"God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform..." William Cowper

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I'll be taking a blogging break for the next couple of weeks. I leave you with this poem my Sunday School teacher shared with us. It's lengthy, but explores an often ignored part of the Christmas story.

Have a blessed, merry Christmas!

Jake's wife would have been fifty-eight
The day that Jesus passed the gate
Of Bethlehem, and slowly walked
Toward Jacob's Inn. The people talked
With friends, and children played along
The paths, and Jesus hummed a song,
And smiled at every child he saw.

He paused with one small lass to draw
A camel in the dirt, then said,
"What's this?" The girl bent down her head
To study what the Lord had made,
Then smiled, "A camel, sir!" and laid
Her finger on the bulging back,
"It's got a hump." "Indeed it does,
And who do you believe it was
Who made this camel with his hump?"
Without a thought that this would stump
The rabbi guild and be reviled,
She said, "God did." And Jesus smiled,
"Good eyes, my child. And would that all
Jerusalem within that wall
Of yonder stone could see the signs
Of peace!" He left the lass with lines
Of simple wonder in her face,
And slowly went to find the place
Where he was born.

Folks said the inn
Had never been a place for sin,
For Jacob was a holy man.
And he and Rachel had a plan
To marry, have a child or two,
And serve the folk who traveled through,
Especially the poor who brought
Their meal and turtle-doves, and sought
A place to stay near Zion's gate.
They'd rise up early, stay up late,
To help the pilgrims go and come,
And when the place was full, to some
Especially the poorest, they would say,
"We're sorry there's no room, but stay
Now if you like out back. There's lots
Of hay and we have extra cots
That you can use. There'll be no charge.
The stable isn't very large
But Noah keeps it safe." He was
A wedding gift to Jake because
The shepherds knew he loved the dog.
"There's nothing in the decalogue,"
He used to joke, "that says a man
Can't love a dog!"

The children ran
Ahead of Jesus as he strode
Toward Jacob's Inn. The stony road
That led up to the inn was deep
With centuries of wear, and steep
At one point just before the door.
The Lord knocked once then twice before
He heard an old man's voice, "‘Round back!"
It called. So Jesus took the track
That led around the inn. The old
Man leaned back in his chair and told
The dog to never mind. "Ain't had
No one to tend the door, my lad,
For thirty years. I'm sorry for
The inconvenience to your sore
Feet. The road to Jerusalem
Is hard ain't it? Don't mind old Shem.
He's harmless like his dad. Won't bite
A Roman soldier in the night.
Sit down." And Jacob waved the stump
Of his right arm. "We're in a slump
Right now. Got lots of time to think
And talk. Come, sit and have a drink.
From Jacob's well!" he laughed. "You own
The inn?" The Lord inquired. "On loan,
You'd better say. God owns the inn."
At that the Lord knew they were kin,
And ventured on: "Do you recall
The tax when Caesar said to all
The world that each must be enrolled?"
Old Jacob winced, "Are north winds cold?
Are deserts dry? Do fishes swim
And ravens fly? I do. A grim
And awful year it was for me.
Why do you ask?" "I have a debt
To pay, and I must see how much.
Why do you say that it was such
A grim and awful year?" He raised
The stump of his right arm, "So dazed,
Young man, I didn't know I'd lost
My arm. Do you know what it cost
For me to house the Son of God?"
The old man took his cedar rod
And swept it ‘round the place: "Empty.
For thirty years alone, you see?
Old Jacob, poor old Jacob runs
It with one arm, a dog and no sons.
But I had sons . . . once. Joseph was
My firstborn. He was small because
His mother was so sick. When he
Turned three the Lord was good to me
And Rachel, and our baby Ben
Was born, the very fortnight when
The blessed family arrived.
And Rachel's gracious heart contrived
A way for them to stay—there in
That very stall. The man was thin
And tired. You look a lot like him."
But Jesus said, "Why was it grim?"

