Thursday, March 6, 2014

He is like a tree

"...but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers." - Psalm 1:2-3

I struggle sometimes.

I like being in control, and knowing what's ahead of me. I like to have a plan for what comes next. And a plan for after that. And a plan for after that.

Funny, then, that God doesn't always see fit to indulge me.

With the help of three amazing friends (whom I've dubbed my "Wonder Women"), and the guidance of a phenomenal booked called Restless, by Jennie Allen (check it out here), I've slowly been discovering my gifts and abilities, and how God plans to use them through me.

The emphasis there, though, is slowly. See, I was telling them just last night, I have this less than stellar habit of taking an idea and running with it, before it's really ready to be run with. More often than not, it does more harm than good.

God, with his perfect timing, is giving me bits and pieces of his plan for me. Last night, I used the analogy of E.T. following the Reese's Pieces trail. God is luring me out of my plans with snippets of his plans for me, but he knows better than to give me enough to take off with.

Some people have always known what God's plan for their life is. For others, God reveals his plan suddenly, and in completion.

I'm not going to fall into either of those categories. My discovery of his plan for me is a more lengthy process. And that's fine. That's what he wants for me, and that's what I need, and I get that.

But some days, like today, I struggle with that. Because, since I don't have the whole picture, I don't know what's coming next. I don't know what my purpose is, yet. And some days, the bits and pieces I do have get lost in the tangled mess that is my mind, and I forget.

I get discouraged.

Tonight, I was working on a passage of scripture I'm trying to memorize, and something about it struck me.

"He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its seasons, and its leaf does not wither."

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its seasons.

I don't know a lot about plants, but I do live in Oregon, so I know all about buying seasonally. A lot of the plants we eat are designed to have seasons of production, and seasons where they do not produce.

Tonight, it occurred to me that we are likely the same.

We are going to have seasons of yielding fruit. We are also going to have seasons of not yielding fruit.

I'm just beginning to understand God's plan for me.

When you first plant a tree, you don't get fruit the next day. You care for it. You nurture it. You give it what it needs to grow.

You wait.

Sometimes years, you wait.

And then, eventually, you get fruit.

If you planted a peach tree and you just have to have a peach right this moment and your tree is not ready to bear fruit and it's the dead of winter, you can go to the store and buy a peach, right?

If I'm waiting for God to reveal his plan to me, waiting for my tree to bear fruit, in the meantime, I am completely capable of taking it upon myself to make some things happen. I have that ability. I can strive after what I think is supposed to come next.

And it will probably be fine. But it will probably also cost me. Exhaust me. Maybe even taste a little sour.

Peaches aren't cheap in the middle of winter in Oregon. And they're fine. They're alright.

But let me tell you something. There's a farm near my home that sells peaches in the summer. And those peaches, ripe and fresh off of those trees that are in their season are nothing short of heavenly.

God is growing us. He's caring for us, and nurturing us, and giving us what we need to grow. And we have to trust that when we're ready, when it's our season, we will bear the fruit he has planned.

And when that time comes, may we be peaches straight off the tree in August. Ripe, ready, and bursting with the flavor of God.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Be Still.

Psalm 46:10 - "Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!"

Be still.

How many hundreds of times have I heard/read/been reminded of that verse?

Be still.

However many times I've come across it, you know what I focus on? "...and know that I am God."

And that's important. So very, very important. But you know what else is important?

Be still.

Be still.

Be still.

At the direction of a very wise friend, I took some time this weekend to be still. To "stop striving", as she put it. To "stop analyzing". To just be.

I organized the documents on my computer, because I do things like that, and happened across some old poetry I wrote that's good. Good. And I don't say that about myself often. I did some writing - some real writing, creating from the depths of my soul, which I haven't done in eons. I did some drawing. I used to draw all the time. I had a sketchbook full of drawings. I was never great, but I was good, and I enjoyed it, and I literally cannot remember the last time I drew something.

I took a nap. And I didn't feel the least bit guilty about it.

Be still.

You know what I didn't do? I didn't think about how much I needed to do. How busy I was.

See, I have this theory.

I'm 24 years old. I work 30 hours a week. I am married, but have no children (yet). I (or my husband, or both of us) generally have something going on most nights of the week. I generally feel busy.

How many times have people asked how I am and I've responded, "Busy, but good," or something similar. How many times have I texted a friend after not talking for awhile and prefaced it by saying, "Sorry, things have been crazy around here."

