The Time Is Now

In previous posts I’ve mentioned I’m working on a book. I’ve been working on this book for nearly seven years, and on many occasions, I’ve wondered if I would ever complete it.

Last week, a good friend bought me a gift: a mug declaring in bold letters “THE TIME IS NOW.”

I doubt the publishing process is what she had in mind with the gift, but the message certainly fits. I signed a contract a month ago with a publisher. For a while, not much was required from me to move the project forward, and it was easy to forget all that’s happening. Today, I am completing my review of the first round of revisions from the publisher, and I’ve been in contact with him about cover designs and finalizing a title. Suddenly, the reality is sinking in: soon, I will be a published author!

After years of doubting whether I would finish the book (or have the courage to publish it), the time is now. I am excited. I am scared. I wonder who will read it and whether they will like it. I imagine criticisms I will receive, and sometimes, I think of positive comments I might receive. (Why is it always so easy to imagine the worst and forget to dream of the best outcomes?) If I allowed the onslaught of thoughts and feelings to overwhelm me, I’d never take the next step of the process; I wouldn’t have started the process in the first place!

The time is now to take a step. The book is one area of my life where the time has arrived. I may have to take steps in other areas in the near future. Sometimes, these steps feel like leaps off a ledge more than a small stride forward. Fear is a close companion in these times of uncertainty. “What if…?” can become a debilitating question if allowed. Thankfully, the One directing the steps can be trusted!

Could it be time for you to take a step? I would wager most of us have some place in our lives where God is waiting for us to move, but He won’t force us to take a step.  We get to choose whether and when we move forward. We don’t want to move ahead of God, so it’s essential to seek His wisdom and timing. However, if fear is what’s keeping us in the same place, waiting for it to pass will keep us stuck forever. Sometimes, we just have to take a deep breath and step into the unknown with God, believing He is with us no matter what the outcome!

For some of us, I’m sure:

MUG

Hope Found in a Jigsaw Puzzle

One of my favorite things to do when I have a couple of days with nothing pressing is get out a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. Depending on the difficulty, I will often spend 2-3 days straight doing little besides eating, sleeping, and standing over the table, looking for where each piece fits. There is such a feeling of accomplishment when I see the whole picture completed.

When I visited my family in the USA last year, my mum bought me a puzzle to bring home as a Christmas gift. So, just after Christmas, when I knew I had some days free, I ripped off the plastic and excitedly started working on it. Sadly, though it was 1000 pieces, it proved relatively easy, and I had it completed in about 8 hours.

Once completed, it stayed on the table for a couple of weeks, waiting to be dismantled and put away. I’m not sure why it took me so long to put it away, but it’s good that it did. During the process of taking each piece apart, God spoke to me and brought hope to my heart.

I’ve been praying for the last number of weeks for breakthrough. As I’ve prayed, I’ve seen a person behind walls, enclosed in a small room in the middle of a beautiful garden. I’ve felt that the walls were built by the person for protection, but that they have become a prison instead, holding the person back from things God wants to give them.

Perhaps the person in the room could represent many of us; I know it could represent me. I imagine there are many of us afraid to step into the beautiful places God wants to take us. Even if we want to take that step, some of us have built such convincing walls, we believe we can never get beyond them.

The morning I began to dismantle my jigsaw puzzle, I had been lamenting how impressive the walls appeared to me, believing that breakthrough would take years, if the walls ever came down at all. Yet as I started to take apart the puzzle, piece by piece, a quiet voice whispered into my heart that the walls are no different than this puzzle. Within minutes, no two pieces were still connected, though it had taken me hours of work to put them together.

God used that moment to bring hope that it will not take countless years or months, perhaps not even weeks, to see walls fall. Even walls that have taken years to build can be brought down quickly with the right motivation and resources. Just as a house takes months to build but can be completely demolished in minutes, when we decide to bring down the walls, it doesn’t have to take a long time.

The walls may look impenetrable, but they are not. As I have continued to pray about this picture of the room, I have noticed that although the walls look like the walls of a fortress on the inside, the outside is simply drywall. A fist could break through the walls at any moment, but the inside has been painted to look formidable to those seeking their ‘protection.’