"We got a reputation here
That night. Nothing at all to fear
In that we thought. It was of God.
But in one year the slaughter squad
From Herod came. And where do you
Suppose they started? Not a clue!
We didn't have a clue what they
Had come to do. No time to pray,
No time to run, no time to get
Poor Joseph off the street and let
Him say good-bye to Ben or me
Or Rachel. Only time to see
A lifted spear smash through his spine
And chest. He stumbled to the sign
That welcomed strangers to the place,
And looked with panic at my face,
As if to ask what he had done.
Young man, you ever lost a son?"

The tears streamed down the Savior's cheek,
He shook his head, but couldn't speak.

"Before I found the breath to scream
I heard the words, a horrid dream:
‘Kill every child who's two or less.
Spare not for aught, nor make excess.
Let this one be the oldest here
And if you count your own life dear,
Let none escape.' I had no sword
No weapon in my house, but Lord,
I had my hands, and I would save
The son of my right hand . . . So brave,
O Rachel was so brave! Her hands
Were like a thousand iron bands
Around the boy. She wouldn't let
Him go and so her own back met
With every thrust and blow. I lost
My arm, my wife, my sons—the cost
For housing the Messiah here.
Why would he simply disappear
And never come to help?"

They sat
In silence. Jacob wondered at
The stranger's tears.

"I am the boy
That Herod wanted to destroy.
You gave my parents room to give
Me life, and then God let me live,
And took your wife. Ask me not why
The one should live, another die.
God's ways are high, and you will know
In time. But I have come to show
You what the Lord prepared the night
You made a place for heaven's light.
In two weeks they will crucify
My flesh. But mark this, Jacob, I
Will rise in three days from the dead,
And place my foot upon the head
Of him who has the power of death,
And I will raise with life and breath
Your wife and Ben and Joseph too
And give them, Jacob, back to you
With everything the world can store,
And you will reign for evermore."

This is the gift of candle three:

A Christ with tears in tragedy
And life for all eternity.

© Desiring God

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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

Friday, December 16, 2011

Short and Sweet Friday: CHILD

The name of Jesus I've been meditating on this week is child. Even as far back as Genesis 3, a child was promised to crush evil. Isaiah made reference to a child that would be born of a virgin, one who would be the "Prince of Peace."

Ann Spangler says "One of the reasons I find the gospel so convincing is that it's nothing I would have dreamed up." So true. If you were to dream up a plan of salvation, would it begin with a baby--one who needed to be changed and fed? One who surely got sick? Would you choose him to be the illegitimate son of a teenage mother?

Let us remember that children have a special place in Jesus's heart. He even said we must receive the kingdom of God like a little child, with faith and humility.

May we allow Him entrance to our hearts with the trust of a child, this season and the days to come.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Are You God's Wife?

My mother sent me this e-mail and it really put my thoughts in perspective, particularly amid the chaos of this Christmas season. Enjoy!

Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once
Talked about a contest he was asked to judge.
The purpose of the
Contest was to find the most caring child.
The winner was:

