Thursday, July 9, 2015

It’s Been Quiet for a Reason

If you’ve been hanging out at Six Golden Coins for any length of time, you’ll notice that things have gotten a little quiet around here recently. I promise a good explanation!

Here’s the small answer: I’m finally, really, not-kidding-for-real writing a book! [Dude, it is terrifying to write that sentence and put this part of my heart out there in cyberland!]

The medium answer is: I’m writing a book and attending a conference called She Speaks. It’s a conference for writers, bloggers, speakers and ministry leaders. I will attend sessions focused on topics like giving books their titles, how to combat procrastination, how to write a chapter, and how to move forward in God’s calling.SS15_iamattending_button-01

The large answer is: I’m writing a book, attending a conference, PLUS I will be meeting with two publishing insiders, which means I will be pitching my book to them.

The Extra-Value-Meal answer is: I AM SCARED OUT OF MY MIND AND ALSO EXCITED BEYOND BELIEF. At any given moment of any given day, I have butterflies in my tummy that make me want to puke while feeling so jazzed that I want to giggle like a maniac. I feel so happy and in my groove while fighting my inner dialog and self talk that keeps saying “This is a BAD idea!”

This is not a new step in my life that I have taken lightly. (Surprising, huh? Ha.) I have a sister and husband and friends who have all but hit me over the head and dragged me towards this step. And I’m not gonna lie: there have been many days I have wanted to punch them in return for it! But I am endlessly grateful for them too, because I have learned so much about myself and God’s faithfulness and goodness through this process. I have cried on my driveway after opening letters from people who blessed me with encouragement only God could have sent. I have sat in a restaurant booth and been the recipient of grace in the form of monetary support. I have been texted and hugged and prayed over by friends. I have been encouraged and convicted by sermons from visiting pastors who had no idea the truth they spoke was being sowed deeply in my soul.

Oh, the grace God gives me – us! – is staggering! And it’s the only way I’ve made it this far, because once Dan and I made the decision and I registered for the conference, life got messy.

It started with a flooded basement and a subsequent basement reconstruction project in April. The day that job was finished in May, Dan had back surgery and spent a while at home recuperating. As soon as he returned to work, school ended and the kids have been home enjoying summer. That brought June which included a Holy Yoga retreat in Nashville for me, church camp for me and Katie, and sleep away camp for Jackson. June ended with a broken air conditioner and a big repair bill. Throw in a terrifying leap of faith, late hours writing my book and adding in a book proposal, and you’ll know why the ol’ blog has been kind of quiet.

It’s hard for me to sum up the stress and worries that came along with the events of that last paragraph, so I won’t. You can imagine.

Time is dwindling and there is still so much to do. I have kids to pack. And myself! I have a haircut to schedule and allergy-friendly food to buy. I have an adored sister arriving in a week, and a house that desperately needs cleaning before she pops in. I have two kids who are eager to have summer fun, while the rain has been incessant and the neighborhood pool is a barely-used fantasy. I have insurance deductibles and hospital bills and HVAC bills to pay. I have a dog who needs late-night baths because his paws are muddy (see: incessant rain) and tummy trouble got him.

“So. Much. To. Do.” These four words feel like my mantra lately.

But yesterday, four words started to replace those. These words are: “Be. Still. And. Know.” Psalm 46:10 appeared in random ways yesterday and today, and I think God is using “random” to speak to me. He’s calling my name and I’m trying to be a human BEing instead of my frantic rush to be a human DOing.

It might be a while until I post again. Never fear! I’m still here, plugging away and staying up late to type. Wish me luck and pray hard!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Broken, Blessed and Wet

So far, St. Louis in the summer of 2015 can be marked by one word for me: RAIN. It has rained so much, and I think I’ve mostly rolled with it. But tonight, I hit a wet wall on the way home and realized I am desperately missing sunshine. It made me start thinking of all the times I’ve prayed for relief from heat and sun, and the times I’ve wanted the opposite of what I have.

