By the End of Today We Will Own Two Spoons and a Toothbrush

As a wife, I have many irritating qualities. One of them is my tendency to read long passages of a book to my husband. I had no idea of how horrible this was until my own children started reading me long passages out of the books they were enjoying, and then suddenly I realized I’d been torturing my husband for more than a decade.

Sorry, dear. So sorry.

I’ve tried to get control of myself lately, but sometimes a book is so good or funny I can’t help myself. Sixteen pages into The Big Tiny I lost my resolve to keep my reading material to myself and started reading to Eric.

It might have been earlier, actually. Perhaps page 2. I’m hazy on the exact page.

But the book is just so good and funny that I can’t help myself. Dee Williams, the author of The Big Tiny, had a health emergency (a wonky heart), causing her to choose a new life path. She literally doesn’t know if she has a year left, a month, or an hour to live. (Neither do any of the rest of us, but at least she has one of her issues labeled by the medical community).

So, of course, she built an 84-square-foot house. By herself. With a wonky heart. 

Photo courtesy of yesmagazine.com
Photo courtesy of yesmagazine.com

She sold her big house and got rid of almost everything, from her beloved art to her extra soy sauce. Now she can work part time and spends her life investing in the people around her– caring for an elderly neighbor, playing games with the kids next door, and volunteering. Also watching a lot of crappy Netflix, just like the rest of us.

I picked up this book because I have this not-so-secret burning desire to get rid of everything and live in the simplest, least-chaotic way possible. I don’t want to have any bills to tie me down, I want insurance to be a thing other people need, and I don’t want to trip over 19 pairs of flip flops and a garden clog when I try to let the cat in each morning.

Nor do I want a cat. But we’ve already discussed this.

As I read this book I get lulled into Williams’ prose, then startled awake by conflicting thoughts: I can do this, too. Wait a minute, no I can’t. Then I go back to reading and find another paragraph like this, which makes me want to try anyway:

Moving was hard, but not impossibly horrid, and in fact, over the long haul I found it incredibly liberating. After a short bit of time it became more like stripping naked on the beach, kicking off your clunky shoes and pulling your shirt off while simultaneously using your foot like a hand to yank off your sock, preparing for the way the warm sea will feel against every dimple and fold of your body. Letting go of “stuff ” allowed the world to collapse behind me as I moved, so I became nothing more or less than who I simply was: Me. (The Big Tiny, pg. 175)

This sounds wonderful, but is this for me? More importantly, is this for us? I’m not operating in a vacuum, here. Dee’s circumstances (single/no kids) allowed her to shed her old life and then invest more in relationships and people. Her choices have enriched her loved ones. I’m afraid that if I did this I might traumatize my children and husband. They apparently have no interest in getting rid of everything except two spoons and a toothbrush, sharing a wheeled home so we can glean fruit and take it to the homeless shelter each week.

Is there a happy medium that works for families? What do you think? What burden or responsibility would you most like to shed, and what would you have to do to release it?

Then [Jesus] said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15

If This Small Group Gets Me Pregnant, All Heck Will Break Loose

On Saturday night, somewhere in the middle of a plate of tacos and a cup of frozen custard, I think I accidentally signed myself up for a truckload of trouble.

Pray for me.

It’s graduation season here in Michigan, which means that parents of high school seniors host large parties, feeding hordes of friends and family. Of course Eric and I wanted to wish Collin and Geoffrey well, but also (and this point cannot be understated) the food at these parties was going to be excellent. Collin’s mom is known far and wide as an excellent cook. Overheard repeatedly: “Did you taste the salsa?” “This is my third plate.” And “Wait a minute, where’d you get those beans?”

We left Collin’s party full and happy, and headed to Geoffrey’s party to eat more. Geoffrey’s dad is a part-owner of our favorite frozen custard joint and they had a sundae bar, thank you Lord. Overheard: “Congratulations-Geoffrey-holy-cow-did-you-see-they-have-peanut-butter-sauce!” 

So I may not have had my wits about me as I started talking to our minister. I was high on tacos, people. I can’t be held responsible. I may have asked Jason how things were going, and he may have mentioned we need more small groups at the church so we can get people plugged in. We have a lot of new people, but our congregation finds that small groups really help to build those relationships a healthy church needs.

So. Jason also mentioned one of the small groups needs a place to meet. And he may (again, due to my taco intake I don’t remember the specifics) have suggested our house because we have room. I sort of remember exclaiming, “That’s why we bought the house!” Which is true, because we made sure the new house would work for these sorts of things.