1. A four-year-old child, whose next door
neighbor was an elderly gentleman, who had recently lost his
wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old
Gentleman's' yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there.
When his mother asked him what he had
said to the neighbor, the little boy said, 'Nothing, I just
Helped him cry.'
2. Teacher Debbie Moon's first graders were
discussing a picture of a family. One little boy in the picture
had a different hair color than the other members. One of her
students suggested that he was adopted.
A little girl said, 'I know all about
Adoption, I was adopted..'
'What does it mean to be adopted?', asked
another child.
'It means', said the girl, 'that you grew
in your mommy's heart instead of her tummy!'
************************ *********************
3. On my way home one day, I stopped to
watch a Little League base ball game that was being played in a
park near my home. As I sat down behind the bench on the first-
base line, I asked one of the boys what the score was
'We're behind 14 to nothing,' he answered
With a smile.
'Really,' I said. 'I have to say you
don't look very discouraged.'
'Discouraged?', the boy asked with a
Puzzled look on his face...
'Why should we be discouraged? We haven't
Been up to bat yet.'
*********************** **********************
4. Whenever I'm disappointed with my spot
in life, I stop and think about little Jamie Scott.
Jamie was trying out for a part in the
school play. His mother told me that he'd set his heart on being
in it, though she feared he would not be chosen..
On the day the parts were awarded, I went
with her to collect him after school. Jamie rushed up to her,
eyes shining with pride and excitement.. 'Guess what, Mom,' he
shouted, and then said those words that will remain a lesson to
me....'I've been chosen to clap and cheer.'
5. An eye witness account from New York
City , on a cold day in December,
some years ago: A little boy,
about 10 years old, was standing before a shoe store on the
roadway, barefooted, peering through the window, and shivering
With cold.
A lady approached the young boy and said,
'My, but you're in such deep thought staring in that window!'
'I was asking God to give me a pair of
shoes,' was the boy's reply.
The lady took him by the hand, went into
the store, and asked the clerk to get half a dozen pairs of socks
for the boy. She then asked if he could give her a basin of water
and a towel. He quickly brought them to her.
She took the little fellow to the back
part of the store and, removing her gloves, knelt down, washed
his little feet, and dried them with the towel.
By this time, the clerk had returned with
the socks.. Placing a pair upon the boy's feet, she purchased him
a pair of shoes..
She tied up the remaining pairs of socks
and gave them to him.. She patted him on the head and said, 'No
doubt, you will be more comfortable now..'
As she turned to go, the astonished kid
caught her by the hand, and looking up into her face, with tears
in his eyes, asked her:
'Are you God's wife?'

Friday, December 9, 2011

Short and Sweet Friday: IMMANUEL

Did you know that the different names given to Jesus reveal important insights about his life and ministry? I'm reading Ann Spangler's Praying the Names of Jesus and I can't help but want to share a small portion of the blessing it has been to me. I've decided to set aside Fridays to go over each individual name and highlight what I've learned during the week.

The first name is IMMANUEL, one we hear a lot during the Christmas season because of its awesome meaning, "God with us."

Ann writes "When our sins made it impossible for us to come to him, God took the outrageous step of coming to us....in Jesus we see how extreme God's love is."

How amazing is it that the Creator of the universe desires to be with his people--to be with you! May this truth bless you today and in the coming weeks.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Re-post)

We set up our Christmas tree yesterday. Sometimes it's too easy to go through the motions without thinking of the true miracle of Jesus's birth. As I do every year, I try to get my kids (and myself) to think of why we do what we do during the Christmas season. This is a post I've taken from last year. It's the story behind that famous holiday song, The Twelve Days of Christmas. Hopefully it will be a great start to giving meaning to the season.

During the sixteenth century, British Catholics were forbidden to practice their faith. Those who broke this law were put into prison, or, if the crime proved severe enough, they would be hung or drawn and quartered. Still, millions refused to abandon their faith and went underground. The Twelve Days of Christmas was a song teaching Catholic children the doctrine of the church. So what do golden rings or a partridge in a pear tree have to do with things of spiritual importance? Keep reading and you may never think of this song the same again.

The children were taught that only pure and true love came from God, so this song was about a heavenly love, not about a boy’s crush on a girl.

Single partridge in a pear tree—A mother partridge lures enemies away from her defenseless chicks in order to protect them. As she sacrifices her own life for her children, so did Christ for us. The pear tree is a symbol of the cross on which Jesus died.

Two turtle doves—symbols of truth and peace, representing the Old and New Testaments.

Three French hens—in the sixteenth century, these were expensive food items reserved for the wealthy. These represent the gold, frankincense, and myrrh brought to the newborn king by the wise men.

Four calling birds—the four authors who told the story of Jesus: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Five golden rings—stood for the five Old Testament books known as the “law of Moses.” These were to remind the singer of man’s fall from grace, and the awesome fact that a Savior would indeed come to offer salvation.

Six geese a-laying—eggs are a symbol for new life. These six represents how God made the world in six days.

