazine

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