At some point in the conversation Jason pointed out a crucial fact: three couples are already actively involved in this group, and all three wives are pregnant. These are not good odds, and obviously there is something wrong with the air/water/food when these people get together.

His warning was clear. The small group is coming anyway, and we’re even thinking of inviting two other couples we know from outside the church who are also pregnant. I mean, why the heck not? Let’s up the ante.

The year? 2003, probably. I can't explain my bangs or why Eric's wearing a starfish on his shirt.
The year? 2003, probably. I can’t explain my bangs or why Eric’s wearing a starfish on his shirt.

I’m taking my chances because I remember those days of pregnancy and new babies all too well. They were exhausting and I was a basket case. I needed women to come alongside me with clear heads and patient words to keep me steady, to remind me a sense of humor might be the only thing to get me through the day, and– most importantly– to pray for me.

I hope it’s my turn to offer that to new families. Eric and I can be the ones a few steps ahead, taking babies out of tired arms and praying for people who haven’t had a whole night of sleep for months.

I’m hoping God isn’t using this experience to trick me into having another baby. Just in case, I’ll be drinking bottled water, wearing a mask, and bringing my own sealed food to all meetings.

Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” Genesis 18:13-14

(Lord, you proved your point with Sarah. I believe. I have learned her lesson, Father. Thank you and amen.)

Vote Here! (for the cover of my next book!)

cover contestThis might be the quickest post I ever do. Are you ready? Don’t blink.

But, super exciting news, DHP has two (two!) excellent choices for my next book’s cover. And we want you, my ever loyal readers, to weigh in on the tough decision.

Click here to go DHP’s Facebook page, where you’ll see the two covers. Leave a note in the comment section telling us which one you prefer and why. You might even win a copy of my first book, There’s a Green Plastic Monkey in My Purse.

Let me say thank you again for how wonderful all you readers are. It is a crazy, humbling, surreal experience to write a book and then to see the cover in full color. Without you, none of this would be possible. I appreciate each and every one of you!

Let the voting begin!

Jessaroo

 

How to Name Characters in Your Novel

Do you know how hard it is to name characters in a novel?

name characters, bad guys

As if it wasn’t hard enough to name actual children, now I need to name characters, a whole crew of imaginary friends who live in my head. It only took me a month or two to pick out names for the main characters. I could pick out a name, roll it around in my mind, and then accept or reject it based only on my gut feelings.

Then I moved on to secondary characters, which got a little trickier. Some of you will find your names in the book simply because you have good names and it’s easier to steal what your parents gave you than to think it up myself. But have no fear; your characters mostly just mull around, propping up the main characters. No reason to sue me.

Writers are always watching. Behave yourself.

Some of you are going to find yourself in the book, under cleverly disguised names. This is the hazard of knowing a writer, and I just can’t help it. Behave yourself and everything should turn out okay, but know I’m watching… (Insert sound of 300 people unfriending me on Facebook and leaving the church and uninviting me to the family reunion.)

But then, because this book is not written for six-year-old girls, we need a sprinkling of bad guys. And this became unexpectedly gut wrenching. The character development of the bad guys became dicey enough, because I don’t want any friends or family to feel like I secretly hate them and will express my disdain through the permanent, written word.

Trust me, if I’m mad at you, you’ll know long before you read the book.

Once I’d wrestled with the actual characters, I had to come up with names. First of all I have to use names that make sense for the audience, which will mostly be made up of people named Jennifer, Jessica, Sara, and Kris, because 90% of my friends have these four names. So the characters can’t be named Slate and Ember, no matter how cool that may be. The readers would be confused and wonder why I was naming full-grown characters after babies born yesterday. Babies born to people with highly developed imaginations, I might add.

Neither can the characters be named Gertrude or Mildred, Walter or Hubert. That would cause the reader to scratch her head and wonder why I’d used nursing home residents to fill the pages.

Here. Let me prove my point:

As the sun sank further over the edge of the lake, Gertrude and Mildred waited, and waited, on the dock. Their legs hung over the edge, dangling over the water. Gertrude’s shorts were short enough that through the frayed edges of the hem she could see the tattoo she must have gotten last night. Must have been a wild night, since she couldn’t remember anything after Hubert handed her that last Solo cup at the bonfire. She vaguely remembered a ride on the motorcycle through the dark streets, hanging on to him for dear life as they tore up one hill and down the other…but none of that explained why she now had a wolf tattooed to her left thigh.