Seven swans a-swimming—the gifts of the Holy Spirit—prophesy, service, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, and mercy.

Eight maids a-milking—represents the common man (or woman) whom Christ had come to serve and save. The number eight also represents the beatitudes listed in Matthew: blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the hungry, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemaker, and the righteous.

Nine ladies dancing—the fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Ten lords a-leaping—the Ten Commandments, represented by lords, who were honorable men and the voice of law in their domain.

Eleven pipers piping—Jesus’ eleven true apostles who took the message of his life and resurrection to the world.

Twelve drummers drumming—symbolizes “The Apostles’ Creed,” taught to all Catholics, containing a dozen different elements.

There you have it—so much more than a silly holiday song, after all. If this song comes dancing across your radio this week, may it be yet another reminder of the true meaning of Christmas!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Polishing It

Okay, I did it. I wrote that dreaded second draft. I went through my notes and addressed all the issues (that I could see--I'm sure there are more). I made my characters stronger. I've checked to make sure I don't have a sagging middle. I showed instead of told. I've tried to incorporate a bit of foreshadowing, I've fixed those questionable sentences. I reread all 110 pages of research to check my facts. I've even gone through the manuscript and attempted to take out unnecessary truly's, well's, just's, and so's, cutting almost 100 words in the process.

Now, on to the polishing.

James Scott Bell says to do a scene read-through. Make sure you're hooking the reader from the beginning. Draw out suspenseful scenes. Delay information, make sure there are enough surprises. Then go on to a dialogue read-through. Cut unnecessary words, add conflict into dialogue, even among allies.

Almost done. Even then, after all my hard work, I know my story will fall short. I'll be sending it to my critique group this week and trust that their expert eyes will catch most of my mistakes. I love my critique group and wouldn't be able to function without them!

What is your favorite part of the revision process? Does any of it frighten you? (I was petrified to read my WIP through for the first time.) Do you have a critique group that helps improves your work?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Thankful Today

The TODAY show is celebrating its 60th Anniversary. A couple days ago the hosts were talking about the beginnings of the morning show in 1952. In 1952 people didn't have televisions all over the house, if they had them at all. And there were no programs on before 11:30 in the morning. So when Dave Garroway first introduced the TODAY show as an early morning program, some were skeptical. It was said that morning was a sacred time, that Americans wouldn't let just anyone into their households so early in the morning. But Garroway proved a hit. He had a special way of coming across the camera, of speaking to people at this sacred time of day.
That made me think. Do we think of the morning, or even of our entire day as a sacred time? As a gift from God? Did our ancestors have a different way of viewing their hours on this earth? I can't help but think how many times I've rolled out of bed, slapped on some make-up, pulled on some clothes, and trudged through a day that, in my mind, very much resembled the one before it. A monotonous routine of cleaning, refereeing arguments, cooking, and running errands.
But is that how God wants me to view my day? Probably not. And I wonder how much richer my days would be if I would look at them differently. This morning, this day, is precious. Everything I do will matter if I do it for the glory of God. And may I not remember this truth only at Thanksgiving. May every day be a thankful today.
What do you do to remind yourself of the value of your day?

Monday, November 14, 2011

What I Took Away from Women of Faith

I had the awesome privilege to attend a Women of Faith conference this weekend for the first time. I laughed, I cried, I reveled in God's love for me. I long to share all I experienced with my blog readers, but by the end of the conference my head was so full with all I'd heard that I felt overwhelmed. And so, in my still sleep-deprived state, I wish to share two things with you that were a blessing to me. In turn, I hope to bless you.

1) The Shepherd knows where to find you.

Sheila Walsh shared this amazing truth with us. During the darkest time of her life, she found herself in a mental institution, struggling to find the will to live. She dragged a blanket to the corner of the room and sat in the dark, her despair descending her farther and farther into the pit of hell. In that pit she prayed for a shred of hope, anything to give her a reason to continue on with life.