Sometimes, I treat my blessings like curses and vice versa.

In an effort to see things with a different perspective, I thought through what the rain might mean to different people.

The rain is a curse to farmers whose crops have rotted in the ground before the seeds were able to germinate and send a frail green shoot upward to gather what little sunshine cracks through the clouds.image4

The rain is an annoyance to outdoor businesses like Six Flags, who get very few customers on wet days. Only the crazies show up!image5

The rain is frustrating to kids’ sports programs when game after game gets rained out and the deadline for finishing the season is a week away, with more rain in the forecast. And it’s frustrating to the kids who desperately want to play and keep getting rescheduled!image8

May we all see our curses as blessings and have wisdom knowing what breaks us can serve to bless someone else.image3

The rain is a blessing to construction workers and lifeguards whose skin is usually scorched by the summer sun.image6

The rain is a boon to landscapers who are usually in a client lull by mid-July because the heat has scorched the lawns they are paid to mow.image2

May we all have wisdom to see our blessings can be a curse for someone else, knowing what blesses us can break another’s soul.image7

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Holy Yoga Soul Care Retreat

I attended my second Holy Yoga Soul Care Retreat the first weekend of June. It was in Nashville at the Scarritt Bennett Center. My friend Jill asked me to be the event photographer again, plus I had seven women schedule individual photography sessions with me. Here are my favorite photos from the weekend, after many hours of organizing and editing. I hope you can see God in these images and women’s faces, like I do!

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

To Katie on the Eve of Her 12th Birthday

Tomorrow, Katie turns 12. Two days ago, she wrote me a letter in a special journal we use to write each other back and forth. This blog post is her letter, and my response. [Note: We just spent five days at our church’s youth camp. I wasn’t assigned to Katie’s small group, but I got to spend some time with her and hang out and watch her with her friends.]

Dear Mommy,

I had so much fun at YC Camp spending time with you! I enjoyed the blob and spending time with all my besties! Thank you for caring for me when I hurt my foot, and offering a piggyback ride. I am so lucky to have you! I want to do this again next year, and I hope that it is at Lake Williamson! I am thankful that we can continue to grow in our love of Christ TOGETHER! We are going to keep calm and worship on! I love your love for Christ, like how you raise your hands and sing like nobody is watching. I have a desire to love Christ just like you! I love you so much! We are going to have so much fun telling D & J about our adventures!    ~Katie (Ketchup)

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Here’s the letter I wrote in response:

Oh, my Katie girl!

Your letter was better for me than any jewel or gifts or awards or prizes. Having you as my girl is like winning the grand prize championship of life! Nothing compares to the joy you shine into my life. Thank you for telling me how you see me – that you see Jesus in me. That is my life’s mission: to reflect Jesus to others. And I love that you, my daughter, can see Him in me!

Here’s something really great too: I CAN SEE JESUS IN YOU! I see Him in the way you sing about Him when you’re hanging out at home. I see Him in the way you light up around friends you love. I see Him when we have quiet pillow talk moments and you ask some of the hard questions of life. I see Him in you when you help out around the house or at Outreach or with a neighbor. Oh, Katie! The Lord has set you aside for a deep, loving work throughout your life. How exciting is that?!

Tomorrow is your birthday. It makes me think of the first day I met you, when nurses placed you on the hospital bed beside me. I looked in your eyes and saw an entirely new unexplored world opening up for me. You have shown me new paths of life that I never knew existed. This life isn’t always easy, but having Jesus beside me, God above me, the Holy Spirit inside me, and my magnificent family (you included!) with me makes it one fantastic life.

I love and adore you,

Mommy

Friday, April 10, 2015

Unending Love, Amazing Grace

I want to write. I love to write. I even have an idea for a book (or three). Slowly, I’m getting closer to making that dream less of an idea and more of a reality. And each time I take a step towards it, my fear of reality rachets up a few notches.

