From Start to Finish, a Review

I really suck at goals y’all. No, scratch that. I am awesome at making goals when they pertain to work or my health. What I suck at is finishing the one goal that has been before me for years.

After getting a pre-release copy of Jon Acuff’s new book, Finish (out on September 12th) that is all about to change. This guy taught me how to quit, how to start, but now he’s focused in on how to finish what you’ve started.

Goals you refuse to chase don’t disappear, they become ghosts that haunt you.

He does it succinctly and practically. Guiding you through assessing your current goal, where you are in it, and what might need to be dialed in differently in order to get you to your goal of finish. And finish you shall.

I honestly didn’t want to finish the book, because then it would mean I was perfectly armed to face down that goal of writing a book that I have wanted to do for so long. But it’s a lot nobler to point to the outline and the chapters that lay unfinished as I take on new tasks, new distractions, more excuses. To say if it’s not perfect, it won’t be finished.

Jon tears through all that to point out how we self-sabotage our own goals before we even get started because we like to ruin it ahead of time. Those New Year’s goals? How ya doing on those here in September? Interlaced with humor that Acuff does so well amidst the practical steps of addressing your failure to finish, his newest book will get you to the same it did him-finishing.

If you pre-order Finish before midnight September 11th there’s over $200 worth of freebies to lay claim to, including a video series with Jon that’s a HUGE value. Pre-order here. And then fill out this form.

The Single Writer Rant

Can I tell y’all something? I get a bit agitated when I read Christian single columns or books on dating. That’s my thing right? Like that is exactly what I’m working on a book proposal for, and I hate reading on the subject?

Yes, yes I do.

Here’s the reason why it bothers me so much.

Because at *almost* 36 years of age, I have a very hard time finding a substantive book on dating/Christian singleness that isn’t fluffy junk or preparation for marriage only written by another single Christian. Oh don’t get me wrong, there’s some good stuff out there and I am a big fan of several authors on the matter. The problem lies in when I scroll to their bio (on internet articles) or flip the back cover open. Every single one of them says “married to…” or “wife of…”

Yes I want their expertise and knowledge on this stage of life…but what if this stage is ultimately my landing spot? I want to know how to live in this place of life from someone whose navigating it themselves as a single. My ultimate goal in life isn’t marriage, and most days I don’t think about it. There are days I long for it, and pray about it, and my future husband, yes. (Y’all he needs your prayers, cause I’m obviously quite a handful) My ultimate goal in life is to live in obedience to God, moving ever closer to Christ and who He would have me be.

And so I bring my rant to you the church, to the fellow writers and singletons in the church…let’s step into our lives fully, and talk about them. Let’s be honest enough with ourselves and with our people to learn and grow from one another. I wouldn’t let a fresh out of college kid tell me about the navigation of retirement, so why sit back and let marrieds tell us about our single life? I bring it to the publishers, the editors, the curriculum people…singles in the church and out of the church need their voice in print, in studies, in in-depth richness that pursues more than a marital outcome, but a life shaped and molded for Christ’s use.

But First, A Word from God

I love books. The fact that I currently have a stack on my bedside table just to read in the next couple of w

I review books as a blogger for a publishing company and I find solace in roaming through bookstores and piles of old books in thrift stores. My library card could have caught fire with how I burn that thing up using it so often.

scripture-and-psychologyBut the problem occurs when I put the words of even well-intentioned Christian authors ahead of Scripture. I can read about getting out of a pit, about loving others through what I do, and realizing the freedom I have in Christ. Yet, if I am not digging into His Word first? Well, then I am robbing myself of actual Truth.

Since Secret Church I have kept coming back to one particular area that David Platt taught on-the goodness of the Bible. And y’all, it is good. It brings us to Him directly instead of us relying upon another to reveal something to us. Just this morning I was really wanting to pour back into the book I am currently reading on friendships instead of the digging back into the book of Acts. Then I realized that I was placing more emphasis on someone else’s words, even a fellow sister in Christ, instead of Scripture itself, God’s very word to me.

There are days when I don’t feel like digging into His word, the hard of it. The messy of it. But it’s His truth, His divine words for me and for you for our lives and for His glory. When I put other’s words ahead of His? Well I start making myself a disciple of that person rather than of Him. (p. 125, Secret Church) I also miss out on the purpose God has for me for my life, because it is right there in Scripture. I give the glory that He is due and give it to that author, that writer, even to myself.

Please don’t hear me say that reading is bad, or that using resources by authors to draw God’s word out is a bad thing. But we first must come to His Word instead of that book. We have to devote ourselves to digging into what He says about Himself to then see how to become more like Him and less like ourselves.

Early Mornings, Fear and Encouragement

I greeted Friday with a dose of early morning reading…and by early I mean 3:30am.

I know, right?

I have been both actively and passively avoiding my own passion this year if I am honest, and what are Fridays good for if not honesty? Do you ever do that?

You know deep down you are passionate about a thing, a calling, a hobby, a goal, something. You keep getting pulled right back to it even when you think you’re over it. Yes I have been writing here, but I have neglected the book I have outlined and worked on chapters sporadically on for years.

I told myself 2017 would be the year it got finished, that no matter what came from it and where my heart and God’s will aligned on it, it would be finished. It would get shipped, as Seth Godin likes to say.

But that’s not been the case. I actively chose other projects that led me further from working on it. I pursued excuses of living situation, computer malfunctions and further research. I pointed to my complete lack of experience and place at the table. I know I have talked about disobedience and the like over the last few weeks, but honestly it’s like choosing to not parent. To sit idly by on the phone, the computer, the tv or any number of other things instead of tending to a child.