Mildred caught her staring at the artwork. “Could be worse, Gertie.” She moaned and dropped her head into her hands like she’d been doing all day, since they’d woken up in sleeping bags in Mildred’s childhood treehouse.

“Tell me how this could be worse, Mil.”

“At least you didn’t get a tramp stamp. There’s no shame in a wolf on your thigh.”

“Shut up, Mildred.” The skin under the wolf burned like she’d spent the night with a thousand fire ants. What had she done?

You see the problem, yes? If I choose to name characters the wrong thing, the whole story becomes stupid. Even stupider than that example up there.

I can’t go too old, I can’t go too modern, which leaves a nice big swath of names in the middle. Names that are already attached to people I know. So the dufus who gets hit by a car? What am I supposed to name him?

Doug? No, I went to high school with a Doug.
Matt? No, I know at least two Matts and one of them is teaching my kid.
Cain? No, already been used.
Satan? Too obvious, and already in play.

Please, help me out. No explanations are necessary, but in the comments below throw out some names you’d like to name characters. But, you know, if the explanation is interesting, we all might like to hear the story…

A good name is more desirable than great reaches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. (Proverbs 22:1)

We’ve Had Green Plastic Monkeys in Our Purses All Year Long–Let’s Celebrate!

I dearly wish I had some cake right now, because we need to celebrate. Did you know that it’s been a whole year since There’s a Green Plastic Monkey in My Purse was published?

A publication date is very similar to a due date when you’re pregnant. You spend a lot of energy getting ready for the big day. There are long emails from the editing team, meetings with the marketing department, and phone conversations that require you to put on your big girl panties and act like a professional for consecutive minutes.

It’s not unlike those weeks that lead up to the part of pregnancy where the baby has to come out–lots of long conversations with your spouse, lots of planning sessions, and–if you’re lucky–a big party where everyone celebrates by feeding you cake and buying you gifts.

I can’t speak for all pregnant women, but when I was enormously with-child, both times I fixed my eyes on that due date and focused with all my strength. I added two weeks because babies are notoriously late in our family, begged the doctor to make sure the kid was out by my extended calculations, and then strained to make it.

I was focused on the delivery because that seemed like a good spot to end all that hard work and discomfort. What I did not understand was that the ending was really just another beginning. One kind of work was traded for another kind–the kind where you get to stay up all night rocking a tiny human who does not understand the concept of “night.”

Giving birth isn’t the only example. Weddings punctuate the end of months of planning, but are really just a way to celebrate a new beginning. Graduations are a way to applaud years of hard work at school, but they’re also a nice way to say “Hey, why don’t you go ahead and get a job now and then keep at it for sixty years?”

The publication date for Green Plastic Monkey was just the same. I thought the work was over, but I was wrong. Wrong like an exhausted woman covered in spit-up at 3:30 in the morning. It was just the beginning of connecting with readers, of getting used to reviews, and of marketing the book.

Did you know that marketing a book feels slightly like beggary and slightly like egocentrism, all bundled up together in a tidy 200 page volume? It’s delightful. (Insert eye roll and massive headache between eyebrows.)

It has, however, been a wonderful year, and I have you readers to thank for that. Thanks for the kind words, for buying the book, and recommending it to your friends. Did you know that word of mouth sells more books than any fancy marketing plan ever can? Donald Maass, a writer and literary agent, reports that a book sells when a friend grabs you by the elbow, drags you across the bookstore aisle, and says, “You have to read this book! It’s so good!”

Many of you have done that for Green Plastic Monkey, and I cannot thank you enough. Thanks for spreading the words God gave me to write. You play a key role in this ministry, and I appreciate you more than I can say.

If you haven’t had a chance to read the book yet, here’s where you can order it:

  • Click here to buy it directly from DHP, the ministry that publishes it
  • Click here to buy it from Amazon
  • Click here to buy it from Family Christian Stores.

If you have read the book, I’d dearly love it if you’d take a second to review it on Amazon or GoodReads. Thanks again!

How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. (1 Thessalonians 3:9-10)

Green Plastic Monkey's First Birthday

Top 10 Things to Buy at ALDI

Is everyone familiar with ALDI? I hope so, or this post isn’t going to make a lick of sense. Hopefully you have an ALDI market near your home and after reading this post you can rush out for all these delicious things I’m about to recommend.

