Monday, March 24, 2014

What do you look like when you love?

A friend of mine, H.L., recently went to Donald Miller's Storyline conference and told me some of the highlights (Anne Lamott spoke there! WOW!) Though I used to be a huge fan of Donald Miller, I have some mixed feelings about him these days, especially after his recent blog post about how he doesn't attend church anymore because it's not fulfilling to him.  But H.L. had lots of good things to say about this conference and all  the people sharing how God has led them to live better stories, amazing stories. Here's a blogger from Converge Magazine, who  shared her interesting perspective on this event from 2013.

All this brought to mind a post I wrote here in 2010 about "What I want to give God this year" inspired by Donald Miller's book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I wrote:
 "Miller challenges us to live a better story. Good stories have characters that take great risks, or face great conflict. The main character faces conflict and for a while you're not sure if he's going to overcome it. And the very best stories have sacrifice in them." 
I was blown away by the story about "How Jason Saves His Family" in this book, and re-reading this post from 4 years ago inspired me again, and also made me revisit the question of "how am I living a better story?"  What have I done in the past 4 years since this challenge?

Well, nothing like the ideas that I talked about in that post, though they were good ideas and I am sorry  I did not pursue them (sharing more about missionaries and their work with my daughters, sponsoring a child from Compassion International). Wow, this blog has actually made me accountable because I forgot to do some things that were very worth doing, but it's never too late to get started.

But while my ideas from 4 years ago didn't pan out, I do feel like the overall challenge to live a better story did take root in me and grow. Not as much as I'd like, I'm still not much more than a seedling, but there was progress. Also, the progress didn't happen until a year ago, almost exactly, when I found the puzzle piece that I was missing after reading Donald Miller's book. He shared lots of ideas but his ideas didn't quite fit me. I mean, he was a single man with no kids, and I'm a married woman with kids; he could pursue things I couldn't, though like I said I came up with some good ideas that I could do (and didn't).

But a year ago Beth Moore asked this question on her blog, What do you look like when you love?

What do you look like when you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength?
Because THAT person, Girlfriend, is who He’s looking for in you.
When we’re trying to hash out God’s priorities for us, that’s IT in a nutshell. “Teacher, which commandment is the most important of all?”
And that’s what He told them.
So, let me ask you this: when you are teeming with love for the Lord your God, who are you right then? What is your passion? What is it that you are bursting to do? That’s probably the stream of your calling. I’m not asking you who you see in front of you when you feel the most love for Jesus because that could be your pastor or your teacher or your worship leader. I’m asking you who is INSIDE OF YOU when you are flooded with the fiery love of Christ? Right there in that passion you’ll start discovering that purpose.
And that’s the road down which you will find what He put you on the planet to do. You don’t have to figure out what to surrender to. Just surrender your heart to Jesus. Every single ounce of it. Ask Him to give you a love for Him that surpasses anything in your human experience. A supernatural capacity. And ask Him for it every day until He does it and then ask Him to do it some more. If you’re a writer, your exploding love for Him will bring it out. If you’re a liberator, you will not be able to keep yourself from seeing to the oppressed. If you’re a teacher, you won’t be able to quit studying except to share what you learned with somebody. If you love Him with your whole heart and that whole heart bursts to sell everything and move to China, Girl, get your passport!

I don't know why I've hung onto this post for a whole year without sharing about it. Maybe it's because I wanted to see something come of it, instead of just talking about it. After reading this a year ago I can still remember jumping up and down with joy. That's it!!!!  I've always so felt inadequate, so lame because I'm not on fire for missions or evangelizing or serving more at church or other ministries. But I love the Lord passionately, with ALL MY HEART.  When I am flooded with awe and wonder of my Lord, it pours out IN MY WRITING, and also, when I teach. I LOVE to teach about the Lord.

A moment after this revelation/confirmation/affirmation, I had doubts. But I'm not PUBLISHED. Only a handful of people read my blog. What if it's all a waste of time? What if I'm only doing it for myself? And as far as teaching, I've offered to teach Bible studies at least half a dozen times and it never goes anywhere (or maybe only lasts for a short season).

But does work have to be BIG and NOTICEABLE to be worthy? Maybe the short studies I did teach did make a difference, to someone. I have been teaching children's church for years, the three year old class. Three year olds - I often think, that's no big deal. But Beth's post gave me a different perspective. I actually like teaching three year olds more than any other age group I've tried, including adult women. I LOVE teaching three year olds. I love how their faces light up and how I can make them giggle and how their hands shoot up enthusiastically when I ask them a question. And you know what, I also learn a lot myself, while teaching three year olds. You'd think it wouldn't be deep spiritual stuff, and I crave deep spiritual stuff. But learning how to distill deep spiritual stuff down to what a three year old can understand is challenging and enlightening. And sometimes their 3 year old perspectives cut straight to my heart too.

So as I was going through this revelation about teaching, it also hit me hard, here's another one of God's marvelous directional arrows that He sometimes uses to point me a direction he'd like me to go.  I had been vacillating about home school, even after a very clear arrow from God a few months earlier.  I had doubts. But this erased those doubts. From this point in March last year, I fully committed to home school and God honored my commitment and has brought it all to pass, despite obstacles and conflicts, yup now I can look back and see the long long story with all its conflicts and delays and doubts.... And I never could have dreamed how REWARDING it would be.  He wants me to be  a teacher. Years ago when I first discovered I loved to teach, I had imagined a different sort of teaching but God steered me right to where I was meant to be, and I love it.

Now I'm still not sure exactly where God is taking me with my writing. But I do know that my love for God pours out in my writing.  But it seems a semi-selfish pursuit, since none of its published (yet). I have finished one book and have started querying it to agents. I wasn't sure what to work on next and took a two month break from writing in January and February to think/pray about my writing.

Then a couple weeks ago at church (during the preaching, and it was really good preaching, too) the thought occurred to me: why don't I work on that children's story again, and share it with my kids? I had written a unicorn story with Narnian-type allegories to Christ and the Bible years ago, and then moved on to other more "grown up"  projects. I wondered what my kids would think of it? Was this a  God thought? So I read the first couple chapters to my kids and they LOVED it and begged me to read more it, much more than they've ever begged me to read other books (and they've loved the Narnia books we've read together so far, and Bambi's Children, and many other classics).

So I am pouring out my love for God in editing/revising a story about unicorns and God for my girls. I am also tossing around another writing/reading related idea, listening to other people's stories and writing for them. I am teaching my girls, and three year olds at church. Maybe sometimes the sacrifice and the struggle in living a good story is that at first it wasn't the grand story you were expecting. Perhaps God will move me on to other storylines later. For now, I am fulfilled and living in awe of His Glory.

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