May 27, 2008

By Faith, Not By Sight

It’s been longer than usual between postings partly because I’ve been busy with actual paying work. Partly because of the long weekend. And partly because of writers’ block—three partially written articles wait for an ending I can’t seem to locate.

I thought writing would get easier with time and in fact, it’s gotten harder. Struggling with ideas and being unable to finish articles has caused me to question my purpose as a writer. A few months ago when I started this blog, I was so excited to start a new adventure. I felt an incredible sense of God’s presence in my writing and the insights came quickly and (fairly) coherently. I experienced God in a way I never had before. It was exhilarating.

Now my thoughts are jumbled and God’s leading seems distant.

I wonder, should I stop writing? Did I misinterpret God’s calling? Did He only need me for a short while and now He’s moved on to another writer? I’ve prayed and earnestly asked God to guide my next steps. Thankfully He answered those prayers—not with a definitive answer, but with insight.

We’ve had some great weather here lately, but last week one day in particular was incredible. It was the kind of day we get just a few times a year. The sky was rich turquoise, the light and shadows razor-sharp, the foliage radiant and the clouds like sculptures. Even the strip malls looked magnificent! My heart quickened as the photographer in me wanted to grab my camera and dive in.

I think our relationship with God can be like this. Once in a while we experience the Almighty in a profound way. For brief moments we see Him clearly and crisply. We directly feel the Spirit guiding our purposes. We savor the view.

It’s the kind of experience we want to last forever.

And someday it will. But here on earth our view is obscured. “Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” (1 Cor. 13:12)

Just because I see God dimly, doesn’t mean He is any less present in my life. In answer to my prayers for direction, I received and have meditated on this verse: “We live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7) Faith is not about emotion and certainty. It’s about choice—choosing to persevere when the outlook is hazy. Faith means we keep on keeping on even when it doesn’t seem like we’re making much progress.

Look at the saints in the “Faith Hall of Fame” in Hebrews 11. Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and Rahab. They all chose faith when their circumstances (and I’m sure their feelings) said otherwise. They chose to believe God’s promises even though they never fully received what was promised.

Noah spent decades building the ark, Sarah waited 25 years for a baby and Moses wandered in the desert for 40 years. I struggled with writing for just a month. Why am I so impatient?!

For now, God’s gentle guiding has set me straight and started the words to flow again. Until I sense His directing me otherwise, I will persevere. Who knows what He has in store for me, or for any of us? I do believe when we live by faith, not by sight, God's plans are so much more incredible than any we could ever devise. We just need some patience.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some unfinished stories to attend to.

May 13, 2008

I Can See Clearly Now

I have had so many thoughts running through my head these past few days it’s been hard to focus. But one word keeps emerging to the forefront of my cerebral cacophony—“transparent.” It’s a word I hardly considered a few months ago, but recently it’s popped up repeatedly.

According to, “transparent” means:
1. having the property of transmitting rays of light through its substance so that bodies situated beyond or behind can be distinctly seen
2. so sheer as to permit light to pass through
3. easily seen through, recognized, or detected
4. manifest; obvious
5. open; frank; candid

For some objects, transparency is a desired characteristic: windows, wine goblets, drinking water, aquariums, eye glasses and Ziploc bags come to mind. The benefits are pretty obvious.

But, when it comes to ourselves, transparency isn’t a trait we aspire to. We prefer the safe, protected, controlled cover of opacity. It’s been said people are like icebergs: 10% of who we are is visible and 90% remains unseen.

“You’re so transparent,” is generally not a compliment.

So why was I pleased a few weeks ago when a magazine editor told me, “…you are honest and transparent.”? Because she followed it up with, “These are some of the most necessary attributes of a writer whom God can use.”

During the past few months that I’ve written this blog, several people have expressed discomfort at my honesty. Others have said, “I could never do what you do.” A few have even wondered, “Why?”

I belong to an online writers’ group. Last week the concept of being transparent (there’s that word again!) was raised as a discussion topic. Here’s an excerpt of what I wrote:

“I’ve found that writing from the heart is a vulnerable experience. It magnifies the struggles I already face. But, it’s what I believe God has called me to do. What good is it if I put myself out there like I have it all together, when I really don’t? Yeah, my 10% is OK, but that serves no one, especially not God. I might get hurt by being so open. But, if I’m not honest why even bother to write at all.

I rely on the verse, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Cor. 12:9)

I am learning much about myself in this process and I know that my words have touched others as well. I pray that on this journey my readers and I experience our awesome God together.”

I chose to take a risk and have seen Christ’s power gloriously shine through my weakness into others' lives—and into mine as well.

As believers, this is a choice we can ALL make.

