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!


[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


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!


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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