Worry

Am I really relying on God?

I woke up this morning with a to-do list in my head.

In the next two days I’ve gotta talk to builders, do my tax, go to the dentist, edit my book, visit a friend, run home group, and write this blog. Oh, and go to work. And find clean clothes to wear.

It’s not impossible, but the list is taking up a lot of brain space. And making me a little tense.

But while I was thinking about it this morning, God was like, “Why are you concerned? I can deal with the blog. I can deal with the book. They’re both things that should happen in My time anyway.

“And the other things will all be done once these two days are over.

“So chill. I’ve got this.”

To which my response is, “Sweet. Please help me to be chill. And pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease let things go well at the dentist!”

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Phil 4:6-7 NIV

 

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A challenge to trust, remember the dance floor

the-sea-in-december

Mum challenged me with a question when I was worried about something over the weekend:

“How can you tell others to trust God when you can’t trust him in this circumstance?”

Snap!

She said it very nicely, but hit the nail right on the head.

It reminded me of this part of the Bible:

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.  Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Matthew 14:25-33 NIV

 

I have to admit, I start sinking all the time, so Mum’s reminder is a good one. If I’m telling others to trust, it’s nothing less than hypocritical to not trust God myself. Understandable, in some circumstances, but still hypocritical.

So, how do I trust?

For me, it always helps to listen to the song ‘Oceans’, by Hillsong United. This is the song that got that critical draft of my book done in just 10 weeks before the writing conference last year. Every time I freaked out (happened on average every 3 hours), I listened to it. And it reminds me that God is bigger than whatever problem I’m focusing on.

I also have some go-to Bible verses, (Is 40, Phil 4:6-7, Ps 139 and Ps 55 are favourites) and I remember what I learned from Daisy: whatever’s happening, God can and will use it for His glory.

And prayer makes a difference. On Sunday I remembered this post from 2014, and how I used to spend time with God on the dance floor. That post really defined my prayer life for at least six months, but in the two years since I slowly forgot about it.

I’m glad God reminded me. 🙂 It was a really special thing, still is.

What about you? What do you do when your trust is challenged?

Share in the comments below!

 

When the Point is Not the Point

Copyright Creationswap, image by Matt Cole.

Copyright Creationswap, image by Matt Cole.

What if an issue I’m having, is actually not the real issue at hand?

For instance, I’m planning to attend a writer’s conference in America next year. I am SUPER excited to head back to the States and meet real authors who can help me improve my craft. But there’s a few hurdles to overcome first.

When’s the right time to go? When will I be ready? Which conference should I attend?

And, the one that’s concerning me the most; who will I travel with?

So far I haven’t found a travel buddy. While doing the conference alone doesn’t bother me, travelling as a tourist after the conference does. I get lost in Australia; how will I find my way around the gigantic cities of the USA? And if I never find someone to come with me, will I get to go at all?

But the other day, something occurred to me.  I’ll bet that God’s not worried about which conference I choose or who I go with.

Copyright Creationswap, photo by Joe Davis.

Copyright Creationswap, photo by Joe Davis.

Sure , if He particularly wants me at one event  He’ll direct me toward it. If if a travel buddy is necessary, He will provide one. But I think the detail He is way more interested in is whether or not I trust Him.

It’s tempting to stress. It’s tempting to set a deadline and say, ‘God, you’d better give me an answer before this date, otherwise I can’t go and my world has crashed around me’.

But I’ve learned that God usually breaks those deadlines. I think it’s on purpose to stretch me.

Far more important than the fun of the trip, the networking I do and the skills I learn, is how my relationship with God fares during the process.

As the time draws nearer, will I wonder if He has lost control? Or will I pray about my concerns, do the best I can, and then trust it to Him?

Maybe the point of the conference, isn’t actually the point of the conference at all.

I faced the same situation months ago with my job. I didn’t know if I should find a new job, which one I should pursue, or if I should work two part-time jobs. I stressed and stressed and stressed.

At the end of the day, God probably wasn’t as concerned about the job as He was about my attitude.