We can choose to let go of our pride, and our fear of rejection and judgment. We can choose to share the 90% of ourselves we keep hidden. We can choose to be honest about our brokenness. We can choose to admit when life is rough and we need a hand—and a prayer. And we can choose to believe that God’s power WILL be made perfect through our weakness.

It’s OK that we don’t have it all together. God didn’t send His only Son because we’re alright on our own, He sent Jesus because we aren’t. We grow as believers when we embrace this truth.

As Cecil Murphey, co-author of 90 Minutes in Heaven (and a mentor of the above mentioned writers’ group) boldly stated, “I would rather be disliked for who I am than to be admired for who I’m not.”

Authentic. Honest. Vulnerable. Transparent.

Not easy characteristics to choose, but certainly ones God can use. “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:10)

May 8, 2008

Middle Age Meets College Road Trip a.k.a. Dan and Kelli's Excellent Adventure

About eight months ago our friends won a trip for four to Universal in Orlando at a silent auction and invited Dan and I to join them. As “grand prize winners” the trip included airfare, four-day park admission, hotel and transfers for just a few hundred dollars a couple. (Translated: this would be a kid-free vacation. Cheap.)

While this sounds like a no-brainer, it wasn’t an easy decision. Generally, Dan and I prefer to travel solo, we eschew Disney-esque vacations and while we really like the friends that invited us, we didn’t know each other that well. Oh, and did I mention the package included the hotel room—ONE hotel room. (Adding an extra room would have cost four times more than the entire package!)

After much back and forth, we agreed to approach the whole thing like an upscale college road trip. Plus, as further enticement, we selected a weekend that coincided with my birthday. That tipped the scales. We said, “Yes.”

However, as the trip neared, I was filled with ambivalence and wondered if we made the right choice. Plus, getting the kids settled and the house in order for our departure left me exhausted and frazzled.

But, at 6:00 a.m. last Thursday, our friends picked us up for the airport and our adventure was officially under way. Amazingly, instead of everything going wrong that could go wrong with our travel, everything went right. Rush hour traffic, plane departures, baggage handling, shuttle pickup, even the weather conspired WITH us. In no time at all, my concerns and stresses melted away. (Thank you God, for these little gifts.)

For four days we relaxed in the idyllic “bubble” of Universal. Our reality became a fantasy where everything is planned, organized, arranged, created, managed, manicured and maintained. From the “fossils” in the rock walls, lush landscaping, meandering waterways and realistically themed hotels to the state-of-the-art rides, over-the-top special effects, bustling “city” and even the song selections at the karaoke bar, it is all carefully purposed and controlled by an invisible hand for optimal enjoyment.

Best of all, in our land of pretend, there was no waiting in line for the rides! By flashing our room keys, we gained VIP access and passed to the front of the line every time!


Even the room concerns worked themselves out. We quickly discovered that we were all quite compatible traveling companions.

But, the highlight of the trip was our nights at the karaoke club that featured a live band and a charismatic emcee. Our friends, both musicians, relished the opportunity to sing on stage, while Dan and I were perfectly happy to watch. (Note: even in this land of make-believe, bad singing is still bad singing!). However, not content to let her and her husband’s terrific singing represent our group, our friend urged us, “C’mon! You can do it!” Since I was immovable (see “note” above), she focused on Dan. Lulled by the security of the “bubble,” he reluctantly consented.

So that is how as the clock struck midnight, ushering in my birthday, my reserved, quiet, sit-back-and-watch husband was on the stage with a rock band, belting out “Mustang Sally” to a standing-room only crowd! And to all of our surprise, he was really, really good! (Thank you, Dan for the unexpected present!)

So now we’re back home and fantasy has crashed into reality bursting our idyllic bubble. Thankfully the memories travel well.

Here’re some things that I learned:

1. You are never too old for an adventure.

2. Sometimes when you give a little you get a lot. Dan and I never would have intentionally planned this type of vacation. But, by taking a chance and giving up some control and privacy, we experienced one of the most fun vacations we’ve ever had.

3. When you escape from reality, sometimes you experience an even greater reality. It took the safety of the “bubble” for Dan to travel so far off his map to sing on stage. We are all capable of so much more than we think we are.

4. Be open to new experiences. (Like sitting front and center, in the “poncho section” for the Blue Man Group!)

5. Once in a while, make a big deal out of your birthday.

6. Make time to get away with your spouse. (Even if you send the kids to
grandma’s for the weekend and stay home.)

7. Don’t ride the Dueling Dragons roller coaster twice in a row. Enough said.

8. Never underestimate the amazing ways God can bless and surprise you.

9. And my final bit of insight…No matter what the cost, watching your husband perform like a rock star is priceless!