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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If God Loves Me, Then Why Does He Wait?

As our daughter nears fifteen, she’s beginning to dream about driving and college and all those rights of passage that signify adulthood. (She’s already planned the furnishings for her college dorm room … and her future house, career, basically, the next twenty years of her life.)

She thinks she’s so ready, but often, my husband and I must hold her back. Not because we don’t love her, but instead, because we do. We know the vital steps that must occur, the growth that needs to take place, the dangers that await if we allow too many privileges and responsibilities before the proper time. We know there’s imperative character traits, like perseverance, inner grit, determination, that must be developed.

I believe God is the same way. He has an omniscient view of our lives. He sees our past, present, and future. He knows every obstacle we’ll face, every blessing that’ll come our way. Most importantly, He sees us not as we are, but as He plans to make us–a beautiful masterpiece ready to do His will.

Today, Fay Lamb, author of Because of Me, looks at disappointments through God’s sovereignty and loving Father’s heart. She reminds us, no matter what comes our way, God wants us to trust and obey. Trust His love, His goodness, His tender care.

God Loves Me More Than That by Fay Lamb

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD,

thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” Jeremiah 29:11

Life verses—they abound, and Jeremiah 29:11 is among the most quoted. As an author who feels that God has called me to write, I cling to verses such as this. For me, they prove that God’s love is a blanket of warmth against the coldness of a sometimes harsh reality.

The writer’s life is like a rollercoaster with moments of high exhilaration and days of deep despair. Times when all is right with the world, and then there are those occasions when a writer wants to crawl into a cave and hide from the very world where before all was bright and sunny.

God says in Jeremiah 29:11 that He knows the thoughts He has toward me. He declares those thoughts are kind and not evil, and He wants to give me a future of hope. When I meditate on this verse, I imagine this is God’s way of saying, “Daughter, I have a plan for you. Trust and obey.”

Often I hold my hand out to God, asking Him to lead me toward a writing contract, an encounter with someone, even an idea to build a story. Like a child, I want my prayers answered easily and immediately.

But God loves me more than that.

I do not like rejection, but is it truly rejection when God has designed the plan and I am walking in obedience to Him? No, it’s a step. I must trust God and move forward even when the path is rough and harrowing.

I do not like to be unsettled in my spirit, yet criticism has a way of doing that. Truth given in love, however, is one of a writer’s most valuable assets. The sting at first may leave me uncomfortable, but when I come to terms with it and take the suggested steps to improve my writing, my spirit is filled with the peace that God promises.

When I start out on a trip, I am the one who likes to know every stop along the way. Trust and obey means that I trust God when he doesn’t tell me each leg of my journey. My life as an author may take unexpected turns.

I have purposed in my heart to remain content with any direction God purposes in my writing career. In fact, I’ll be satisfied on whatever road He places me. My future hopes rest in Him and not in my desires, and God has promised a future better than any I can dream.

BIO

Fay Lamb works as an acquisition/copyeditor for Pelican Book Group (White Rose Publishing and Harbourlight Books), offers her services as a freelance editor, and is an author of Christian romance and romantic suspense. Her emotionally charged stories remind the reader that God is always in the details. Because of Me, her debut romantic suspense novel will be released on February 3, 2012, by Treble Heart Books/Mountainview Publishing.

Fay has a passion for working with and encouraging fellow writers. As a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), she co-moderates the large Scribes’ Critique Group and manages the smaller Scribes’ critique groups. For her efforts, she was the recipient of the ACFW Members Service Award in 2010.

In 2012, Fay was also elected to serve as secretary on ACFW’s Operating Board.

Fay and her husband, Marc, reside in Titusville, Florida, where multi-generations of their families have lived. The legacy continues with their two married sons and five grandchildren.

Because of Me:

Issie Putnam’s life took a detour the night she was raped at gunpoint in front of her fiancé, Michael Hayes. Instead of marrying Michael, a promising young investigative reporter, Michael, along with the man who attacked her, and the man who held the gun on Michael, are imprisoned for conspiracy to assassinate the local district attorney—a crime Michael was trying to expose but had no intention of committing. Issie’s name is ruined, she lost her perfectly-planned future, but she gained Cole, her son—born of that rape.

On the eve of her attacker’s parole, Michael, already released from prison, follows through on his plan to return to the small town of Amazing Grace and protect Issie from the madman who promised to seek revenge. There, he meets Issie’s seven-year-old son for the first time.

Can Michael learn to love the child Issie holds so close to her heart? Will Michael be able to protect the woman he loves from the man who will stop at nothing to destroy them all?

Purchase the book at Amazon.

Let’s talk about this!

Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about our disappointments, hopes, and dreams and try to view them through our Father’s eyes. How does trusting in God’s love for you, His plan for you, His continual care, help you persevere? If you’re a parent, how has your experience as a parent changed your understanding of God? Has there been a time when you’ve been able to look back on a delay or detour that, although painful at the time, turned out to be a blessing?