A short time later a man she couldn't identify--one she now believes was an angel--came into the room and handed her a stuffed lamb. "The shepherd knows where to find you," he said.

This reminder was that shred of hope Sheila needed, as I think we all do. How many times do we feel the need to get our act together before coming to Jesus? How many times do we try to hide from him in shame?

He loves you still. He knows where to find you. Remember how he left the other ninety-nine sheep to look for you?

This truth hit home for me.

2) Peace is not the absence of trouble, but the presence of Christ.

Go ahead, read that again. It takes some time to let it sink in, for we often search for peace in the condition of happy circumstances. Good job, check. Happy husband, check. Obedient children, check. Paid mortgage and hefty retirement fund, check. Okay, now I can be happy.

But even Jesus didn't promise such things. In fact he promised trouble. "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart for I have overcome the world."

In the storms of life, the only true peace is one where Christ is the anchor.

Thank you Sheila, and thank you to the Women of Faith team for being so real, for allowing me to grasp the love of God a little more firmly. Even if only one person reads this post, I pray they too will feel God's amazing grace and love in some small way. God bless!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Reading It Through

As I sit to write this, my house is in shambles. This weekend, my living room had no wall. I could sit on the couch and wave to the passerby on the street. Fun. Nevertheless, I've plunged ahead with my rewrites. Ignoring the dust and the total disorganization of my house, I focused on organizing my work-in-progress.

In his book, Plot and Structure, James Scott Bell recommends reading your manuscript through as quickly as you can. So after letting my WIP cool for almost two weeks, I pushed aside my fears and read the entire thing through in a few hours."Do not get bogged down in details at this point, " Bell writes. "What you want is the big picture."

Likewise, in her workshop, The Art of Self-Editing, Barbara Scott says to take a 50,000-foot view. Look for major structural weaknesses and check that every page is moving the story forward.

I was a little afraid as I sat down with my newest manuscript. I'd written the first draft fairly quickly and hadn't stopped to do a lot of editing along the way. I knew I'd find any glaring inconsistencies and even horrible storytelling on the read-through.

And so I did. But it could have been worse. I took tons of notes after I read it through. Put it through the wringer. I'm still evaluating how to make it better.

But now I'm excited instead of scared. I know what has to be done, and my story will be better for it in the long run.

What is your initial reaction to rewriting? Do you look forward to the challenge or shy away from the hard work?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Letting It Cool

I've finished the first draft of my next novel and I'm ready to dive into revisions. Almost. I'm in that "letting it cool" phase. I'm distancing myself from my manuscript for a couple of weeks. Putting it from my mind.

Or at least I'm trying.

It's harder than I thought to forget about something I've invested so many hours in, something I've waken at night to think about.

But I can also feel how it's beneficial. Refreshing. I can also concentrate my efforts on other things. Still, I don't think it's as far from my mind as it should be.

How do you distance yourself from your writing?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Story Endings and Pickle Factories

As I neared the end of my four-mile run the other morning, I was feeling good. Feeling fast. Feeling the burn. Feeling like I had not only enjoyed the run, but that I had worked hard the last three and a half miles. One last hill and then around the corner to my street.

But my satisfying run was about to be ruined. For on the corner is a pickle factory. And boy, were they busy making pickles this morning. Now it's not that I'm not fond of pickles. I like them well enough. The smell from a freshly opened jar doesn't even bother me. But the scent steaming from the vent of this pickle factory was an especially strong smell of a condensed kind. It hit me in the face as I puffed past. It stung my nostrils and soured my stomach.

My run was spoiled.

This is not altogether unlike the feeling you may sometimes get when nearing the end of a book. You may be enjoying the story. You sympathize with the characters. You feel invested in them. You turn each page, wondering what new development will lead them barreling toward the climax. And then...something akin to the stench of a pickle factory wafts toward your nose (or rather, your reader's mind). Something's just not...satisfying. The ending is frumpy, the characters disappointed. The book is soured, just like my stomach on the home stretch of my run the other morning.

