Striving to Surrender

Thoughts jumble, words stammer, prayers tangle on my tongue as I wrestle. As I wrestle with myself. As I wrestle with my fears. As I wrestle with the Enemy who prowls and seeks to devour, who seeks to steal my joy and imbue my moments with darkness and doubts.

But faith is bigger than fear and He who lives in me is greater than he who lives in the world.

This is what I know. This is what I believe. This is what is true. Even so, I struggle to quiet the voice of doubt and to focus my eyes on Jesus and to trust these words.

Sometimes I find it ironic that despite how many Scripture verses I’ve hidden in my heart and that I can call to mind, my automatic response to stress and uncertainty and difficult circumstances is to be anxious.night sky

Cast all your cares on Jesus, I tell myself. And I do. But then, my natural response takes over and I sense the anxiety skitter out from the shadows of my mind to distract and misdirect my steps and my thoughts {again}.

Do not be anxious about anything, I remind myself, but by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. And I do. Fervently, repeatedly. And the peace that passes all understanding settles on me, cloaks me like a warm, familiar blanket and I rest a moment. But then, my mind wanders off, preoccupied with worry and what ifs.

Pray ceaselessly, I repeat to myself. And I do. Well, at least I try. I try to make prayer like breathing, because really I need both to live the life that Jesus calls me to daily. To live the abundant life Jesus promises me. But then, my natural tendencies get in my way, clogging my thoughts with the worries, with the cares, with doubts and the fears. And, as my praying falters, so does my sense of peace and the relaxed breathing.

I can do all things through Him who gives me strength, I say. I know this because I have faced moments that seemed impossible, that were impossible, as I faced them in my own strength, trying to figure things out with my own schemes.

I just need to figure out _________. I cannot count the number of times this phrase passes my lips each day, completely contradicting all that I know about God. Completely contradicting everything He has shown me over the days of my life, especially the ones that held seemingly impossible challenges or obstacles.

Like Moses and the Israelites, He has ushered me through the Red Seas upon whose shores I have stood feeling trapped by circumstances and enemies. Trapped by the Enemy.

But the amazing thing about God is that even in the worst moments, the ones in which I have willingly, obligingly, freely followed the Enemy into the muck and mire of temptation and sin, God has always provided me a way out. I haven’t always taken it, but it has always been there.

muddy feetAnd sometimes that muck and mire, that temptation and sin isn’t as obvious as dating a married man and committing adultery. Sometimes it’s the subtlety of giving in to my anxious thoughts and letting fear paralyze me. It’s the unbelief and the surrender to anything that isn’t a full surrender to Jesus, isn’t it?

And that is where I have found myself today in my wrestlings as I’ve sifted thoughts and fought for words but settled for groans of the Spirt and snippets of prayer phrases offered from my broken and contrite heart, from my complete surrender to the One who not only knows the number of hairs on my head but also knows what tomorrow brings.

That’s why, despite my wrestling, despite my repeated reminders to myself of the Truth and the seeming miserable failing in that effort, I found myself rejoicing. Why? Because it means that where I am and what I’m doing has rattled the Enemy from his complacent slumber. He’s worried. And so he’s on the move, on the prowl.

He and I, we’ve done this Tango before. And too often he has steered me off the path, led me into the muck and the mire and the mess.

But today?

Today I have rejoiced because I am redeemed and I am a daughter of the King and I am striving to surrender all of me to all of Jesus. Striving to surrender, isn’t that a great description? And because I’ve been planting the seeds of God’s Word daily and asking God to help me pray and seeking His face, Jesus is claiming victory over me today.

And the Enemy? He’s not happy about that.

So, know, my friends, if you’re faltering, if you’re struggling, if you’re facing things that seem impossible, claim the Truth because you’ve got the Enemy on the ropes and he knows who’s going to win. And, *spoiler alert* it’s not him.

 

Writing Sprint: A Verbal Dance

Writing Wednesdays & A Writing Sprint link up

Because I’m a writer & storyteller and enjoy weaving words together into tapestries of stories both real and imagined, I’ve dedicated Wednesdays to my creative writing. As my current work-in-progress lingers in edits, I am working through the Writing Sprint Prompts to keep my writing muscles from getting lazy.