What if I make the effort to achieve my dream, and I fail miserably? What if I put all this effort into writing a book and NO ONE wants to read it? What do I do on the other side of failure when I don’t have that dream to fuel me any longer? And then the real terror sets in, because the fears transfer from my dreams and onto my value as a person. Who are YOU to write a book? You don’t know the first thing about that. Are you stupid? You don’t have anything of value to put in a book. Or a blog. Or even a LIFE, for that matter. You aren’t special. You aren’t worth listening to. And you certainly aren’t interesting, not even one little bit!

Dude. Just writing those sentences makes me want to close my laptop and curl into a ball, and never. write. again. – even to finish this blog post! The fear is real, and it’s paralyzing. And I’m so tempted to listen to the voice of the Dream Killer and stay in my comfy little life and simply stop.

But the shouts of fear can’t silence the whisper of God in my heart. So, for some crazy reason, I found myself in the Christian section at Barnes & Noble. I was doing some research to find out what kinds of books already exist that are similar to what I have in mind to write. Before I got to the bookstore, I figured my book idea was not exactly original but also not saturating the market. It turns out I wasn’t wrong, but I wasn’t right, either. I poked around and found books just like what I had in mind, and some that were even better.

I sat on the ground in front of the Christian section, and looked at this massive collection of books. There were books by Mother Teresa and Charles Spurgeon and A.W. Tozer and Lysa TerKeurst and Ann Voskamp and Shauna Niequist and Todd Eldredge and… and… and I felt hope seep out of me. I felt my dream curdling in my stomach, and the heaviness of failure before I had even started to give my dream any true weight.

After a time I got up and left the bookstore, full of negative self talk and words like, “You’ll never be…” and “No one would ever want you to…” and the worst of all: “After seeing all those books in the store, what do YOU have to offer, Elizabeth? There is nothing significant or worthwhile that you can add to the conversation. Those REAL authors in the store have captured the essence of God in theological ways your little, pitiful mind can never fathom. Don’t even THINK you can play in the big leagues with those rock stars! Everything important has already been written. Everything that matters has already been said. You have nothing valuable to add to the conversation, so shut up and sit down.”

Sidebar: as I’m typing this blog post, I just got a text from a friend. This is what she sent. Wow! What perfect timing!image1

Back to the story…

I left the bookstore, got in the car, berated myself, then started driving. That’s when the Holy Spirit convicted me and I realized I needed to change the route my mind was taking. I prayed out loud and said, “Okay, God. Let’s turn on some music so I can sing to You instead.” I turned on the local Christian radio station (JoyFM) and the notes from a song that has special meaning to me filled the car:

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost but now I’m found. Was blind but now I see.”

It’s a song that reminds me of my parents. And it’s a song that reminds me of God’s ability to change me because I no longer cry like a baby whenever I hear the song or sing it at church. And then the chorus of the song started playing:

“My chains are gone, I’ve been set free.

My God – my Savior – has ransomed me.

And like a flood, His mercy reigns.

Unending love, amazing grace.”

For a brief moment, I flashed back to the first time I heard that song and I was at the end of myself. That song was a lifeline for me that first day. Now on THIS day, in the car after leaving the bookstore, it became a lifeline again. As I was thanking God for that song on the radio at that specific moment in time when I needed it, He gently whispered to my heart and I realized this: I am so grateful that Chris Tomlin wrote a new version of the song Amazing Grace.

Do you think he ever thought, “Why keep writing music? Every note has already been played and every word has already been sung. And why should I take a song that’s already been written – Amazing Grace – and add anything to it? That song is a classic and there is nothing little ol’ me can add to it.”

But Chris Tomlin didn’t listen to the Dream Killer, and he wrote lyrics and music that deepened a classic spiritual hymn and made it fresh for a new generation of believers. When Chris Tomlin listened to God, God showed him how to write in a new way. A way that’s authentic to God’s call on Chris Tomlin’s life. And HIS life only, regardless of whether anyone else sang the songs or played the music.