God loves building things, but He also loves tearing down things that stand in His way. He is the only resource we need to see breakthrough in the things holding us back from all that He has for us. His love, perspective and strength can bring down walls in no time.

The only thing stopping Him is us, those on the inside, afraid of what the beautiful garden might bring our way, or perhaps afraid that we can no longer escape our self-made prison of ‘protection.’ He will not break in uninvited.

Are you hiding behind walls, afraid of where God wants to bring you? Do you want out, but believe it will take years to break through into His best for you? Invite Him to help you demolish the walls and step into all that He longs to give you.

This Summer – Time for a BBQ?

God has been stretching me lately. Trust has become a major theme in my story. As you may have picked up in previous posts, He is asking me to trust Him in new and big ways, and the process is rather uncomfortable at times.

As I was journaling one day during my recent travels, I wrote the following words that I felt like God was speaking to me:

“How far out of the boat are you willing to come? So far, you are still close enough to grab hold again if you get scared… Are you willing to come out where you can’t reach back for security? How about coming to where you can no longer see it?”

Those are some fairly unnerving questions, and He continues to challenge me to move farther along with Him. The words C. S. Lewis wrote in “The Last Battle” ring in my ears, calling me to “come further up and further in.”

Sunday, 29 June, was my first Sunday back in church after being on the road for so long. The pastor was beginning a sermon series on Elisha, and the text was out of 1 Kings 19.

19 So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. 20 And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said,’Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.’ And he said to him, ‘Go back again, for what have I done to you?’ 21 And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him.”

The pastor brought out several points regarding Elisha from this passage, and there were two that spoke to me in particular. The first was that while Elisha was working in the field, God was working on His behalf. He had no idea that God was speaking about him behind his back to Elijah.

Who knows what God is up to behind our backs? He is intimately involved in the details of our lives, and in one moment our whole life can change. Elisha was hanging out with oxen in a field one minute, and the next he is running after a prophet of God, knowing that he has been called into that life as well. No warning. No knowledge that God had been at work on his behalf.

I don’t know about you, but I find that to be an extremely encouraging thought as I spend my days doing seemingly small things and hoping that one day breakthrough will come!

The second point that stood out to me in the story was in Elisha’s response to the sudden opportunity. He immediately left what he was doing and went running after Elijah without a word ever being spoken between them. Even more impressive, as the pastor talked about, was the fact that he didn’t just run after the opportunity. He made sure that there was nothing to run back to. He burned his exit strategy, “barbecued his livelihood”. He ensured that there was no longer any option other than following God’s call on him.

There seems to be a theme in my life. The last sermon I heard before leaving Ireland for several weeks was on Joshua chapter 1. One of the points made was that the children of Israel had to move on and leave the past behind in order to enter the promised land. Moses was dead, they had mourned, and it was time to move forward into something new.

Last night, I went to the opening night of a conference, and the first point in the sermon? “Moses is dead. We have to leave the past behind in order to move into the new thing that God is doing.”

I believe I’m on the brink of something new, something big, but I think I need to make sure plan B isn’t an option. It’s time for a BBQ, a bonfire to get rid of any past security that I could run back to when the promised land starts to look scary. Yes, I’m mixing the stories, but they have the same message, and it’s a message that seems as though it’s being shouted at me from every direction.

I don’t know yet exactly what things I need to leave behind. I don’t know exactly what the boat, yoke of oxen, or Moses represents in my own life, and I’ll admit that I’m a little anxious to find out. I’m already uncomfortable in this place, and I know that leaving behind things in which I’ve found security will only enhance that discomfort. However, I also know that moving forward into what God is calling me into will have benefits that FAR outweigh any momentary discomfort.

I have a feeling I’m not the only one on this journey. I’m guessing there are others being called not only out of, but away from the boat, into the unknown depths with Jesus. It is a scary place to be, but it is also well worth the risk.

If you are joining me in going “further up and further in”, into the unknown, I’d love to hear your story. What is it that you are having to walk away from? What are you walking toward? Do you know yet? Leave a comment, and let’s encourage each other along the way.

Finally, if you do find yourself in this place, here is a song that I have found encouraging many times. It’s likely you’ve heard it, but just in case you haven’t… Enjoy!