As always, the Writing Sprint prompt appears at the end of this post and offers an opportunity for you to freewrite for 15 to 30 minutes without the so-called help of your inner critic. No overthinking. No stopping. No editing. No worries. Daily writing exercises help writers grow, improve and free their writing. The only rule is that you must leave a comment for at least one other writer who’s included their link. That’s it. Other than, free yourself from your doubts, your fears and your inner critic and have some writing fun with us!

{oh, and a quick p.s. If you’re joining the link up, please grab the Writing Sprint logo below and include it on your blog post, along with a link back to this page. Thanks!}

laptopWriting Sprint Prompt: A Verbal Dance: Not Quite a Fight

{Before I get started, I will say that in order to keep my writing within the 15 to 30 minute time, I have created a playlist on Spotify that allows me to put together songs that come close to 30 minutes. When the final note plays on the last song…I stop writing}

{start}

Will You Help Me?

“You need to call the police,” Jacob said, punctuating his declaration with a slurp of coffee from the white styrofoam cup and burning his tongue. “Damn!”

“That’s definitely one option,” Isabel replied, wrapping her hands tighter around her own coffee

“It’s the only option,” Jacob said. He gazed at her over the rim of his cup.

“Okay. But just hear me out–“

“Isabel–“

“Jacob. Wait.” Isabel held her hand up between them. She glanced at the digital clock on her coffee pot where her morning pot of coffee stood cold and dark. “It’s only seven forty-two. I could take a few hours and try to find out what’s going on.”

“And just how do you propose to do that?”

“I don’t know. She must have some form of identification on her–“

Jacob groaned. “This is insane, Isabel.”

Isabel took a small step toward him and locked her eyes onto his. “No, Jacob, what’s insane is the fact that there is a dead girl in my living room and I have no idea how she got there.”

“Which is exactly why you need to call the police and let them handle this.”

“And I will, but not yet,” she said. “All I want is a little time. Come on, Jacob, what cop in his right mind isn’t going to assume I’m somehow involved?”

“Okay, yeah, maybe,” Jacob conceded. “But, Is, if you start messing around with things, it’s going to be a whole lot more difficult to convince anyone – cops, reporters, family.” He let the last word hang in the air between them so Isabel could fully absorb the impact of it. Her mother. Her mother would have no problem believing Isabel was not only involved but capable of doing something so rash, so random.

After a moment, Jacob continued. “She’ll be only too happy to go on every show, interview with every local or national reporter.”

“I’ll be a nightmare,” Isabel said. She looked past Jacob as if she could see her mother giving an interview. She slammed her styrofoam cup on the counter, sloshing coffee over her hand, the counter, the floor. Suddenly, she turned back toward Jacob. “Why do the police have to know I found her this morning?”

Jacob shook his head. “No–“

She ignored him. “I can say I was out late, stayed at a friend’s place, didn’t get back here for several more hours. And even then, went right to my room, showered, never went near the living room until I came home after work.”

Jacob covered her hand lightly with his. “And what will you say when they want to know where you stayed? And it’ll be pretty easy to find out you didn’t go to work today. And what about Wendy?”

“There’s got to be something I can do,” she argued.

“Is, did you come and get me because you wanted me to help you or because you wanted me to talk you out of doing this?

“I want you to help me,” she said.

“That’s what I want, too.”

{stop}

 

This Week’s Writing Sprint: A Verbal Dance: Not Quite a Fight

Write a scene using mostly dialog in which your characters have a difference of opinion but not an all out argument. Is he trying to convince the other person of something? Does he succeed? Or does he come to accept the other point of view? Use the dialog to show the relationship the characters share.

Give us what you’ve got with as much detail and dialog as you can muster in 15 to 30 minutes. And most of all, have fun. Free your writer from your inner critic. When you’re done, come back and link up what you’ve got! And remember to give some encouragement to at least one other person in the link up community. You can post to the link up party until next Tuesday night. Hope to read you there!

Get Ready and Be Amazing

{this post is part of an awesome Five-Minute Friday flash writing mob at Kate Motaung’s site, Heading Home. It’s fun, it’s freeing, it’s fearless.}

Today’s word: Ready

{Go}

Get ready.

