God Among the Bullet Points

planner and pensEvery birthday and New Year, I’m forced to take stock. Have I lived the past year well? Am I moving forward in faith? Can I reasonably recover from all my mess ups and mishaps and perhaps behave differently the next time around? Unfortunately, I fail much more often than I’d care to admit, but despite my mess-ups, mishaps, and downright failings, one thing remains certain and unwavering, as my guest today discovered while doing a little life-check of her own.

God among the bullet-points

By Jessica Brodie

Ever try to sum up your life in a bullet-list? It’s a weird, sometimes painful, sometimes hilarious exercise in self-absorption (if I’m generous, self-healing) that I tried one lonely New Year’s Day 13 years ago.

It went something like this:

  • Born January 19, North Miami, Florida
  • Lived with parents in small house near grandparents
  • Earliest memories: books, brown shag carpet
  • Age two, moved to better house
  • Favorites: banana trees, stripy sneakers, books, spiky grass, swing set, Mom’s typewriter
  • Afraid of everyone and everything

I should mention I was a full-fledged grownup when I did this, well into my career, married…old enough to have achieved some maturity. And at the end, I had a neatly printed six-page document filled with all the dysfunctions and quirks that had comprised my life. Right there, in black and white, I could see exactly how far I’d come.

Take that, Mean Girls of the Sixth Grade. Harrumpf.

Sure, I’d had my share of embarrassing failures and broken hearts, but a few lines later there was the college scholarship, the promotion, the kiss. Life went on. Ups, downs—they littered the page without discernible pattern.

“That’s just life,” I’d concluded—random, messy, beautiful, full of chance and happenstance, with me in the starring role. I saw how time and again I’d navigated a difficult circumstance with a solid, moral decision or confronted a tough issue by standing strong, staying true. I congratulated myself on my perseverance and gumption.

Ah, younger me.

I knew nothing.

See, all that time I thought I was steering myself through the tough times. But it wasn’t. It was God. Now I see the light.

Thirteen years later, I’ve had two children and gained two stepchildren. I’ve become a daily reader of Scripture rather than a casual Bible-thumber. I’ve experienced loss, single-momhood, near-poverty, and wealth. I’ve been to Africa and walked with lions, seen miracles happen before my eyes and within my body.

I’ve lived. And in living, I’ve come to understand how little any of it has to do with me or the choices I made. I’ve also come to see how lucky I am God has allowed me to experience this grand, majestic ride.

Recently, I tried that bullet-list exercise again—but this time, instead of chance and happenstance, I was struck by the master pattern I saw: God’s hand on everything. Every. Thing.

Why had I ever thought my life was random? It was a magical, God-orchestrated symphony. In every moment, big and small, God was there—guiding, maneuvering, until whatever He’d planned had been fulfilled … then leading me onto the next step.

That infertility struggle that seemed to last forever? Now I saw it so clearly pointing me toward humility and submission to God’s will.

That tough job where I felt so utterly alone? God was helping me rely on my internal chops—and Him—to be a better leader.

Today I look at my list and don’t regret any of the mistakes and painful moments I see. My only regret is all the time I wasted from worry.

And I see what I should have been doing all along: resting securely in the knowledge that God has our roadmap already printed out for us in the form of the Holy Bible.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” He tells us, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).*

Try the bullet-list for yourself and see if you, too, can tell all that God has done and is doing in your life.

*Bible verse taken from Biblehub.com

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Author Jessica Brodie's headshotJessica Brodie is a Christian author, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach. She is the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest continuously published newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her blog at http://jessicabrodie.com/.

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Let’s talk about this! In her book, Victim of Grace, author Robin Jones Gunn talks about taking an annual “Selah” where she hits the pause button and sort of takes stock of her previous year and what God might want to do in the year ahead. This really struck me because I have a tendency to stay so busy doing, I can miss observing all God has done or might want to do. Jessica’s post today encouraged me to hit the pause button this week, to take some time to prayerfully look over past journal entries, to meditate on Scripture, to contemplate all God has done.