 

 

A Confession

I’m here today to admit that I am a bit freaked out. When I got on an airplane 12 days ago, I was headed to spend two weeks relaxing with family and friends in Florida. I’ve done that about once a year for the last few years, so no big deal! So what if I was lugging around nearly 100 lbs of stuff? (I NEVER travel with so much if I can help it.)

Now that my two weeks in Florida are nearly over, reality is beginning to hit… hard! In less than three days, I’ll be on a plane, not back home to my family and friends and comfort zone, but to a country I’ve never visited. I have visited plenty of new places over the years, some of them by myself, but I have not ventured to a new place on my own without a return ticket before. This is not a visit; it is a move!

In the six months that I have been anticipating this week’s journey, I have convinced myself that excitement is the only emotion allowed. After all, I love all I know of the region of the world I’m moving to, God is promising wonderful things, and He is carrying me into this new place.

Over the weekend, however, I began to let the reality sink in, that in order to enter the new book I wrote about before, I must close the one I’ve been living. I spent a short time with my grandmother who suffers from Alzheimer’s, and there was the realization that I may not see her again. That is one example of several moments during this time where I have become aware that my life is changing in big ways this week… even some ways that I don’t anticipate, I’m sure.

As I sat in a restaurant the day after I arrived in Florida, the waitress asked if I was nervous about my impending move. My response was a shrug of the shoulders and the words: “What’s to be nervous about? I’m just moving to a country I’ve never been, where I don’t really know anyone.” It was a joke, but at the same time it wasn’t. I didn’t really feel nervous…. yet.

As reality sank in this weekend that my time in Florida has, in some ways, been a farewell tour, and I said goodbye to life as I’ve known it, reality also hit that this move is in fact a big deal. In addition to the excitement, I’ve finally given myself permission to feel the anxiety that hits occasionally. I realized that admitting occasional moments of “What the h@!! am I doing?” does not mean I don’t have faith, it simply means I’m human and this is actually kind of a big deal.

As I have begun to allow those moments, I’ve also been able to process the feelings and allow God to speak to me about them. He has told me during the last six months that He would not only open the door to Ireland, but carry me across the threshold too. I have done my best to trust Him for that, and He has shown Himself faithful over and over. Every detail has fallen into place, and I’m sure future details will continue to be taken care of.

On Sunday, the pastor was referencing Revelation 21 and talking about the hope we have for the future beyond our life on earth. He spoke of the place Jesus told His disciples He was going to prepare for them. With each point of the sermon, I felt God’s assurance that He has prepared a place for me in Ireland too. Don’t get me wrong, I know Ireland won’t be heaven. But at the same time, God used the ideas presented in the sermon to reassure me that even though I haven’t seen where I will stay yet or what the ministry I do will look like,  He has prepared a place for me, and He is taking me there.

I don’t know how long Ireland will be home, but I know that whether I live there or in the States or somewhere else entirely, my life will never be the same as it has been so far. I’m sure there will be days in the weeks to come, when I’d love to go back – just like the Israelites who preferred the slavery of Egypt to the unknowns of the desert, when I’ll mourn some aspect of this chapter. I’m just as sure though, that God has incredible things ahead for me. After all, He is the God “who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think”! (Ephesians 3:20 NASB)

A New Book…

Wow, it has been too long since I’ve written here. Life has gotten slightly crazy the past couple of weeks with moving out of my house, last-minute gatherings, shopping, and packing for the big move!

I am happy to report that I have continued to set aside my time with God to listen to Him each day no matter how busy the days have gotten. I have begun to cherish this time, and I am enjoying both the confirmations of things I already know and the unexpected things that He is speaking.

Early this week, He surprised me with the words He spoke. Sunday morning, as I sat for the last time in my room, surrounded by stuff ready to be whisked away to new homes, God spoke of new beginnings. That topic in itself didn’t surprise me because I have known for some time that a new chapter was coming. The part that startled me is that I am beginning a new book…

God knows how to speak to me in a way I will understand, and so of course, He referenced Lord of the Rings. He said that though my story is far from over, I am at the beginning of more than just a new chapter; it is a new book. I am entering a part of the story removed from what has come previously in the way that The Two Towers is separated from The Fellowship of the Ring. Many – though not all – of the characters are the same, the story continues, and yet I cannot just flip a page and go back to where I was before.