Are you ready?

I don’t think I’m ready.

For college.

For where this path is leading.

For Boston.

For the next thing.

For sex.

For waiting – for love, for sex, for commitment.

sweet gum ballFor my dreams.

For marriage.

For moving to Lexington, Kentucky {or Cincinnati, Ohio or Plainville, Massachusetts or Tryon, North Carolina}.

For teaching freshmen how to write at the college level.

For meeting your little girl, my step-daughter {what if…}

For turning 40.

For having a baby {or a second one}.

For pregnancy or parenting.

For what comes next. It’s prickly and unknown and scary and I’m just not ready.

We never truly feel ready, do we? I know I don’t. Especially when it’s about big things. Meaningful things.

But there it is. Set before us. And we can either turn away and say, I’m not ready, or we can run full force toward what God has set before us and claim it as ours. Just as He intended.

You might not be ready for the next step, the next small thing, the next big thing.

But God is.

God stands ready.

Even when we’re not.

Even when we’re afraid, shaking down to our core so that we can feel our teeth chatter in the tips of our toes.

Even when we don’t think we can.

God is ready. And He is holding out His hand to us. To you. To me.

And he’s asking…

Are you ready to thrive?

Because I’ve got news for you. It’s time. It’s your time.

Get ready to thrive.

Get ready.

Because things are about to get amazing.

{stop}

What five-minute friday is all about: We are a community of bloggers who write on one word for five minutes and link up their posts and it is a lot of fun. No editing. Just writing. Then link up your post with the rest of the brave writers on Five-Minute Friday and encourage them by reading and commenting on what they’ve shared. {All the details for how it works are here.}

Created in His Image

Tonight, I am thinking about my beautiful and amazing 6.5 year old little girl. I am thinking about who she is and whose she is. I am thinking about how God knew her long before I did. In fact, He knew her long before I came into the world. He knew her strengths. He knew her challenges. He knew her gifts and her strengths and her heart because He placed all of them in her when He created her.

baby BAnd He knew that she would enter my life when she did, how she did and He knows who she will become.

He trusted me with His precious creation, His precious daughter, His masterpiece.

He knew that we would be the right fit, she and I. That we would challenge each other, but that we would love each other fiercely. He knew how much of me to put in her to help me work out my flaws, my weaknesses, parts of my brokenness. He knew that iron sharpens iron and so He gave us each other to serve that purpose in our lives as we serve one another in love.

She is only 6.5, but she is resilient and she is courageous and she is fragile and she is timid. And she is mine to watch over and to guide and to protect and to disciple.

She is a priceless gift for whom Jesus paid the highest price.

She is created in His image.

He knows the number of hairs on her head and He knows the words she will speak and He knows what she needs even if she has no idea how to express it.

And she is mine to guard and to shepherd and to meet her needs. To nurture her heart and her soul and her dreams.

He cares for her and for the details of her days. Even at 6.5 He cares about her needs and her concerns and her struggles and her desires. He cares about her struggles with having a younger sister or having new ballet shoes that are the wrong color pink.

And so He entrusted her to me so that I could take her to Waffle House and buy her and her little sister chocolate chip waffles and let them laugh and play and smile. And breathe.

He cares for her.

He cares for me.

He cares for me as I watch her struggle because her ballet shoes are the wrong color and the dance class is doing things differently this year and change is difficult when your 6.5 and your feelings get so beyond B-I-G that you cannot understand them or control them. {heck, change is difficult no matter your age, sweet girl}

His thoughts about her number more than the grains of sand in the desert. He cares for her, He loves her and He created her. She is fearfully and wonderfully made. She is complex and incredible and gifted by God.

my girl

I will celebrate her. I will empower her. I will walk beside her and shepherd her and I will speak life to her heart and to her dreams and to her soul.

Jesus, thank you.

Thank you for this incredibly sweet, incredibly fierce, incredibly spirited girl who reflects so much of you and so much of me.

My sweet girl, may you always know you are so much more than you can imagine at this moment because you are God’s sweet girl and you are created in His image. You are God’s masterpiece, my love. Wholly and absolutely God’s masterpiece. And when you forget that, I will be here to remind you.