But then I look around and the other people in my life who are busy. Who, on top of their own commitments, have kids, and whose kids have commitments. Who, like my sister, are taking a thousand credits this semester at school and also running a newspaper.

I don't think I'm busy.

I'm turbulent.

Be still.

See, even when I have down time, even when I'm sitting on my sofa and don't have to be anywhere for three hours, you know what I'm doing in my head?

Running around in circles.

Because that's what I've grown used to.

For me, business isn't a situational occurrence. It's an attitude.

Be still.

We live in a fast paced, bustling busy culture. And I'm fully aware that some of you are really busy. But what if we lived like we weren't?

Be still.

What if we lived like each moment we have is perfect and precious and enough, and that we will get to the other stuff when it comes?

What if we were still? Despite what is or is not going on in our lives, what if we stop? If we slow down. Take a deep breath. Open our eyes to where we are and just be.

You know what I think?

I think that's where God moves.

Be still, and know that I am God.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Running My Race

I haven't touched this blog in almost four months.

I started my Bible copying project, posted on here four times, and then completely abandoned this blog.

In case any of you are still wondering, I have not completely abandoned my copying project. I'm still working faithfully on that. I was maybe a little foolish to think I would do it in a year, because I very clearly will not, but I will finish it at some point. And, in the mean time, I'm learning about my God in a way I never have before.

And the Bible project is only a part of that learning.

So, rather than keep this blog all about my Bible project, I'm going to use it to talk about all of the things God is doing in my life. The crazy, still-unexplained things, which I don't even fully understand yet. I'm also going to aim to post at least once a week. I figure Saturdays are a good day for me, so we'll start there. I'll still talk about scripture that moves me as I copy it, but that's not all anymore.

Which brings me to this post.

Thanks to modern technology, I've spent the last 24 hours participating in a conference that was happening in Austin, Texas, with some of the women from my church in someone's living room. It was called IF: Gathering, and if you're a woman, you should look it up now, because it kind of seems like it's going to become a big deal.

But, essentially, it was a bunch of women who have embraced God's calling for their lives, and are trying to help a generation of women rise up and do the same. It was powerful. It was convicting. It was emotional. And it was freeing.

The woman who started this whole thing is named Jennie Allen, and if you haven't read any of her books, I suggest you do so immediately. (But be prepared to have your life ruined a little bit. But in the best way possible.) Her latest book is called Restless. I'm in the process of working through it right now, and I feel like it really goes hand in hand with what was discussed at the conference.

A lot of us have big dreams. My mom calls it the "B-HAG", or "big, hairy, audacious goal". And so a lot of what was talked about at the conference, and a lot of Restless, is about figuring out what those big dreams are, and how they fit into what God's calling for our lives is. It's about embracing the things in our lives (she calls them threads) that point us to God's purpose for us. Our passions. Our people. Where we are. The needs we see. It's all about realizing what God wants to do, owning it, and surrendering to the Holy Spirit so that he can move through us.

I'm there now. I've surrendered. I'm embracing whatever he has planned for me, regardless of what I think I can or cannot do, and I'm just going to let him do it. Getting there was not easy, though. At least, not for me. Maybe it is for some people. I had some stuff to work through first. Some things to let go of.

But tonight, I've let go. I've surrendered. I've embraced it. And I'm running free.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Fellow Citizens With The Saints

...and members of the household of God...

In addition to copying Genesis, right now I'm also copying Psalms and Ephesians. Rather than work my way straight through the Bible, I'm doing multiple books at once, and simply working beginning to end in each book. And, this week, I've been particularly grateful that I'm working through Ephesians.

As I've already mentioned, this project is bigger than I ever anticipated. When I decided to do this, I thought it would just be me, on my own, blogging about the journey so that I could process what was happening. When other people decided to join in, whether they're copying the whole Bible, a book or two, or a single chapter, it was clear to me that God was taking this project out of my hands and making it his own.

Hearing that some of you are joining in has been thrilling. And hearing firsthand from a friend who's copied two books so far about what the experience has meant to her, personally, was incredible. I am awed and humbled, waiting to see what God has in store.

However, I also spent the end of last week feeling pretty down. Nothing specific happened. There was no terrible news or tragic incident. I just felt weary, and tired, and dark. I confided in some friends that I felt like there was a spiritual battle being fought over me, and I had a day or two that were just not fun at all. And they, being the great friends they are, immediately told me they would be praying for me.