During my last Sunday at church, the sermon was on leaving behind one chapter of life and being fully in the new. The speaker talked about the danger of trying to keep one foot in the old life when trying to begin anew somewhere else. It was a timely message for me, and I see the same caution in this word that God spoke recently. The characters in Lord of the Rings were never able to go backward in their story. Even when they went back to the physical location where the story began, they had changed and could not go back to the way it was before they left on their grand adventure. Some were able to adapt and find new ways to relate to their old environment, some found new homes and never returned to where they started, and some tried to go home and ended up leaving again because they could not adjust back into the old life.

I have been processing this week that whatever happens in this new book, however the locations and cast of characters change, life will never be the same. A new day has dawned, and it will change me in ways I don’t know yet. I may live here in Colorado Springs again, and I may not. I may stay in Ireland, or go somewhere else I’ve not yet dreamed of. Wherever I end up, the dawn has come. I am beginning to see glimpses of the day to come, and I so am excited to move forward into this new season! The winter is past, and I am expectant, anxiously awaiting the new growth, life and beauty that Spring will bring my way!

Yikes!

How I'm feeling right now.

I’m sure there is probably a better title for this post, but at the moment that word sums up my thoughts.

You see, I have just realized that three weeks from today, I’ll be moving out of my house. Ten days after that I’ll be flying to visit friends and family in Florida, and another two weeks after that I’ll be leaving the country indefinitely!

I know that if you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’re aware of the impending move. (I’m sorry if this is boring.) I have obviously been aware of this coming change for months, and yet as it draws closer – and things such as selling furniture and packing away memories happen – I’m reaching new levels of realization.

The realization that I am leaving behind everything and everyone I know for a time is a little frightening and sad. I am sad to leave my family, friends and roommates – yes, they get a category all their own. I am a bit sad that I will leave so soon after my youngest niece’s 1st birthday, and miss out on so much of the fun as she grows and begins talking. I missed a lot of that with her brother and sister too, and it’s no fun. 😦

There is also a likelihood that a good friend will get married during the time that I’m gone, and I’ll not be able to come back for her wedding. And with the knowledge that I’ll be gone at least a year, it’s possible that won’t be the only major life event I miss.

So, with all of the things I’ll miss, why am I leaving for a place I’ve never been?

Because God asked me to.

It’s as simple as that. I am doing my best to follow His lead, and this is where He’s leading. I don’t know what will happen when I arrive, where I will live, how I will raise the rest of the money I need for travel and monthly expenses, who I will meet, or anything else. The thing I do know, though, is that the One I’m following will take care of me.

I also know that He is worth anything I miss during this time away. It is scary to step out in faith into the unknown. Some people thrive on that, but I am not typically one of those people. Unfortunately, my tendency is often to fill the void of all that I don’t know with the worst case scenarios. Then, when I look back at what I’m leaving behind, those things seem so desirable compared to this picture I have created of the possible future I am moving into.

This time, however, I have chosen to fill the unknown space with exciting God moments, divine appointments, new friends, fun experiences, tasty food, and great music – it is Ireland after all. I am also choosing to let the space stay largely unimagined. As uncomfortable as the unknown makes me, I’m choosing to let it be just that. (Obviously, even when I paint what might be, it is still unknown, but it doesn’t look so daunting.)

I’ll discover what this year holds as it comes, and trust God with all of the unknowns. After all, He works all things for my “good”, right? (See previous post for more info on that.) 🙂

Have you had an experience where you were completely outside of everything you’d ever known? Do you enjoy the feeling of taking a leap of faith or try to eliminate unknowns before jumping? I’d love to hear your stories! Please tell them in the comments below.

Come Along…

At the beginning of each year, there are a couple of questions I ask God. One of those is which Bible verse or passage of scripture will be mine to focus on during that year. In recent years those passages have included Psalm 37:3-9 and Jeremiah 29:11-13, (both awesome scriptures that I highly recommend checking out).