I wasn’t really freaked out that God wouldn’t provide; I was more worried that I’d make the wrong choice. I didn’t trust that God would come through on His promise to guide me.

It was a painful lesson, but God’s helping me to not fall in the same trap this time.

Do you have any such issues in your own life?

 

 

 

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How to Make the Fog Work for You: A Journey of Faith Part III

Fog Forest

What does it mean to ‘have faith’? And how does that look in everyday life?

This has been God’s challenge to me in the past few weeks, as I debated over a big decision regarding my job. I’ve been pretty faithless during this entire  process (I’d rather eat a cactus than search for another job), and even though I knew my mindset wasn’t ideal, I didn’t think it was a major issue.

Then a friend asked me to speak at church, and gave me a topic: How did Jesus do life?

During my study of the Book of Luke, I noticed that when Jesus commended people, it was usually about their faith. In fact, faith seemed to get him pretty excited. And then I remembered a verse from Hebrews 11:

“Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Heb 11:6 NIV)

Ouch. This was a bigger problem than I’d given it credit for. When the Israelites were faithless and didn’t believe God would deliver the Promised Land to them, they lost the privilege of entering it. Instead they wandered the desert for the rest of their lives and it was their children who saw the fulfillment of God’s promise.

I don’t want that to be me. Hence this series on faith.

As I work on my attitude and get ready to give my talk at church, I’ve been studying the Bible’s most well-known chapter on faith: Hebrews 11.

The whole thing is a description of faith, and a bunch of examples of what faith looked like in the lives of people in the Old Testament. I’ve been making a list.

Here’s my two favorites for this week:

By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going… Abraham did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations – the City designed and built by God. (Heb 11:8-10 MSG)

Faith looks like: Obeying even when you don’t know where you’re going.

By faith Abraham, even though he was past age–and Sarah herself was barren–was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. (Heb 11:11-12 NIV)

Faith looks like: Believing God’s promise, even when it looks impossible.

I like the first one because right now, as I start a new career, I feel like I have no idea where I’m going. Yeah, on the outside it looks like I do. This new job is full-time, more secure, better paying and holds greater opportunities than my two old part-time gigs.

But I didn’t expect to get it. I expected to work part-time jobs and focus my energy on becoming an author. I expected God to use me through my role as a mentor–something I’ve had to give up to take the job. While this new opportunity is awesome, it’s unexpected, and I don’t quite know where I’m going with it.

But Abraham was in the same position, and having faith panned out pretty well for him. He fulfilled God’s purposes for him, and came to know God in a deeper way. Can you imagine what a shame it would have been if he had’ve said, “No thanks God, I think I’ll stay where I am”?

And then the second part takes it to a whole new level. Abraham trusted God when He promised something–even something that seemed so far out of reach. I have trouble believing God when He promises me reasonable things. I think I would’ve struggled a little if God told me I’d have a baby when I’m in my 70s and my husband’s 100!!!

But again, look at what Abraham would’ve missed out on if he had no faith.

In my position right now, I feel a little like I’m walking through a thick fog, feeling my way around. I’m making progress, but I’m not sure what’s going to happen next.

But looking at this from Abraham’s perspective, the fog might not be an obstacle. It might be an opportunity. He didn’t need to see where he was going; he needed faith.

So do I.

 

 

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NO MINISTRY, NO CAREER, NO MAN. GREAT PLAN? PART III

Image sourced from CreationSwap.com, made by Mark Lauman.

Image sourced from CreationSwap.com, made by Mark Lauman.

A miracle happened today.

After finally starting my new part-time job in retail (in addition to my existing part-time gig at the boarding school) I got a phone call about another job. Another big decision. (That’s not the miracle. Wait for it.)

My last big job decision led to the contentment crisis I wrote about in Part I and Part II. It involved weeks of nail-biting stress and fear of making the wrong decision. It even triggered a hissy fit about cheese.