For me, that last part is the key to silencing the Dream Killer. It doesn’t matter if I write a book or a blog or even a letter that no one publishes or compliments or even reads. The point is not doing something because of the way it’s received; the point is doing something because it’s what my Father has asked me to do.

If God has placed words on my heart and dreams in my head, then who am I to say His dreams are less important than mine? And what if, just maybe, God is so good and so loving that He makes sure to intersect His dreams with my own?

God has placed a passion in my heart that needs to be expressed. He has given me spiritual gifts that He intends for me to use, which makes those gifts a Gift I get to extend back to Him. How amazing that The Giver of All Gifts lavishes us with love that becomes an offering back to Him and ultimately glorifies Him? God is the best recycler/upcycler/regifter of all!

“Unending love, amazing grace.” Indeed!

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[A few weeks after my bookstore revelation, I got to attend the Chris Tomlin “Love Ran Red” concert tour. As he sang “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)” live, I took this photo. Look at the way people worship and sing along. It would have been a shame for Chris Tomlin to say no to writing a new arrangement of the hymn Amazing Grace. Thank You, God, for making all things new!]

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Provision and PayPal

Health insurance. Gah! I know I’m not the only one who is frustrated and annoyed with her insurance and what feels like a lack of benefits.

On Tuesday, Dan stopped off at home in the midst of a rain hail storm as he was on his way to a physical therapy appointment. I asked him about how he planned to pay for the appointment, since our Health Savings Account had been tapped dry the week before. We talked about the lack of funds compared to the abundance of bills, and then I bemoaned a bill that had not even been incurred yet: my annual eye exam and contact lenses.

I’ve already made my lenses stretch for as long as possible (Yes, I’m guilty of – gasp! – wearing my daily lenses for more than a day. The horror!), but I’m down to a short supply and it’s time to bite the bullet and order more. While talking with Dan, I said, “The HSA is empty and contacts will cost $300. Where are we going to find that?”

In the back of my head, I already had an answer.

I met with a friend last week and we discussed a regular photography gig. She offered to hire me to photograph property as a part of her job. It intrigued me, and I told her I would pray about it. I tucked the idea into my heart, asked God to mull it over for me and let me know what He thinks I should do. While I don’t think that gig would be my ultimate employment answer, I do think it would provide income while I’m pursuing other callings from God (creative photography, writing, preparing a book). It looked like a good idea to me, but I wanted to sit on it and wait for God to confirm it.

Then bills started huffing at the corner of my shoulder and my unemployment guilt started elbowing me in the ribs a couple extra times. Add in a $300 need for contacts, and I felt like it was time to get back on the horse and pursue that photography gig. Dan left for his appointment before I voiced any of this, but I figured I could approach it with him later that night.

I went about my morning and tackled my To Do list. One of the tasks involved ordering a copy of a sports identification card so Katie can play on her softball team. Payment was required through PayPal, so I logged into my account to make sure I had the $5 to cover the order. The last time I checked, the account balance was less than $20. I figured I had at least $5 left. I was wrong.

The account balance was $300. Let me repeat that: THE ACCOUNT BALANCE WAS THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS.

Immediately, my mind raced back through past transactions and I couldn’t think of any reason there would be $300 in my account. I opened the screen that lists every transaction for the last 14 months, and got out my calculator and did the math. THREE TIMES. I should only have $16 in that account! So I called PayPal and spoke to a woman named Sandra. I started by saying I don’t understand my account balance. I’m pretty sure she must have flinched, because her response to my next words (“There’s money there that wasn’t there before!”) was: “Oh! Usually people call in here mad, but you’re not mad!” I chuckled and told her I wasn’t mad, but I needed her to help me understand how this money appeared. She went through the transactions too, and said the $300 is legit and I must have forgotten some money from long ago. Regardless of where it came from, the $300 is actually mine and I can spend it. I sputtered, “But there’s no way to explain how it got there!” She again confirmed that it IS there and it’s not a mistake.

