Friday, October 30, 2015

Reflections - Part 1

I have made it to Day 30--glad to see you still hanging around with me!  I really appreciate you taking the time to read my posts each day.

For the last two days, I want to take a moment to reflect on how this writing month has worked for me, and what it has meant to me.  Today I focus on how I got to this point.

From the Beginning

Each morning I have a daily reading from the Bible.  By the end of the calendar year, I have gone through the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation...and then I start over on January 1.  I started the year Todd and I got married so that is twelve complete trips through the Bible if anyone is counting.  I say all that to point out that when I read Psalm 139 this year, it wasn't the first time I had ever read it.  I should have been pretty familiar with it.  But I wasn't.  When I read it this year, it was like I had never seen it before.  The Holy Spirit made it come alive in my heart that day.  Just like it says in Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."  I was really convicted with two thoughts that day about the Scripture.  The first is the sheer beauty of the words.  They just washed over me...and through a spring shower on a fresh bed of flowers; I just soaked up every word and felt refreshed.  The second was a call to memorize the Psalm.  I remember thinking that something so beautiful should be committed to memory so I could bring it up anytime I needed it.  That is a big chunk of Scripture to memorize, but I could do that.

Summer Struggles

But I didn't.  Not right then anyway.  I thought several times over the summer that I needed to start memorizing those words.  As I have mentioned several times, this summer was a difficult for one.  It is hard to pinpoint exactly what it was, but I can see now that I was dealing with a lot of insecurity about measuring up to other people's standards, or the standards that I have made up inside of my head.  I just had this persistent nagging with my soul that I was doing life wrong, that I just couldn't quite get it together.

Declare Conference

This conference had a huge impact on me.  Although I have written about different aspects of it, I still cannot fully convey how the message there went so deep inside of me.  Every speaker seemed to reference Psalm 139 in some way or another.  Even those that did not directly quote it seemed to be talking about ideas in there:  God's power and sovereignty, embracing our unique identity, and turning over our anxieties to Him.  I was blown away with how this same message kept coming up and up during this two and a half days.  I know it was the Holy Spirit working in me.  I began to see the lies that had been holding me bondage and releasing some of the pent-up anxiety a little at a time.  There were some really difficult moments when I was coming to terms with all of that and dealing with those things I had stored up inside of me.  I began to see my summer struggles differently at that point.  What if I had memorized those twenty-four verses when God first put it on my heart, way back on May 15?  Would I have still felt all that anxiety, worry, and insecurity over the summer?  Or would I, at least, have been better equipped to deal with it?  This is when I started telling myself, "I am enough.  He is more than enough."


In the days that followed the Conference, I began to memorize Psalm 139.  I won't describe that process again in detail, but I just tried to break it into chunks.  I did great for a few days...right up until I went back to school.  And then I have had a much harder time getting it to stick in my head.  (This would have been so much easier if I had worked on it in May, June, and July; kind-of makes a case for being obedient to His call the first time around!)  I will confess that I still do not have all it really solid; I keep getting lost in verses 15-22.  But I haven't quit either.  It is still hanging in the laundry room, and I still practice when I fold clothes every day.


In the days after returning home from Declare, I was busy unpacking.  The few things in my suitcase were put away easily, but the message I received in my heart took a lot longer.  There was so much information that I took away from the conference, and so many ways that God had touched my heart.  That conference was "packed" full of the Spirit, and it takes a while to process through all of that.  It seemed clear that I needed to write about this entire Psalm 139 experience...and that it would take more than a day or two to tell this story.  On the way home from Dallas, Jennifer Frisbie, Amy Tuley, and I discussed the October 31-Day Challenge.  It wasn't actually a part of Declare at all; just an idea that all three of us were kicking around.  With their encouragement and support, I decided I would jump in and do it.

Outline and Revising the Outline

I have never been much of a brainstorming/outlining kind of writer.  In fact, don't tell my students this, but I always used to write my paper first and then my outline after that.  But I figured for a project this large, I needed to see how it was going to lay out.  I knew I wanted to focus on Psalm 139, but I didn't know if that was enough material to cover 31 Days.  I originally thought I would do one verse a day, and then only have a few extra days to fill.  When I really got to studying it though, it seemed like certain verses went together and certain ones needed to be stretched out.  I got the whole thing pretty well nailed down, but it was never final.  Even as late as this week, there were still changes being made to what I thought I was going to write.  Maybe I should have written the outline afterwards this time too!

Prayer and Changing Direction

I have prayed a lot over this series.  Although I have written it to showcase how God has been working in my life, I have wanted it be meaningful to my audience as well.  I have prayed over if I should do this challenge, what direction to go, and for the words of each post.  The other night I tried to start writing and I had absolutely nothing coming.  After staring at the screen for a good fifteen minutes or so, I was about to give up.  I was so tired, and there was nothing coming to my brain.  I set my timer for five minutes (longer than that and I would been very much asleep) and prayed for God to calm the chaos in my brain to give me whatever words He wanted me to say.  Honestly I cannot even remember which post that was right this minute, but He provided.  Another day, I had a direction I wanted to go, and I felt like God said, "No, not that."  I tried to be open to changing direction when my original plan didn't feel right.

Writing, Publishing, and Sharing

I had no idea the time commitment when I agreed to do this.  I like to think I am pretty good at writing the blog posts.  But I am easily frustrated at all the other stuff:  the design of the blog and getting it to do what I want it to do, the buttons and the landing page, the pinning it to a board somewhere, the graphics, the sharing it on Facebook...That is a lot of "extras" when I thought it was only writing.  (Luckily, I do have a super smart husband who helps me with some of the technical aspects when needed.)

Sacrificing Isaac

When I finish a post, it is a bit like giving birth.  It can be painful in the process, but there is a lot of joy when the finished product come out.  I made that.  I did it.  That's my baby, and I am so proud of it.  It is really, really easy to get sucked into checking to see if anyone commented on it or who liked it today (or who didn't).  I can find myself checking and refreshing my newsfeed fifty times a day if I am not careful.  I try not to pay much attention to my stats on Blogger, which is really hard because I find it interesting and they have placed it right on my homepage when I sign in.  But I have to lay all that down.  For one thing, it can make me obsessive, and it is a huge time-sucker.  Another thing is that it takes the focus away from God and puts it on me.  That's not right; it is not supposed to be about my glory.  This may seem a little extreme to make this comparison, but I have to leave my  "writing baby," my Isaac,  at the altar every day.  This thing I have made--this post--these words I have crafted together, I have to lay it down.  I try to ask God to bring the people to my post who need to read it, even if it is only one person, even if I never know who it is.  This really is the hardest part for me to turn that over to Him every day.  It's like I'm saying, "Here, God.  I made this for you.  Whatever you want to with it is fine because it is yours now."  But when I really do give it up to Him, those are the days that I have the greatest sense of peace about the writing and sharing process.

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