It's funny how a bad ending can ruin an otherwise good book and a great ending can redeem a mediocre one.

As I planned the end of my second novel, I really longed for a knockout ending, but as I wrote it smelled more like mediocre. I'm still trying to figure out possible solutions, and I'm certain my critique group will be able to help me. I'm hopeful and determined to fix the problem.

Because truly, there's nothing worse than the smell of pickles at the end of a story.

Have you ever had this experience when reading a book? Have you ever been pleasantly surprised by a book's ending?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Undo Me

Some time back, I found myself stuck in a spiritual slump. I didn't want to be bothered with anyone, or have anyone bother me. I'm ashamed to admit this, but honestly all I wanted to do was fly to a deserted island--just me and my computer and the story ideas floating in my head. Why was God setting up so many roadblocks? Didn't He want me to write for Him?

Thankfully, through multiple circumstances, God lighted my path. No, He isn't looking for more works I can throw at His mighty feet. He wants me, all of me, and if writing is a part of that, it will only be worthy of Him if I put Him first. This prayer hit home for me during that time, and it still does. I especially love the last paragraph. God bless and have a wonderful, blessed week!

I don’t really worship these day
I don’t really stand up to praise you with songs
Or prayers or actions
or with anything
I am full of all the right moves
I am full of all the right words
I am full of all the right religion
But it is all just illusion
I am really
Too religious
Too realistic
and well really just too lazy
to worship you anymore
I have lost my first love
I have lost the joy of your presence
But most of all I have lost the fear of your glory

Father I need to see you again
Like Isaiah I want to stand in awe of your glory
To fall down at your feet
To come face to face with your
I want to stand before you and see you for who you are
and me for who I am
I want to be undone

I want to know me for who I really am
I want to see the depths of my heart
And know that you are the only way
You are the only truth
You are the only life
I want to see me and understand
What it really must have taken for you to
Love me
Care for me
See me
Speak to me
Want me
Communicate with me
Die for me
Die for me
Die for me

Lord, I want to stand in that place where all I can see is your glory
And my sin
Because in that place I can’t help but worship you.
Lord let me come undone
Undo my heart
Lord, undo my heart
break down these walls that I love so much
No, wait don’t,
I’m scared I don’t know if I can handle this
But I can’t live this way anymore
I can’t stand here in this half-life
this going through the motions life
this not really alive life
Father, I need you so come in and do what you must
Cut out the tumor on my heart
Break down the walls that I love
Lord let me come undone
Undo my heart
let me worship you again

*Blake Williams

Monday, October 10, 2011

Saving The Cat

As I near the end of the first draft of my second novel, I was suddenly seized by one of those annoying, niggling feelings that something wasn't quite right. It didn't take long for me to figure it out--the problem was my hero. He's not very nice at the start of the story. In fact, except for his good looks, if I met him on the street I probably wouldn't like him very much. I seem to have this problem--I struggle creating likable characters. I don't think I'm alone.

I've heard of a technique screenwriters (and regular old writers) use early on in a movie (or story).

Have your character save a cat.

Have them do something good, something to show they have a heart, something to tug on your reader's heart.

Okay...it was worth a try. I went back to the beginning of my story, searched for an opportunity for my hero to soften up a bit. I found it, and yes, it definitely made him more likable. Still not certain he's up to par, though. Hmmm...this guy might need to save another cat or two. Maybe an entire litter.

Have you ever struggled with creating likable characters? How do you solve this problem?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Beauty Out of Chaos?

As I sit down to write this, my house is a disaster area. We're in the midst of renovations and, being married to the contractor, I'm trying to accept that we are the last on the list. Every week there is a little change in our home. A window here, a door there, new trim in my kid's bedrooms. I am truly in awe of my husband's skill as he works to make our home beautiful.