Then I told her I was just talking to my husband about medical bills and needing $300, and she said, “Girl, the Lord works in mysterious ways!” To which I replied, “Amen, sister! He really does! I can’t believe He even works through PayPal!” I’m pretty sure our call was the highlight of her day, because it was definitely mine!

And now, there is a $295 balance in my PayPal account. (I used $5 to pay for the ID card, remember?) But even more than the $295, I received something of much greater value: I had a specific need and God gave me a specific answer. “I will provide for you, Elizabeth. Do not go running off, searching out your own solutions to problems. Sit. Wait. Give me time to work and I will bless you in ways that don’t make sense and can’t be proven with math or scientific reasoning or logic. I AM and I am providing for you. Trust me, dear one!”

In my life, I’ve heard people tell stories about being in financial need and God bailing them out in ways that seem “random” (unclaimed money or a neighbor dropping off a “random” gift card or a long-forgotten I.O.U. that gets paid or an anonymous donor paying for Lyme Disease treatment). I love hearing stories like that because it is always obvious to me that God isn’t random and His provision isn’t a coincidence. It’s an easy thing for me to say when a person is telling me a story about their “coincidence.” But when the “coincidence” happens to ME and God gives me a first-person reminder that He is taking care of me in ways I didn’t even bother to ask Him to, my mind is blown and I am left shaking my head in wonder at His might and majesty.

Later that day, I told a friend about finding God’s provision through PayPal and explained to her how I had been on the verge of taking on a new gig as my solution to a problem. She wisely pointed out that God is telling me to sit still and keep waiting through this unemployment, and He will lead me to the place He has prepared for me. It doesn’t mean this gig is a NO, but it does mean I don’t have to keep running around making my own answers to problems without waiting for God to confirm it first.

I can’t explain how thankful I am that God is a persistent God who speaks in ways meant only for me. He is generous, patient, and faithful to keep His promises to provide! (Psalm 54:4, Jer. 29:11)  And while I know $300 is merely a drop in the bucket (some people are in much greater need) and we aren’t in dire straits and we will get by, it’s reassuring and encouraging to know that God cares about even the smallest worries that stick like Velcro to my soul. Thank You, Abba!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Catastrophes = TROPHIES

Ten years ago, we had half of the basement finished. The day the carpet was installed, I grabbed some Sharpies and wrote lyrics, scriptures, and quotes all over the concrete before it was covered up. I also wrote a letter to the person who would uncover it next, not relaxing that person would be ME.IMG_0407

Yesterday, when our basement flooded, this was the first quote I saw when the carpet was pulled back. Right next to it was the entirety of Psalm 23. It spoke calm to me in the midst of a very stressful moment, and I'm so grateful that Elizabeth-of-Ten-Years-Ago was weird enough to go writing things on concrete. Elizabeth-of-Today needed the reminder that life is more than a series of catastrophes. Not only are WE bigger than anything that can happen to us, but GOD is!

Catastrophes = TROPHIES for God's glory and mercy.

[And for you @crossingstl folks, the Sharpie quotes were written 3 years before we ever stepped into church. I love that God placed me in a church that speaks my Sharpie love language, before I even knew there was such a thing!]

Friday, April 3, 2015

Tetelestai

IMG_0060I started Good Friday by reading John's account of the crucifixion to my children. It's hard for them to not skip ahead to Easter, because they are used to living in an Easter world. Oh, how we all take hope for granted!

Today, may we rest in tetelestai, the last word on our Savior's lips. He says it is finished. The debt is paid and we can claim lavish freedom we don't deserve. Tetelestai means we get to go HOME one day. Thank you, Jesus.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Katie is Hooked on Holy Yoga

Katie attended her first Holy Yoga class with me this week. She loved it so much that she asked for her own yoga mat in her room. This morning we started the day with Pigeon and Child’s Pose while the sunrise came through the windows. Bliss!

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Tomorrow Starts Tonight

Words of wisdom to my 11 year old daughter. At bedtime, we talked about rest tonight bringing calm tomorrow.

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