So at 4am this morning I ran across this quote in a book I recently received (and y’all if you have one person who says “GO DO THIS.” you are far more blessed than you realize…and I am super thankful for the quiet encouragement of a person when I haven’t really believed I had it in me to do this)…it’s from Marianne Williamson’s book, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles: 

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Y’all….when we play small we tell others it’s okay to be small, to live in excuses and be okay with being less than. OUCH. and WOW.

This kicked my tail, and I keep coming back to it this morning over and over. Seeing just how much we fear how awesome we truly are instead of how lacking we are not. Maybe today you need to shine, just like I need to step fully into light that’s been cast, to finish and be fully who I have prayed and sought counsel on being-a writer with a finished book.

Let’s liberate the fear of who we think we aren’t and be who we truly are…AWESOME. And maybe that means wakeups at 4am, encouraging those you know who haven’t realized the fear they are living in, or it means putting all the excuses and distractions aside to do that thing.

Do The Thing.

Tap.

Scroll, Scroll, Scroll.

Tap.

Scroll, Like, (Ugh, why would you put that out there?), Scroll, Scroll. LOVE.

Tap.

I think the majority of you can ascertain what that is describing, as we all seem to tap and scroll, like and judge on our phones these days.

We see people doing amazing things, putting themselves out there and jumping at opportunities. We see people out having fun, pursuing dreams, and everyone seems to be in a happier place than us. Am I right?

Lately for me, I have used social media as a means of procrastination. I have read posts, looked through photos, found streams of hashtags all in the name of research for my writing. But not much writing has been going on. Instead it’s a whole lot of scrolling and a whole lot of unproductivity. It’s lost time and momentum, and instead supplanted a whole lot of self-doubt and questions.

I wouldn’t say I have become jealous or envious of others’ pursuits as several years ago I prayed through that as I saw others advancing and decided to celebrate them over feeling left out or rejected in any way. (I’m mature, I know)

No for me, it’s getting bogged down in the distraction of it all. In the taking a break to clear the mind and finding myself flipping through four forms of social media I have at the ready of my finger tips. Trust me when I say I do love it, it has connected me with people and broadened my perspective on certain things, discovering new ideas and thoughts that I wouldn’t have been challenged to see.

But y’all, it’s my excuse these days. I use it when I should be fighting through writer’s block, when I should be digging into His Word, when I should be sitting in the quiet stillness of life. This isn’t a proclamation of social media fast (you all can stop that at any time because it’s okay to just do it). It’s a call to accountability, that I need to do the thing I am called to do instead of choosing distraction.

you-must-do-the-thing-resized

Distractions are so good, they feed our selves in such ways that bring us delight in the moment, a reprieve from the hard/difficult/uncomfortable/quiet. I am chief of these in pursuing y’all. I even said last night to my friend that I watch entirely too much television, and then commenced to starting the next show on my DVR. Instead of writing. Instead of taking time to dig into Scripture that God has put on my heart. Instead of praying for that friend who came to mind earlier in the day. Instead of cultivating relationships in and around my life.

Maybe you’re like me and seeking out distractions from dealing with life, a call that has gotten to be difficult, loneliness in the midst of a season of quiet, expectations unmet or unrealized…a place where God isn’t providing how you expected or how you defined. It’s gotten hard or quiet and you just want to be distracted by the noise of the world-good intentioned, but still distracting.

For me, I have to do the thing. Not what my flesh desires but what I know deep within, obedience. Obedience to the thing that is greater than what I desire in social media, television, inherently good things…to the Lord in this moment, just now…for today. It’s not easy, nor will I get it right 100% of the time, but for just this moment when I’d rather reach for my phone or remote, I go empty-handed to Him. To His call. To His Word. To time spent with Him.

Fear, Webs and Moses

Never let fear keep you from pursuing hard after a God promise, a calling to your heart by God.

Y’all I say those words. I roll them over in my head and my heart. And then I find any excuse not to pursue a calling.

I meddle in distractions, search out ways to run, and call it “good for me in the moment.” I wonder out and climb down, I hide behind a camera lens and even a blank screen just to not live out what God is pushing me wholeheartedly into, simply out of fear.

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It’s the whispers of a failed friendship after seven years, the residue of single life, the doubt of comparison and screams of “it’s already been done, better.” Fear can grip us in the dead of night or the middle of the day. It can creep in or shout at us. It catches us in a web that sprung up overnight, unawares. It cocoons us, as we lay silent, dormant, giving over who we are to fear.

I let it. I choose it. I camp out in pajamas, full of stubbornness and turn to someone else’s writing to say “I’m not enough,” in a vapid attempt to shirk off this responsibility. I point to my voice, my experiences, my history and my present to say “Someone else please” to God. Just like with Moses, He says “No, it’s you I am seeking for this.”

Funny how I have been here before, but I don’t mark this place. I don’t set out a memoriam to the war I have with fear and with God. I don’t want to remember the removal of shoes because the holy ground He meets me at, finding me in the fear and pulling it all away. Instead I point to past stories, of my inadequacies…all excuses. He listens with such patience, only to say once more “You are who I have called for such a time as this, for such a journey.” It wells up inside of me, until fear is no longer present. It’s not marked by my story, but His. It’s not reminding me of who I am, but Who He is. It’s not about where I find myself now, but where He has already been.

So fear greets me, but God envelops me. He says no more to the excuses, no more to the disobedient heart, and no more to the distraction of life. He says “You are designed for this” and in my weakness, He is my strength. To open my heart, to speak words He gives and to be what He has called me to be.

Obedient.