Writing Sprint: Telling It with Things

Writing Wednesdays & A Writing Sprint link up

Because I’m a writer & storyteller and enjoy weaving words together into tapestries of stories both real and imagined, I’ve dedicated Wednesdays to my creative writing. As my current work-in-progress lingers in edits, I am working through the Writing Sprint Prompts to keep my writing muscles from getting lazy.

As always, the Writing Sprint prompt appears at the end of this post and offers an opportunity for you to freewrite for 15 to 30 minutes without the so-called help of your inner critic. No overthinking. No stopping. No editing. No worries. Daily writing exercises help writers grow, improve and free their writing. The only rule is that you must leave a comment for at least one other writer who’s included their link. That’s it. Other than, free yourself from your doubts, your fears and your inner critic and have some writing fun with us!

{oh, and a quick p.s. If you’re joining the link up, please grab the Writing Sprint logo below and include it on your blog post, along with a link back to this page. Thanks!}

laptopWriting Sprint Prompt: No Ideas, But in Things

{Before I get started, I will say that in order to keep my writing within the 15 to 30 minute time, I have created a playlist on Spotify that allows me to put together songs that come close to 30 minutes. When the final note plays on the last song…I stop writing}

{start}

Not Today

Jenna locked the door, checked it once, then again, and then again before moving quietly into the living room. Remaining as much of a shadow as she could in the dimly lit room, she moved from window to window, closing the blinds and backing her way back to the middle of the small, one-bedroom apartment.

More roughly than she intended, Jenna displaced the cat from the sofa and sunk into its overstuffed cushions, her tiny form swallowed up by the navy blue pseudo suede fabric and with a swift motion, she kicked off her black pumps, squeezed herself into the corner with the pillows ad pulled her knees in tightly to her chest until she was as small as she could make herself. With each deep breath she could smell the cigarette smoke that clung to her hair and her clothes from the coffee shop.

The cat meowed indignantly from his place on the area rug by her head. With a shaky hand, she scratched him behind the ears for a moment.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “Forgive me?” With several short, quick kissing sounds and a few pats of her hand on the cushion beside her, she coaxed the insulted tabby onto the couch with her.

Her hands still shaking, Jenna shoved one under the pillows beside her and smoothed the cat’s fur with precise, deliberate strokes. After several moments, she twisted the loose-fitting watch around on her tiny wrist and squinted at the pale blue face. Ten-twenty-seven. She brought the watch up to her ear, then, after another moment lowered it and rubbed the crystal with her thumb.

Outside her third floor apartment door a floorboard squeaked. She and the cat responded likewise – heads and eyes darted to the door. Jenna rubbed the watch face harder and squeezed her knees tighter into her body. Slowly, her hand shaking even more, she reached up for the lamp switch on the table beside her and with a quick turn everything went dark. She hugged the cat closer despite her protests and peered into the darkness, her eyes glued to the door and the bolts.

Another squeak and then heavy footsteps. She squeezed the cat, stroking her with quick, short movements while she squirmed to free herself. The footsteps faded away, down the hall and then down the stairs, their echo beating loudly in her ears in time to her heart. Finally, Jenna released her hold on the cat who jumped to the floor, her tail flicking left and right to signal her indignation as she sat and licked at the fur Jenna had been patting. Jenna sat statue still for several long moments focusing on each breath, a thumb lightly touching her watch before reaching up to the lamp and clicking the three way bulb onto its lowest setting. The cat blinked up at her.

Jenna looked at the pale blue watch face. Ten-thirty-six. She took one final deep breath.

“Not today,” she whispered to the cat. “It won’t be today.”

{Stop}

This Week’s Writing Sprint: No Ideas, But in Things

Write a very brief story told only in images – concrete, simple, visually efficient movements and details. This exercise does not ask you to eliminate people from your prose, just to watch what they do and what objects they crave and caress rather than what they say or think about these objects or actions.

Give us what you’ve got with as much detail and dialog as you can muster in 15 to 30 minutes. And most of all, have fun. Free your writer from your inner critic. When you’re done, come back and link up what you’ve got! And remember to give some encouragement to at least one other person in the link up community. You can post to the link up party until next Tuesday night. Hope to read you there!