What about you? Do you normally take time to remember and contemplate? If so, when and how? If not, how might doing so increase your sense of peace and awe for God? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

Before you go, I wanted to invite you to join me and my Wholly Loved sisters each Wednesday for our new video devotions–short, transformative nuggets designed to help you center yourself in Christ and His truth. You can watch our first two HERE and HERE, then return to the Wholly Loved site each Wednesday for another inspirational message. And if you haven’t done so, make sure to sign up for my free quarterly newsletter to receive inspirational content, recipes, short stories, and more sent directly to your inbox. As an added bonus, subscribers cover image for study based on 1 Timothyreceive a free 36-lesson study based on 1 Timothy (sent separately). You can sign up HERE.

For those in the Omaha/LaVista/Lincoln area, join us for one of our upcoming conferences. You can find out more HERE.

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Seeing God’s Hand

I’ve often wondered, if we could see all that God does on our behalf, how many seemingly random instances would turn out to be miracles. That detour that avoided a crash, or a stop light that placed us in the right place at the right time for a hidden blessing. Every once in a while, we catch glimpses of God’s hand, but I believe He does so much more–each moment in each day–then we’ll ever realize, until maybe we get to heaven.

Today, Gail Pallotta, fellow Clash of the Titles’ hostess and author of Love Turns the Tide, reminds us of how God works behind the scenes, often through His children, to provide for our needs. As you read it, ask God to show you His love and mercy, sprinkled throughout your day. And then, when He does, make sure to thank Him, turning each moment into an act of praise. (Gail is also a Reach Out donor this month.)

God’s Constance Care by Gail Pallotta

Each year members of my Georgia Sunday school class chip in with other churches to provide bagged lunches for homeless children in the community. This year we planned to make our sandwiches one day in mid July. When the Sunday school teacher called to get us on the schedule, the coordinator told him they had plenty of food that week. They didn’t have enough the week after July fourth. The teacher told our class, “I agreed to supply them when they needed them.”

Years ago someone asked us to make the lunches. Sure. We could do that. It meant spending a few bucks each then putting cheese and turkey on bread and cookies in bags.

That’s only part of it. It means the children who come in every day during the summer trusting there will be something for them to eat, find it. In my mind’s eye I saw the youngsters running in hot and sweaty from playing, talking and chattering, teasing each other and giving one another friendly jabs as they sat down and ate their treats.

Then I thought of all the times God works behind the scenes in our lives to meet our needs.

Gail and Rick Pallotta picked up one hundred bagged lunches this July at their church in Georgia to deliver to their community’s homeless children.

The night before, they joined their Sunday school class to make the meals in the church’s large, commercial kitchen. Each bag holds a turkey and cheese sandwich, vanilla wafers, peanut butter cookies, applesauce packets and boxed drinks.

Love Turns the Tide:

In Love Turns the Tide Cammie O’Shea faces a traumatic split-up with her fiancé and has to leave her family and friends to take a new job in Destin, Florida. Heartbroken and alone, she needs God more now than she ever has. But for some reason she can’t explain she feels more estranged from him.

A feature writer, she dreads meeting her new boss, the editor of The Sun Dial, a newnewspaper. However, her real source of angst turns out to be Vic Deleona, the influential real estate tycoon she must write about to help get the paper off its feet. While she refuses to open herself to another painful relationship he attempts to court her. Trying to get over her heartache, she continues to read her Bible and say her prayers. Then break-ins at her and her friend’s condos make her doubt the wisdom of living in Destin even more.

Vic comes to their rescue. He even launches his own investigation into the crimes. Just when Cammie sees a different side of him she gets an offer to return home to her old job. Will Vic solve the crimes and win Cammie’s heart or will she leave?

But it here!

I’d love to hear from you. Has there been an event or encounter that seemed random at the time but later, you realized it was a divine appointment or open door? Or perhaps God has provided for you in an unexpected way. Tell us about it! And may we all be alert to God’s daily provisions and care.

As I close out the month of September, I want to give a shout-out to September’s Reach Out Donors:

Simple Faith by Eddie Snipesthe Road to Mercy by Kathy HarrisThe Other Side of Darkness by Linda Rondeau, and Love Turns the Tide by Gail Pallotta. Kathy Harris, is also donating Karyn Williams’ musical CD entitled Only You.