But a part of me is often irritated with how my home looks. How slow things are going. As I write this, I have two front doors. No gutters. My microwave and half of my kitchen utensils are in the unfinished addition, of which there is no heat. And speaking of heat, we're still waiting for the wood stove pipes to come in so we can have some. Hopefully the cold weather holds off for a couple more weeks.

As I struggle against the changes, I can't help but think how my house renovation is similar to how God works in our lives. A little uncomfortable change here. A new desire there. Some painful chiseling here. Like my house, I am a constant work-in-progress. Only in the end, on the day I meet my Savior, will beauty prevail. And although I look forward to that day, I hope that I get to see my home beautifully finished first!

And so I also think about this concept as I put pen to paper. Can this first draft turn into anything but chaos? Slowly I chisel. Carefully I add. A scene here. A new depth to my character there. I fly solely on the wings of hope. Who knows? Maybe in the end there will be something beautiful.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Dangerous Life of a Writer

Being a writer can be dangerous, at least for those of us who don't have jobs outside the house. With both my sons in school for a full day, I couldn't wait to spend endless hours holing myself up inside the house with my computer and my characters. I wouldn't let anything distract me. I'd live in my own little fantasy world where I could take delight in playing God, creating stories. Or so I thought...

The thing about being a writer is that no matter how much of an introvert you are, there comes a time when you need to live in the real world. For the sake of our own stories, and for the sake of our writing. How can we write believable characters into a world which we don't experience ourselves?

This was hard for me. I planned to venture out only for groceries and Bible study while my kids were at school. I like being alone. I didn't think I needed other people. A notice came home from school asking for parents to volunteer an hour or two a week at the school library. I signed up every other week for each of my sons' classes. Nothing so hard about being with like-minded mothers who love their children, right?

So there. I'd do my good deed for the week and still have plenty of time left over to write. Especially Tuesdays. They're practically sacred. No laundry, housework, groceries, Bible study...zilch. Just my morning run and then me and my computer for six glorious hours. Or so I thought....

I mentioned in my last post that I'm reading Donald Miller's "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years." Miller delves into the idea of living a better story, one that will satisfy not only ourselves, but God. As I read this book I felt God nudging me to do more. Now I'm not saying God is looking for works, I don't believe He is. But I do believe He's looking at my heart. As I read Miller's book, a strange thing happened. I found myself wanting to do more with the majority of my week than sit in front of my computer. Sure, God may have called me to write, but hasn't He also called me to serve? To live a more meaningful story?

I thought of a soup kitchen I bring food to every so often. A hot, windowless basement/kitchen that serves hundreds of meals a day. Now, besides being slightly claustrophobic, I hate sweating. I can usually only stand this bodily function when I'm running outdoors and a refreshing shower waits for me within forty minutes of said sweating. I'm a bit of a germaphobe--don't care to be around even my husband when he hasn't taken a shower within the past twenty hours. I know I sound awful, but I'm trying to portray how difficult the idea of volunteering at a soup kitchen was for me. Quite likely, I'd have to rub elbows with sweaty people, many who may not have seen a shower in a week.

But once again, I felt God nudging me, changing my heart. Did Jesus care about such petty things when He came to save us? Did He only hang out with people who thought just like Him, agreed with everything He said? And what does all this say about my own heart? I didn't want to look much closer.

I called the soup kitchen and spoke to a pleasant-sounding woman who informed me that they couldn't use me on Mondays. But Tuesdays...well, they really needed someone then.

Huh. Of course, it would be Tuesdays. I told her I'd think about it, which I did (along with a good dose of prayer). I rearranged my schedule and called her back the next day, committing four hours on Tuesday.

This may be out of my comfort zone. I don't know how I'll do. But I know that more than anything else, I want to live my life for God. I want to live a meaningful story, experience more than my own small world. This is one way to do that.

So tomorrow I will venture into the city, into that small, stuffy, windowless basement. I will put aside myself. I will think of others. And I will try, with all my heart, to be Jesus to every single person I meet. Because truly, that is the only meaningful story I will ever live.

What have you done that was outside your comfort zone? What were the results?