This year the verses that He spoke were Song of Songs 2:10-11:

10 “My beloved responded and said to me,
‘Arise, my darling, my beautiful one,
And come along.
11 ‘For behold, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone.”

These verses go along with the previous post. It seems that darkness and winter symbolize the same phases of life in many ways. Winter is often seen as the season associated with death, darkness, and difficulty. How wonderful that following each winter we have the season of renewal and growth. Those seeds that fell and were buried in winter spring forth in new displays of life, and the world is filled with vivid colors once again.

I am thankful that God’s word to me for this year speaks of the coming of spring. The winter is past and it is time to “come along”, though I don’t have any idea where I’m going. As I was chatting with a good friend last weekend, she compared my current adventure to that of Abram beginning in Genesis 12. I had never thought about that before, but as I reread the story over the weekend, I do feel a bit like I am living in the footsteps of this hero of the Faith.

From what we see in the Bible, it appears Abram was minding his own business when God showed up and started speaking what many would call “crazy” things to him.

12 “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, And from your relatives, And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”’

I can’t say that God has spoken those last 2 verses to me, but in the words “come along” from this year’s passage, I hear the words of Genesis 12:1. I am leaving my country and my family, and I have no idea what the destination is. For now, I know I have a ticket to Dublin and contacts in Sligo preparing to welcome me there. Beyond that, I don’t know where I will travel or how long I will be away from this place that has been home for a decade. I am traveling one step at a time, trusting that I am headed to a place that God will show me.

I pray that I will be a blessing to those I meet across whatever nations I am fortunate enough to visit or even call home for a time. Whatever doors God opens, wherever they lead, whoever I meet, I am excited for this year of moving forward with God, into a new season. I am thankful for the passing of winter, and I cannot wait to see what is in store as I respond to God’s invitation to “come along”.

2014: A year of…

First, let me just say Happy New Year! I hope that whether 2013 was a great year or a difficult year (or both) that 2014 will be better! May God bless you and me in ways we’ve not yet dared to dream as we travel this path with Him!

Last night, a devotional arrived in my inbox just moments before the birth of 2014. It was all about choosing one word to focus on for the year. As I read the devotional, I felt God was saying that He has a word for me for this year. So, today as I chatted with Him about the year ahead, I asked what it is. The answer is… (drum roll, please) RELATIONSHIP!

I don’t know exactly what that means, but there are several ideas in my head (not to mention hopes in my heart). Firstly, it means relationship with God. We are pretty close, but I have a feeling that bond will deepen even more in the months to come.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I am moving to Ireland, and I now have my airline ticket to start that journey 8 weeks from today! (The first step is 2 weeks to visit family and friends in Florida before going on to my new home.) I think this transition period is going to deepen my relationship with God as I will have no one else to lean on in the beginning. I have acquaintances there, but no one I know well.

Another layer in this one word is the relationships I will make in Ireland. I am a friendly person, and tend to make friends pretty quickly. However, this will be a new context to practice that in. I’ve lived overseas before (I spent nearly 2 years in Afghanistan with a development organization), but it was in a place that was totally foreign. Everything about the culture and language was different and I expected the culture shock. I knew the barriers that would have to be overcome in order to meet people and make friends.

This time, many if not most of the words will be the same (though they sound different [and often much cooler] when folks from there say them). The culture is western, and as far as I know, I can wear clothes like I wear here. I don’t have to cover my head to leave my house. It seems there are few barriers to worry about in my effort to make friends in this new place. And yet… I can’t help but wonder how many people I will offend because I am unaware of differences that do exist.

And so, this year will be one of striving for new relationships in new places. It will also be a year of working to keep relationships close with those left here. I have got to do better about keeping communication lines open with those who pray for and support me here in the States. I don’t know what the situation will be over there for communication, but I must work to make sure it’s happening.

Finally, I think this might be a year where I am challenged to be vulnerable on a larger scale than I feel ready for. This blog is a part of that. I have also joined and been participating in a new group on Facebook to encourage one another to reach the goals we’ve set for the next 30 days and beyond. And then, there is my book. It is written, and I am waiting on feedback from acquaintances in the publishing world to see how much will need to be “fixed” before it can be published. This book is me, my life and my heart, laid out for the world to see, and that is a terrifying thought. I don’t know how much of a “relationship” can develop through a book, but if and when it’s out there, I hope to hear the stories of others in return.