Today I hung up from the phone call which could lead to another major decision and waited for the sky to fall in. I was about to hit the panic button and ring Mum when I paused and prayed.

Then I waited. And all was calm.

MIRACLE!

What? Calm? After the soap opera-worthy drama that raged in my head last time? Yep. So far it’s been a whole hour, and I’m still doing pretty good.

What changed?

It wasn’t simply the fact that I prayed. I prayed last time. I prayed like I was drowning and using my last breath to squeal at God. I prayed with desperation, begging for guidance and not really expecting to get it. I prayed without faith.

God has since pointed out to me my shocking lack of faith. Really, you’d think I’d get it by now. Not only do I have numerous examples from my own life when God’s been trustworthy, there’s also a bazillion examples in the Bible of faith and faithlessness. Remember what happened to the faithless Israelites? Forty years of wandering! Yikes. But what happened when Peter had faith? He walked on FREAKING WATER!

So I’ve been praying for faith and wisdom this week. God’s also pointed out to me (again) these verses from Philippians 4:

 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

So this time, when I prayed, I didn’t whine, groan or gasp. (Although for some prayers, that’s fine.) This time I surprised myself when I realized that I’m confident God will give me the resources I need to be content, whichever path I take, and that He will guide me when it’s the right time.

This confidence totally isn’t from me. Just ask my sister who listened to my complaints about cheese.

I think it’s safe to say that God’s holding up his end of the bargain with this whole ‘prayer=peace’ thing.

In my experience, peace and fear are major factors in contentment and discontentment. Even when I’m not making decisions about my job, I’m often plagued by fear that I’m missing opportunities. When I’m 40, will I regret not going overseas to work for a year like lots of people my age are doing? Even though I don’t want to do that, fear still hounds me that one day I’ll regret staying in Australia. My writing is another thing. Most writers are 50+ years old for a reason. Am I making a poor life decision by pursuing my novels now?

Two weeks ago, I wrote about a new prayer God had given me.

“Thank-you for where I am, because it’s where You want me to be, God. And that’s more important than my own plan.”

It’s my motto for contentment. And it’s still holding true. I don’t need to worry about the ‘what-ifs’ because I’m following God. That’s all that matters.

Now I’m adding my new way of praying to that. Prayer with confidence. A conversation with God that’s still honest about my feelings, but contains faith that God hasn’t deserted me and knows what is best.

Who knows? Maybe next week I’ll walk on a puddle.

 

How about you? What’s the tone of your prayers? Have you experienced a link between faith and contentment in your own life?

Contribute to the conversation below!

 

 

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NO MINISTRY, NO CAREER, NO MAN. GREAT PLAN? PART II

 

God's been teaching me about contentment.

Photo by Tom Black, sourced from CreationSwap.com.

 

“Thank-you for where I am, because it’s where You want me to be, God. And that’s more important than my own plan.”

This is my new motto for contentment.

Even before last Tuesday happened, I’d been thinking about contentment. Whenever I had a less-than-awesome day I worried that I wasn’t living life the best that I could. Should I go work in America for a year? Move across the country to get back into journalism? And so on.

I also spent a lot of time day-dreaming about the day I become a published author or get married. It even affected my motivation for getting closer to God. There wasn’t a Christian event I went to where I wasn’t subtly scanning the audience for husband material or mentally plotting my next book. While I did want to be closer to God for God’s own sake, I also figured that the closer I got to Him, the closer I got to His purposes for me (i.e. marriage and novel-writing).

God showed me this attitude wasn’t helping my life, and gave me that prayer at the top of the page. For a few days, each time I wished I was at a different stage, or worried that I wasn’t grabbing life by the horns, I prayed that prayer. I remembered that I was exactly where God wanted me. And the day He wanted me somewhere else, He’d tell me.

Then last Tuesday happened. The rubber really hit the road. I didn’t react well.

But the prayer still stands true.

I might want a good job, a writing career or a family, but that might not be in God’s plan. And was I designed to live a pleasant life on earth, or was I designed to live in relationship with Him forever and accept His purposes over mine?