Which brings me to Ephesians. I'm nearly finished copying it, and it has spoken volumes to me about not only who I am in Christ, but also to the unity that we have, all Christians, "as members of the household of God".

"For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit." - Ephesians 2:18-22

It's times like last week that make me so grateful that I am surrounded by millions--billions, even--of people whose utmost purpose is the furthering of the kingdom of God. When I'm feeling burdened, I have 66 books full of my history and identity as a Christian, and I have a world full of people who are working with me, who are of the same mind, and who will drop anything at a moment's notice and claim God's promises for me.

That had never really clicked with me before, and let me tell you something:

There's nothing quite like realizing just how big God is--not only in heaven, but also on earth--to make any trouble seem completely minute.

So, I'm writing today to thank those of you who are praying over this venture, to encourage those of you who are accompanying me on it, and to tell those of you who might be feeling low today that, in Christ, you are loved, protected, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. 

So own it.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"What is this that you have done?"


I feel like this project is already significantly bigger than I anticipated. After my last post, I shared my blog on Facebook, and my sister ended up sharing it, too. That night, it got 131 views. I've heard from several people already that they want to attempt to join in on this project, too - my sister included. How incredible is that? We could be starting a movement of hand-written Bibles, here!

So I just wanted to say thanks to anyone who's keeping up with this, and good luck to anyone who wants to join in! Don't feel like you have to do it in a year. This is a really absurd goal that I've chosen, and while I feel like it's right for me, it definitely isn't going to work for everyone. So write a chapter a week. Or one chapter a month. I don't care.

The one thing I ask is that you consider this prayerfully before taking it on. I didn't choose to do this because I thought it would be a neat art project, or even because it will make an awesome family heirloom when I'm ninety. Both are true, however, my ultimate goal in this is to awaken to the greatness of our God in a way previously unknown to me.

And, so far, I would say that has been successful.

There's nothing like slowing down and hand-writing something to make me admire the beauty of it. Especially growing up in church, there are parts of the Bible that just become commonplace. And that's so sad, because the writing really is so beautiful.

Through this endeavor, the story of creation has already been revealed to me in a way I never really got before. It is strikingly beautiful. There's this verse, Genesis 2:6, that's stuck with me since I copied it, particularly on these foggy mornings we've been having lately.

"and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground"

It brings to mind this sort of breath-taking stillness and peace. It's poetic, and lovely, and I am so glad that I've slowed down enough to really see it.

Another thing that has struck me so far is also from Genesis. I've only copied down four chapters from Genesis at this point. We're still right in the beginning. But already, God has asked people not once, but twice, "What have you done?"

First, he asks Eve in the garden. "What is this that you have done?" (Genesis 2:13), and then again, he asks Cain after he kills Abel, "What have you done?" (Genesis 4:10, which is actually another really powerful string of words. "And the LORD said, 'What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground.'"  The emphasis is mine, but talk about impact.)

So, here we are, the very beginnings of humanity. Have you ever had a moment with someone where something happens, something terrible, and you are just beside yourself, feeling hurt and confused and horrified by what has happened? I feel like that's how God was feeling both times he asked this question. I can practically hear the hurt in his voice, asking "What have you done?"

I'm curious to see how many more times he asks us this throughout the course of the Bible. And, interestingly enough, the first thought that came to mind after reading this was Jesus on the cross, saying "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). 

How often do we do things that leave God just astounded at our lack of obedience? I can tell you that, for me, it's probably more often than I'd like to think about. 

I'm excited to see that God is already teaching me through this, and I'm anxious (in the best way possible) to see what comes next!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Let There Be Light

My adventure has been on hold for the past few days because I managed, on the very first day, to hit a bit of a roadblock.

See, I can't write straight to save my life. And when I decided to do this, and decided that I wanted to hand-bind the books, it meant I couldn't use normal lined paper, because of the way that I have to fold it to put the book together. But it's important to me that this look nice. I want this to be something that I can cherish for a lifetime, not something that I'm going to open up and think, "I really need to work on my penmanship."

But, I figured it was fine. My plan was to very lightly line each page in pencil, so that I could use the lines to guide my writing and then go back and erase them later. Which is a grand idea. Except that I got exactly eight verses into Genesis before realizing that this was a completely unworkable situation. 

As if hand copying the Bible doesn't take long enough, measuring and precisely lining each individual page takes about six times longer. If I wanted to meet my goal of finishing in a year, I either had to quit my job and spend every waking moment lining my paper, or I needed a new plan.