Ah, and now for the hope… All of these are hopes, but they seem like reasonable possibilities as well; they seem like things that can happen this year (though I struggle to believe that completely about getting my book published). The dream is that this year will mark the beginning of a different kind of relationship, that this will be the year when a Godly man shows up and decides that I am worth pursuing. And now, for that vulnerability I mentioned… This feels like a dream rather than a possibility because it has not happened before, and at 33 it is difficult to believe that a guy will suddenly appear and have both the desire and the guts to show interest in me as anything more than a friend. And yet, this is a year for new things, new beginnings, new places, and a year for hope!

Whatever kind of relationships God brings my way and gives me the opportunity to work on, I have hope that this year will be one for the history books… because I intend to make it so! By walking in relationship with God, family, and friends (both those I’ve met and those I haven’t yet), I believe that my world will be different by the time 2014 has reached its end.

Thanks for taking this journey with me. It’s going to be a wild ride, and those are always more fun with friends. 🙂

A Change in the Wind, Says I…

Yesterday at church my pastor was sharing about the “Wind of God”, and how it often brings change, movement, and discomfort… Lately, He has been visiting my house with nearly hurricane force winds. I have 2 roommates, who also rank high on the list of my best friends, and these winds of change are blowing through all of our lives and taking us in very different directions. There is a lot of transition, and it is definitely uncomfortable!

As I began to clear out some of my belongings to make it easier to pack up my life and move in the next several months, reality began to hit hard. At times I get so excited about moving forward that I can hardly breath for the anticipation that swells in my chest. However, this past weekend I became aware that for every ounce of excitement and anticipation I feel about this move, I possess an equal amount of fear.

Fear is a strong word, but I have yet to think of better one. Oh, I’m not afraid of traveling by myself, flying, or even having some unexpected adventures along the way. (I’ve been to at least 28 countries, lived in Afghanistan, and have some fun stories I could tell.) And yet, I am afraid. It has taken me a while to figure out why, but I think I have finally found my answer… In my previous travels, I have almost always had a support system wherever I was going, certainly on the extended trips/moves. When I moved to Afghanistan, my brother’s family was there too.

This time is different because I am moving alone. But I’m friendly and outgoing, and I’ll meet people there, so it should be no big deal… Right? And now to my great fear: what if they don’t like me? What if I am not accepted in this place that I am called to? For an extrovert/verbal processor like myself, the options are to either find friends or go insane. Suddenly packing up my life and moving across the pond seems a bit more intimidating, even than moving to Afghanistan once did.

When I moved to Central Asia, I expected the culture shock that comes with learning a foreign language and way of life. The first time someone asked me if I was from the United States, I wondered if it was safe to admit that the answer was yes. (This was about 2 years after 9/11/2001.) And yet, I was welcomed with open arms by everyone I talked to. I was there to help, and they were grateful.

Now, as I look forward to my move to the Republic of Ireland and travels around the UK, I wonder about my response to my new surroundings. I’m going to another western nation, so I expect fewer cultural differences. However, sometimes those places are more difficult because there are the differences you never expect to encounter. I also wonder about the response I will get as I meet people. My roommates and I thoroughly enjoy BBC television and movies, and while I realize that the television/movies of that region probably represent the average residents about as well as Hollywood represents me (read “not at all”), a common portrayal of Americans in their entertainment is the loud, obnoxious, crude, and/or uncultured buffoon. Is that truly the perception I face as I travel there? I hope not.

Whatever the case, I know that God has opened this door for me to go to this part of the world that I love (though I’ve only ever visited the region once before). I also know that when He opens a door, He will take care of the details. It’s true that I don’t have family or friends in Ireland yet, but I trust that they are there and it will be fun to meet them when the time comes. 🙂

Thanks for reading about my (most likely irrational) fear. Sharing it with you has lessened the weight of it, and I am now feeling a rise in excitement again for the things that God has in store for me during the months to come!