I can feel some of you hesitating from here. Especially if you’re American, because ALDI isn’t like our usual supermarkets. First of all, you have to put a quarter into the grocery cart so you can free it from its chains. That feels a little weird, I know.

And then we walk into the store and we think, “Where’s the rest of the food? I see chocolate chips over here, but where are the rest of the chocolate chips? Where are all my brands?” We hunt around and realize ALDI offers only one choice for most foods. Instead of eggs from ten different companies taking up fifteen feet of cooler space, we see one brand of eggs.

Just one.

And then we panic for a minute because we wonder if we’ve really just wandered into the USSR under Communist rule. Before we have a full-blown anxiety issue and rush back out to the haven of the supermarket we know, we see the prices on those eggs and calculate the savings. We think maybe pretending to be Communist for just a few minutes might be worth it, so we stick around.

But then we wonder if these brands are worth any money at all. If I get these groceries home and they all taste terrible, I’ve just wasted $90 instead of saving $30. Not so smart, even for a faux-Communist.

That’s where this post comes in. Here are the top 10 things that I love at ALDI, and these will give you a good place to start. I think the taste is great and the savings are big enough to make it worth the effort of going to a store where you have to bag your own groceries.

top 10 things to buy at Aldi

 

  1. Milk, half-and-half, and heavy whipping cream. Delicious!
  2. Cheese. ALDI has a great selection on all kinds of cheese, from shredded cheddar to fancy goat cheese. Pick up an extra package of string cheese for the kids.
  3. Eggs.
  4. Butter.
  5. Spaghetti sauce.
  6. Frozen green beans. ALDI sells a green bean that’s much thinner than usual. Sauté them up with some almonds and kosher salt. You’ll weep a little at the deliciousness.
  7. Fruits and vegetables. Check the quality carefully, but the prices are worth the extra couple of seconds.
  8. Flour and sugars (regular, powdered, and brown).
  9. Cooking oils.
  10. Bread.

There, that will get you started. Excellent quality and excellent savings. But I know some of you are wondering the obvious–what didn’t make this list? What is not so good?

We’ve run into a few things we do not prefer. Ice cream, for example. Also their version of Kraft singles (or flat cheese as we call it in this house). I bought a package and the kids were both fussing at me, telling me the cheese was terrible.

I told them it was fine and they were being too picky. But then I ate a piece myself and realized they were right–the fake pasteurized cheese is not so good. And my husband isn’t so excited about the granola bars, either. But give them a try and see for yourself.

What do you think? Do you shop at ALDI? Do you even have one near you? What is your opinion?

 

Thoughts on Sledding and Other Miserable Ways To Spend an Afternoon

So, I think everyone is aware, but just to make sure everyone is caught up–we’ve had a lot of winter weather the last…oh…forever.

I feel like I’m stuck in a horror novel, where you think you can’t stand any more terrible, gruesome events but it doesn’t matter what you want. Miserable things just keep happening without your consent.

In our case, just substitute the words horror, terrible, and gruesome for winter, snowy, and cold and that is our life. In fact, even though we have drifts taller than mailboxes, six more inches of snow is predicted tomorrow whether I allow it or not.

Snowy Mailbox

The kids returned to school this morning after four snow days and one record day off. They’ll be in school for a total of seven hours this week. Seven hours. I’m not the kind of mother who can handle all that free time, cut adrift from our usual schedule and then trapped in a house.

Snowy little hill

Yesterday we had no choice but to go grocery shopping. I had one last nerve, worn down to a tiny, frayed nub. The kids followed behind me in the grocery store, grabbing at each others’ coats, pushing each other, and working the word poop into their conversation as frequently as possible. I steered through the booze aisle, quietly muttering to myself, “You are a grown woman. You don’t need wine while you shop. You don’t need wine, you don’t need wine.”

I managed to continue the shopping without liquid encouragement, but somewhere around the egg section I did have to turn around for the fourth time and glare at them. They stopped short because at that point I could have hunted for wild game with the angry lasers shooting from my eyeballs. I said, “I am tempted to thunk your heads together like coconuts. But that’s probably child abuse, so I won’t. But I want to, so knock. it. off.”

They caught the note of desperation in my voice and did, indeed, knock it off. Luckily for all of us we only needed two more things and then we escaped Meijer, no head thumping or tippling.

