Five Minute Friday: Surprise

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

They say that sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came. (Thanks, Gary Portnoy).

That’s the #FMFParty for me.

I’m coming up on two years with this crew. Never let anyone tell you that God can’t use the blogosphere to bring His people together to encourage and uplift each other as they seek to glorify Him.

This week, Kate says: surprise.

Go.

I wrote a book.

And now I’ve been starting at a blinking cursor for a million seconds because I don’t know what to say about that. The final word scooted across the final page on Monday around 4:30 p.m. It’s a first draft. It’s not ready for human consumption. I’m not going to tell you what it’s about.

But I wrote a book.

It’s funny what happens when we choose obedience. I fought this book. It deals with a controversial topic. I didn’t want to “go there.” I don’t want to make people mad. But when I quit fighting, quit stalling…surprise. The words came. The puzzle pieces fit together into one complete picture.

It’s hard, but joyously hard.

The strain of doing something that you love. The reach to make it better. The pulling and twisting of muscles. The agonies of doubt and the ecstasies of the perfect turn of phrase.

God is full of surprises. His plans are so very good. Even if this thing never sees the light of day, I’m glad I did it. Am doing it, really, because now the self-editing process begins. Hacking the beloved thing to pieces. I have seen a new part of Him. I have felt the sheer delight of the Holy Spirit as He dances in my soul, happy because I walk in accordance with His will. I have discovered a new part of myself. I am a fighter. I am a finisher.

And I am surprised.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo credit: Jared Erondu

Five Minute Friday: Quiet

in quietness and in trust shall be your strength...

Gentle Reader,

I missed my people.

I don’t regret retreating from this space. Obedience is always good, even when it’s hard. It always feels right. But while it’s freeing, in this season, to focus on other words in other places, I miss joining the #FMFParty chat with regularity. (Yes, I know it’s only been two weeks). I miss interacting with them and you. I even miss opening that vein that all writers cut time and time again, spilling it across the page for public consumption.

That’s what happens when you release the good for the better. You miss the good. And that’s okay, because it’s still there. Something to come back to, even if it’s not exactly the same.

Tonight Kate moves us to discuss: quiet.

Go.

Public platforms, no matter how small, require noise.

And so going quiet was a conscious decision to trust in the Lord and His timing.

I thought I’d be further along on this writing path than I am. Fifteen years ago, if I imagined being in my early thirties at all, surely there published books or a respected career as journalist involved in the dreaming. That’s the thing – I could have done it. Oh, not the published book part. But the journalism part, that was realistic. I was on that track. I would have been successful. There’s no boasting involved here. I had wanted to write for a newspaper for years. Pursue the stories. Break the news. I had the talent and the drive.

Then God.

Didn’t recognize Him at the time. Didn’t see the graceful motions of His hands, ushering me onto the road He had designed for me.

A quiet road.

By degrees He has made me smaller. I have worried, wondered, if this means lesser. But what is “lesser” in the Kingdom of God? “Lesser” is meaningless when considered in the light of glory. His fame, His name, is what matters. Mine will blow away like the dust, remembered by few, if any at all. Once, this frightened me. Now…I wonder if there is not untold richness and blessing in obscurity. In the letting go of one’s ego, He becomes bigger. Not that He is ever not larger than everything. I simply get out of my own way and begin to see, just a little, how grand He truly is.

So I turn my energy to this other project, one that may only be seen by Him alone. I trust Him. I have faith that even if the tapping and the researching and the editing and the beginning again are nothing more than an exercise of faith that it will be worth it. Even if my headshot never appears on a glossy cover. Even if I’m never recognized by anyone “important.”

I go quiet here to be louder there and even that may be silence in the end.

But He knows.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)

Joy in the Simple

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Benny the obese PomChi breathes deeply next to me, lost in whatever dreamland dogs enter in sleep. Blue the wiener dog slumbers as well, in the recliner across the room, curled up in what we call the “crabby ball.” Potato soup simmers in the slow cooker, ready to take its place at dinnertime; a nice hot meal on a cold, gray day. Neatly wrapped presents (full disclosure: my husband handled those) nestle next to colorful gift bags topped with delicate tissue paper (my work) beneath the tree. Clear twinkle lights cast warm light, reflecting off of the white glitter snowflakes my parents purchased for their first Christmas tree. I tried having a decorative theme at one point, but its all lost in a jumble of homemade ornaments, obnoxious nutcrackers that Chris collects specifically because they creep me out and, of course, Batman.

Because who wouldn’t want Batman on the tree?

In my denomination, this third week of Advent focuses on joy. We tend to hyper-spiritualize that word. Joy is somehow “better” than happy, because joy transcends circumstance. Happy is an emotion. Joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit.

Except that the word is defined as “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.”

God cares about our happiness. He wants us to experience a feeling of great pleasure. This matters so much to Him that His Holy Spirit actually works to develop this quality, this feeling, inside us. No, He doesn’t give us what we want all the time. As they say, He is not a vending machine. Nor does He function as some fearful, boundary-less parent who has given His children free reign. Instead, He gives us new eyes. He shifts our perspective. We begin to see blessing in each day. We begin to feel joy even in the darkest moments.

It’s not automatic. The indwelling of the Spirit does not render us robots. We have choices. We can reject the beauty and the light. We can decide that we’re just going to be cranky and hate everything and nothing will ever be good again and it all sucks so why even try? I do that more than I like to admit.

But God will not be denied. As we have choices, so does He. We may choose to close our eyes to Him and throw a fit, but He’s still there. He does not leave us. He stands ready to show us something wonderful in every moment. Willing to hold us close. More than capable of whispering precious things into our souls, things that keep us buoyed throughout the tempest.

Chances are very good that an upper gastrointestinal scope is in my near future. I woke up with a slightly sore throat that has worsened throughout the day. It’s difficult not to give in to pessimism and despair.

My eyes linger on the lights. My ears are soothed by the rhythm of canine breathing. My nose is tantalized by the scents coming from the kitchen.

My body is still falling apart.

So it will be this side of Heaven.

But in this moment, I choose the joy. I choose to see what He sees. I am thankful for the warmth of my small, cozy home. I take pleasure in the Christmas tree. I wiggle my toes inside the heavy socks and lined slippers. I’m always cold these days, so I’m glad for the fuzzy blanket and the puffy vest. I appreciate disgusting herbal cough drops.

All very simple.

All very good.

My journey to faith. (15)