Enter my makeshift light box:

After some trial and error, I finally bought a clear plastic storage bin and four cheap touch lights and threw them together. The result? A solution to my problem.

Instead of lining each page, I lined one plain sheet of paper with Sharpie, taped it to the box, turned on the lights, and suddenly I have guidelines for my paper. It also means I don't have to go back and erase the penciled-on lines later. Two birds, one stone.

So, with that problem out of the way, I'm actually ready to get going on this, now. I'm thrilled to see what's in store as I move forward.

In fact, a friend of mine is so inspired, she's decided to do the same thing. She's joining me in this ambitious venture to hand copy the Bible. She also had the brilliant idea of printing horizontal lines on her paper with her printer. Clearly, she's the more logical of the two of us.

So, there you have it. A short, technical update before I get into the real meat of the project. 

And now, I'm off to go do some more writing.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

In The Beginning

I love beginnings.

The first sunny day in spring. The first time at a new restaurant. The first whiff of a book as you thumb through the pages. In the beginning, everything is new. Exciting. Full of wonder and expectation and just a touch of nervousness.

That's how I'm feeling today. When I got home from work, waiting for me at my door was a package (which is its own kind of excitement). This package was special because it contained paper. Very special paper, for a very special project. See, with this paper, I am undertaking quite possibly the biggest project of my life thus far.

But before I get into that, let me tell you a little about myself.

I am a writer. I eat, sleep and breathe words. Words create and destroy, and bring joy and sorrow. They are powerful and beautiful and clear and love them.

I am also a Christian. I am constantly being changed, shaped and made new by my creator, and I am learning, slowly, to revel in it. He is the author of the universe; the writer I could never even dream of becoming. And I love him all the more for it.

What I am not, however, is good at finishing my own novel.

I have been working on the same story, with tweaks major and minor, since 2008. I have taken it to two writer's conferences, met with multiple literary agents and publishers, received requests from most of them, and have still managed to not finish it, regardless of what goals or motivations I set before myself.

So, imagine the dismay I have felt; knowing that God has gifted me in writing, feeling like he has called me to write, and seeming incapable of completing the only writing project (aside from assignments) I've had for five years.

Which brings me to this blog. About a week ago, I had the sudden urge to write the Bible. And by "sudden urge to write the Bible", I mean I have never felt so strongly about writing anything in my life. Ever. So, I've taken this as literal divine inspiration, and I'm going to do it.

Let me say that again:

I decided one day that I was going to write out the Bible. Word for word. By hand.

I feel strongly that this satisfies a couple desires for me.
First: I am at a point in my novel where I feel helplessly stuck. I haven't written a word in months, and it's killing me. So, this will get me writing again without feeling like I'm dropping my novel to start a new story. In case you were wondering, this also doesn't mean I'll never come back to my own book. I might, after this. Maybe with renewed enthusiasm, even. But for now, it's on hold.
Second: I have always felt that there has been something missing during my quiet time with God. I don't know if it's that creative streak in me feeling unsatisfied with simply reading and journaling and praying, or if it has been the Holy Spirit trying to make me have this idea for years. Either way, I've found it difficult to read my Bible and feel like I was connecting with it in a way that is real for me. Now, I will say that lately, I feel as if that's changed. God is speaking to me through his Word in a way I haven't noticed before, and it's wonderful. But I think this is going to be even better.

My goal, lord willing, is that I finish in a year. Now, I don't know if you've ever looked up "hand writing the Bible" online, but I did. There's not a whole lot there. What I did find was a couple articles about a man who made a handwritten and illuminated Bible, which took 12 years, another man who did it in seven years, a video of a sweet old woman who did it over about 16 years, and a blog post by a man who did it in a year and a half.

So, my God either has incredible confidence in me to put one year in my head, or I am utterly stupid. I'm hoping it's the former.

Because I'm right-brained and have to be creative, I will also be hand-binding each book of the Bible, separately. So, when I've finished, I will have 66 volumes, all hand written and hand bound. I'm already trying to figure out where to keep them.

So there you have it! This is my wild journey with God for the next year, which I felt like I should blog about because I love writing (clearly), and I figure I'll be so sick of hand writing that I'll want to type for awhile. Weird, right?

I'm anticipating that I'll be blessed by my venture, probably in ways I can't even imagine right now. And, I'm hoping, if you're following along with me, maybe you'll be blessed, too?