A Desperate Pursuit

Have you ever felt desperate?

Desperate for something?

For something to change. For something to happen.

Desperate.

I have. In fact, it’s how I feel right now.

Desperate for a dream to take shape.

Desperate to discover my passion, my purpose, the direction I’m meant to travel.

Desperate for change.

Desperate for something that I cannot put words to, if that makes sense.

As I have reflected on and meditated on this deep sense of desperation, I have come to realize that what I am desperate for is something more than any of these things.

I am desperate for God.

a reminderAs I have pursued living a life of abandon in which I surrender all of me to all of God, I have realized what an incredible and seemingly difficult challenge it is to surrender. To give up control and to give in to God.

My efforts to surrender are too often interrupted by my desires for the things of this world, the things I can see, hear, touch and experience. I am too often fueled by my need to create something, prove something, accomplish something. And while those are not bad things, they become a stumbling block if they overshadow God in my life.

In other words, I have realized how desperate I am for Him. For the One who created me. For the Author of my story and my faith and my dreams. This journey of surrender reminds me how much I need Jesus and how little I need the things that I tend to yearn for, that I tend to long for, that I tend to pour my time and energy and strength into.

Maybe that’s why I feel like I am not moving forward on my dreams or my vision.

Because lately I’ve found that when I focus on my dream, on trying to discern the specifics of my dream, I feel desperate. I feel behind. I feel like I am losing ground, not building my dream.

I feel desperate so much of the time.

Except.

Except when I spend time with Jesus.

Except when I read His Word.

Except when I soak in His presence and His promises and His thoughts.

Except when I delight in Him.

Except when I sit at His feet.

Except when I trade being Martha busy in the kitchen for being Mary who sits rapt in His life-giving Truths.

And then, I can breathe.

And then, I experience that peace that passes all understanding. Really experience it, deep into my soul and to the center of my bones.

And I am reluctant to lose that peace.

I am reluctant to leave His presence and lose myself in the busy and the building and the chasing and the world.

Does that make sense?

It’s starting to for me.

When I hold His Word in my hands and hide it in my heart, my desperation begins to fade, to lessen.

And I find that I crave Jesus. I yearn for Him in a way that I tend to yearn for accolades or attention or success.

And so I am thankful that I’ve been feeling desperate lately.

Because I’m finally learning the difference between desperation that comes from living in the world and desperation that comes from pursuing surrender and pursuing Jesus.

A Change of Reflection

{this post is part of Five-Minute Friday at Kate Motaung’s site, Heading Home}

Today’s word: Change

{Go}

She stands in front of the mirror taking in her reflection.

She is a woman, a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a writer.

She is flawed. She is broken. She is beautiful.

But is that what she sees?

mirrorAs she looks at her reflection, she catalogs her flaws, her weaknesses, the things she needs to change.

You are my masterpiece.

She sees yesterday’s mistakes, the things she wishes she’d done better.

My mercies are new every morning.

She sees a mother who got angry and yelled at her children.

My grace is sufficient.

She sees a wife who struggles to trust and to forgive at times.

You can do all things through me and my strength.

She sees a woman without a passion or a purpose and wonders if she’ll ever do anything that matters.

I created good works for you and you alone to do long before I created the world.

She sees lies, she sees a distorted reflection. She sees through tears and struggles and worry and comparisons and lies; so many lies.

I see your heart, your purpose, your passion. I see my plans for you, my purpose, my Son’s redeeming blood that covers you.

She stares at her reflection, yearning to change so many things.

You are a new creation in me. You are becoming all that I created you to be.

The reflection in the mirror is not her, not who she thinks she is or will be.

The reflection in the mirror is Him. His Truth.

Trust me. Follow me. Seek me.

And so she does. For this day. For this moment. She surrenders all she is to all He is.

{stop}

 

What five-minute friday is all about: We are a community of bloggers who write on one word for five minutes and link up their posts and it is a lot of fun. No editing. Just writing. Then link up your post with the rest of the brave writers on Five-Minute Friday and encourage them by reading and commenting on what they’ve shared. {All the details for how it works are here.}