Snowy back door

By the afternoon it finally warmed up enough to go outside for more than thirty minutes. The kids had been begging me to go to the big hill in the woods to sled for days, and I had been refusing. The wind chills were just too dangerous and I have distinct memories of the year my brother went sledding and forgot his hat. Have you ever seen what frostbite can do to an ear? Not pretty.

Also, for the sake of honesty–I just did not want to go. I knew it was going to be cold. I knew the snow was going to be deep. But the wind had died down some, and the air temperature was in the 20s. We were all in serious need of some fresh air and exercise. So out we went.

Things started out okay but quickly hit the toilet.

The wind was still brisk enough to make our faces ache before we got to the trail. The snow on the trail was thicker than we had guessed, so it took a lot of energy to get into the woods. By the time we reached the hill, we were already frozen and had stopped twice to dig snow out of boots.

I took the lead and started up the hill. The snow started out deep, but quickly became obscenely deep. I’ll take a break from my usual exaggeration and hyperbole to give you actual data–the snow was four inches above my knees at the top of the hill. And I am not a short woman, nor do I have stumpy legs.

I dragged myself up the hill, wondering if a St. Bernard was available to grab me by the back of the coat and help me along. I started muttering to myself again– “Greater love has no mother than this, that she goes sledding with her kids. Greater love, greater love…”

Somewhere in my muttering I heard a desperate gargle out of one of my kids. I turned around and found them both lying on the snow, their sleds hanging listlessly from their mittens. “Mom…I’m so cold,” Caleb begged. His face was red, his nose was running. Audrey looked only slightly less miserable.

Because we had made it that far we did take a few minutes to sled twice down the hill. Then, we dragged ourselves to the top of the hill one more time to take the “shortcut” out of the woods and back into the neighborhood. We made it into the house, we drank up some hot cocoa, and we settled back into our normal winter routine of reading, watching TV, and fighting.

But at least we were warm.

The end.

Let’s Chat With Heather C. King–An Author You Need to Know

One of the perks of working with Discovery House Publishers is that I get updates on new books coming out, then I can email the publicity department and request those books. A few weeks ago I saw a book on the publishing list that caught my eye, so I ran to the computer and emailed Anne the Publicist and she ran to the mailbox with the book and the post man (I mean–postlady) drove her little truck very quickly to my house and…

then I read the book very slowly.

Oh, I tried to read it fast. I did. I have a stack of ten or ninety-nine books on my table to read, and it behooves me to whip through them so I have time to parent, write, and cook dinner.

But I found I could not read Ask Me Anything, Lord very fast. It didn’t do it justice. It’s a book that needs to be ingested piece by piece, with thoughtfulness. Preferably with a delightful hot beverage, which you will note they have put right on the front cover. You will absolutely want your Bible right next to you so you can look up the references and make notes. If you’re looking for a book for your quiet time or your small group study, this would be a great choice.

Ask Me Anything, Lord

The book is written around the questions that God asked His people in the Bible–  “Where are you going? Or–What’s that in your hand?” The questions are still relevant to our modern lives, and the book helps us see the connections.

I emailed Heather C. King, the author, and asked if she would like to make an appearance on the blog so you can all get to know her. She agreed!

Heather C. King

First, I asked her several probing questions about herself:

Q. Tell us your dessert of choice after all the children have gone to bed and you need a little reward for surviving the day:

A. I firmly believe that if it isn’t chocolate it doesn’t count as a dessert.  When my oldest was still napping, I used to reward myself right there in the middle of the day with a Coca-Cola and some Hershey Kisses.  Then she stopped napping and I didn’t want her eating chocolate and hyping herself up on caffeine, so that’s when the sneaking began.  “Here, honey, play with these blocks while mommy dashes to the back of the house and eats her secret stash of chocolate heaven.” Now, most of my kids don’t nap, so pretty much my only chance to eat chocolate in peace without having to share it (and who wants to share chocolate?) is after they go to sleep at night.

Q. Speaking of children, how many do you have? Girls? Boys? Ages?
A. I have three daughters (Victoria-9, Lauren-7, and Catherine-4).  I thought God designed me to be a girls’ mom.  Then He gave me a baby boy, Andrew (4 months), and I’m loving it! 

Q. What kind of minivan do you drive? Do you love it?
A. I drive a Dodge caravan and I do love it.  I’ve never been the kind of gal who mocked the minivan life or tried to stay cool with an SUV or by cramming kids into a sports car.  I have four kids.  I wanted to have four kids.  I love my minivan.  Plus, ours came with built-in child restraint seats and that’s pretty awesome.  Or, at least, that’s awesome to me.  But then, I get jealous of other people when they get a new vacuum cleaner, so….