I hope that God’s plan does include a family and some form of writing. But my contentment can’t be dependent on that happening one day. God asks for my ALL my heart, ALL my soul, ALL my mind and ALL my strength. (Mk 12:30) My contentment should depend on Him alone.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit I’m not good at this. If I get tired, hot or hungry, contentment flies out the window. Yesterday I was stressed about my job, so I got mad because my housemate ate my cheese.

Yep, I got angry over cheese. And there was other cheese in the fridge, it just wasn’t the one I bought.  So I’m certainly not perfect—not even close!

And once I do get good at this contentment thing, what if my life gets easy for a while? I’m afraid I might slip back into the same bad habits when everything goes my way.

But God will be with me. I’m asking Him to remind me of what I’ve learned, to keep me accountable and to keep me moving forward. If I keep my heart open, He’ll keep the relationship developing.

And that’s what we were created for.

 

Thanks for reading! I’ve also got a guest post up today over at Ritty’s Adventures In Writing.

Here’s a peek:

Writer’s block, deadlines, falling sales, rejections, blog statistics, criticism…there’s plenty of things to freak out about in a writing career.
My recent concerns? 
I’m worried my marketing skills are inadequate and I can’t write fast enough to please myself.
A few weeks ago the self-inflicted pressure built till I resented any interruptions to my writing. But even when I was left in peace, I just couldn’t get everything done that I wanted to. It was taking me too long to achieve ‘success’. With my stress levels skyrocketing, I read this verse…
You’ll have to visit Ritty’s blog to see the rest!

Enjoy this article? Hit the ‘follow by email’ button on the right sidebar and you’ll get every post delivered straight to your inbox.

If occasional updates are more convenient, sign up for my newsletter! You’ll get an exclusive sneak peak at my novel-in-progress, All I Am. 

God Went Out of His Way for Me on Monday

Have you ever been surprised when God talked to you though the mouths of three other people in a half-hour time frame?

 

My friends didn't know God was speaking to me through them on Monday.

Photo from flikr by Vinoth Chandar, used under attrition licence. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

That was me on Monday night.

I was at a friend’s house for a weekly prayer/worship meeting. As I bowed my head to pray, I had an overwhelming sense of God has forgotten you.

This was mostly because in the days prior to Monday I realized that I have to get another job. It’s something I’ve been putting off, as I love the way things are at the moment. The whole thought had me worried about the future. Would another job leave me without any time to write? Would I hate it? Am I about to make a giant mistake?

(What about last week’s post about faith? Yeah, yeah, I know. But I was a lot less worried than I usually would be. I’m making progress!)

I knew the feeling was just plain wrong. I knew the job thing had me unsettled, and I planned to find some encouraging verses to chase away my fears when I got home. But God didn’t make me wait that long.

An hour or so into the meeting our leader, Dan, pulled out his Bible and started reading from Haggai. His first words were:

“‘I am with you,” declares the Lord.

Haggai 1:13b NIV

He went on to talk about something else, but those first seven words really grabbed my attention. It was like they were just for me.

Later we raised prayer points and I had one on an unrelated topic. We took turns praying for one another, and when it was my turn a few friends prayed for me. Two in particular were really encouraging, especially one from my friend Cat.

Cat’s prayer barely even touched on the prayer point I’d raised. Instead she started by praying for my writing—one of the main things I’d been worried about. Pretty much every sentence she said spoke directly to a fear I’d had, and then she ended by asking God to let me know that He’s with me.

W O W.

There was no way Cat could’ve known how spot-on her prayer was. There was no way Dan could’ve known which verse I needed to hear. It just happened. It was just God.

Stuff like that blows me away. It wasn’t 100% necessary. God could have let me go home and find some verses (which I did do anyway). But on Monday, He decided to do something extra. He grabbed a megaphone and shouted, “I LOVE YOU! I’M WITH YOU!”

Awesome.

 

How about you? Has God ever surprised you by going the extra mile?

Share your thoughts below. 🙂

 

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