Q. How do you find time to write with kids that young?
A. People ask me all the time and I always say, “It’s a God-thing.”  And it is.  For starters, I grew up in a family with 5 kids and I did my homework at the kitchen table with the radio on, the dishwasher running, and people talking non-stop.  Typically, quiet is way more distracting to me than noise.  I also worked as a stay-at-home mom right from the beginning so all of my children learned very young how to play independently or together without me.  Sometimes it’s hard to keep it all in balance and I’ll find myself crying over the pot of spaghetti at night because I’m exhausted.  But, all in all the system works for us.

Q. What is your least favorite mom-chore? How come?
A. Vacuuming.  Or maybe putting the laundry away.  Dishes?  Seriously, do I have a favorite mom-chore?  Okay, wait, I know—scrubbing the shower.  That’s definitely my least favorite chore.  Our well water turns the shower orange over time and I hate scrubbing that.

Q. Did you always want to be a writer, or is this a surprising plan of God’s?
A.  When I was an English major in college, a random guy in a second-hand bookstore asked me, “So, what do you want to do?”  Typically, I stuck with ‘safe’ answers like “teach” or “edit.”  But I blurted out, “I want to write.”  I had no idea where that even came from.  He said, “Well, writers write and writers read.  That’s what you need to do.”  I didn’t set out to publish a book or make money writing or anything.  I started by just typing things out in a Word document on my computer because I felt God called me to write, even if that never meant getting published.  He took it from there, one step at a time, and all I had to do was obey along the way.

Q. What authors do you like to read? (Fiction or non-fiction)
A. I’m addicted to books.  I have ten or so I’m currently reading and I seriously get withdrawals when I finish a book and don’t replace it right away with another good read.  It’s crazy hard to pick favorites. Right now, I’m reading a little Beth Moore, a little Gary Thomas, a little C.S. Lewis, a little E.M. Bounds, a little Joanna Weaver, a little Steven Furtick, and, for fun, a biography of Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet.  I majored in British Literature for my undergrad, so for fiction I incline more to Jane Austen (Emma is my favorite) or Charles Dickens (I have well-worn copies of Bleak House and Little Dorritt on my shelves).   

Q.  Any ideas on what you hope to write next?
A. I’ve completed a project on contentment and how to overcome the push to covet what others have or compare ourselves with others and compete with them.  Something as simple as planning a kid’s birthday can send us modern moms into Pinterest-breakdown and Facebook-envy.  It’s hard to be content when the world tells us to do more, be more, have more all the time.  While I’m working on the publication journey for that, I also post devotions about finding God in the midst of the noise, mess, and busyness of life on my blog: heathercking.org

Now here is a little information about the book itself:

Q. Why should God’s questions to people in Scripture matter to us?

A. In any room at any time, I am usually the one asking the most questions. I’m the same way with God, perpetually asking Him questions and sometimes monopolizing the conversation, always talking and rarely listening. One day, I felt Him search my heart with a question that He asked in Scripture and that dug deep into my motives and the attitudes of my heart.  That’s when I realized that God is a question-asking God.  It’s His consistent method of drawing His people closer to Him throughout Scripture, just as He did with Adam and Eve, Sarah, Elijah, the disciples and more.  Allowing Him to ask us these same questions helps us to know Him better also.

Q. What makes this book different?

A. There are so many great Bible study books that use the metaphors and lessons from the lives of the men and women in the Bible to teach us today.  But I wanted to know what lessons God taught them directly and what happens if we let Him search our hearts in the same way?  What did He specifically say to Moses?  What question did He actually ask?  If God asked me those very same questions, how would I answer?  This book lets God’s very own questions direct the study and the personal application.

I hope you’ll pop over to Heather’s blog at heathercking.org. You’ll be glad you did!

I Can’t Think of Anything Worse Than Teaching You Life Is Fair

As I sit here, gathering my thoughts for this blog post, our cat is looking at me with wide and frantic eyes from the front window sill. I’m pretty sure he just ate the ladybug he’s been chasing all morning. I’m pretty sure that ladybug is now crawling around the inside of his mouth, and the cat is not pleased with this turn of events.

This ties into today’s theme quite nicely. Life isn’t fair for the little tiny ladybug who is about to get digested, and it’s not fair for the cat who now has a not-quite-dead breakfast problem. (Captain Kitty understands the hunting part, but not the killing part.)

If life was fair the entire world would be 75 degrees and sunny right now. But here in southwest Michigan it’s been snowing since, I don’t know, HALLOWEEN I SWEAR, and now we have snow banked in all our windows and two foot drifts between the front door and the garbage can.

At 5:00 this morning my husband dragged himself out of bed and went to work while I slept for two more hours. Life is just not fair.

Right now our son is home while his sister is at a friend’s house, and he has informed me that it’s not fair that he should have to do his chores or feed the cat or get out of his pajamas because his sister isn’t home to have to do any of those things.

And part of me agrees that if his sister is off gallivanting, he should get a break too. Maybe I should do all his chores and feed him buckets of ice cream and let him watch TV until his eyeballs roll out of his head. You know, to even up the score.

But I’m not sure there’s any lie more cruel than to teach my children that life is fair. It’s just not. In fact, if most adults were honest we’d say that this is the one thing that puzzles us about God. If He truly is all-powerful, why doesn’t He even up the score?

Why do I get to have two healthy children while my cousin Jim’s children all suffer from the same terminal illness? Why do we have a home with heat and running water while some families live in a garbage dump?

Why doesn’t every family get the same blessings?

I don’t have any answer for that. But I can tell you that my cousin and his wife, who are about to bury their second precious child this weekend, who have every right to yell it’s not fair, are still seeking and praising God even now.

That spirit of trust is what I want my kids to learn more than anything else on earth. Life will never be fair, but we can praise and trust our Heavenly Father even in the most unfair circumstances. I have a feeling that nothing I will ever say will teach my children this; it’s something I must live.

Trust prayer

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NLT).

How to Pray for an Anxious Person. A Worrywart. A Nervous Nelly. You Get the Picture.

Some of us know and love worrywarts. And some of us are worrywarts. And some of us are worrywarts married to worrywarts who gave birth to baby worrywarts, thereby ensuring generations of people who have mastered stewing, fretting, and agonizing.

Not that I have any personal experience in this matter, of course.

I have simply no idea of what I’m talking about.

Delusions aside, there’s a better way. There’s a way to take those anxious thoughts, stop them in their tracks, and focus on something better. Jesus came to bring us life, and bring it to the full (John 10:10). That full, abundant life does not include waking up in a cold sweat at 3:00 a.m. because another worry is attacking you. (Or me.) That full and abundant life does include prayer and Bible reading. And, even better, we can combine prayer and Bible reading by praying Scripture directly.  

We discussed this a few months ago when I wrote How to Pray for a Crazy Person, but since then I’ve had more time to put Scriptural prayer into practice. I’ve had more time to see God work miracles on my behalf.

This works, my friends! We can turn away from our anxiety and focus on something better! We know that prayers work when they glorify God and seek his will. Praying according to passages of the Bible does exactly that. What could be more in-line with God’s will and glory than his written Word?

There’s a passage of Scripture that couldn’t be more perfect for exactly what we’re talking about here. These verses lay out a perfect plan for handling our fretting and edginess. Here they are:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me–everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:6-9)

Let us take a moment to summarize, lest we have glazed over at the familiar verses of Scripture:

  1. Do not worry. (Stop yourself as soon as you recognize the fretting. If you can’t do anything about it other than run it through your negative mental processes, it’s worry.)
  2. Instead, pray over the matter. Take it right to God’s throne.
  3. Then, fix your mind on good things–true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable things. (Seriously, just pick something better and think about that instead! Don’t let your brain create negative ruts.)
  4. Practice peace by actively doing the loving, serving, humble things that Jesus did and Paul taught. (Wash some feet! Go chat with your 95 year old neighbor! Spend time with your kids! (Okay, technically neither Jesus nor Paul had children. But you see what I mean, here.))

Perhaps you are praying for a loved one who is choking with anxiety, or perhaps you yourself are the one choking. It doesn’t matter; we can pray this for someone else or ourselves. We can pray it for the whole family at the same time.

Here’s an example of what I mean. I hope it blesses you, and I hope you give this a try. Really. There is nothing more powerful than taking God’s Word to God’s throne. The next time anxiety grabs the steering wheel of your mind, take it right back over. It will fight you back. It will try again. Don’t let it win, my dears. Just take your thoughts right back to prayer and start all over again.

Philippians 4:6-9
Philippians 4:6-9

 

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