Living–For Real!

Photo by edaly, taken from pixabay.com

Photo by edaly, taken from pixabay.com

When I come to the end of my life, when I stand before my Creator, I want to appear before Him with empty hands, knowing I gave my all and lived each moment to the fullest, utilizing every gift and talent He gave me to their full potential.

Because what good is a gift if it’s hidden, or only partially opened?

About a week ago, my assistant Hannah Burch wrote a beautiful, thought-provoking, and poignant poem I felt would speak to many of you. Many of us have those moments where God stirs us to do, and in that moment, we’re ready to jump in, to give our all… But then the next day, with all its stressers and demands, comes, and “logic” begins to take over, and slowly but surely, that spark of action begins to fade.

As you read Hannah’s poem, ask yourself: What would I do differently right now if I knew tomorrow wouldn’t come? Or perhaps a better question, what is holding me back from being the man or woman Christ created me to be? He gave His all for us, not so we could muddle through life, but so that we could live, truly live.

1am by Hannah Burch

I’m afraid to go to sleep
Because I know I will lose this nagging feeling my empty day has given me

Photo taken from pixabay.com by iWorksphotography

Photo taken from pixabay.com by iWorksphotography

This feeling that I did not wring out all that I had to offer
This feeling that I moved too slowly and not enough
That I didn’t shout enough
Or dance enough
Cry enough
Or laugh enough
I’m afraid to go to sleep
Because in the morning I know I will be afraid to do all those things

rsz_1hannah_bio_picHannah Burch is a sophomore in college who enjoys reading, writing, and watching Star Wars in her spare time. She is the oldest of five girls (excluding the dog) and is planning on majoring in either Creative Writing or English so her parents should probably not expect her to move out of their basement anytime soon.

(And to my writer friends looking for help with your blogs, newsletters, promotional jpgs, etc., let me know via email and I’ll connect you with her. She’s amazingly helpful! And routinely does all those things I’d rather not so I can spend my time doing what I love–writing!)

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! Back in 2008 and 2009, I clearly and strongly sensed God’s call to write but fought it, hard. One night at a mid-week church service, my former pastor talked about the parable of the tenants and I realized it was fear–self-preservation rooted in fear–that caused the evil tenant to hide his gifts.

I was doing the same. The answer? I needed to surrender, to die to myself and live, completely and fully, for Christ. It wasn’t easy or comfortable. Death never is! But the fruit of that initial decision, and countless times I’ve had to make it again and again over the years, has truly been amazing. Share your thoughts in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Speaking of the fruits of surrender, I have news! Many of you have wondered if there’d be a book to follow my debut, Beyond I Do. The answer is YES! I signed a contract with New Hope Publishers Tuesday for book two in what I’ve tentatively called the Midwestern Romance series.

Here’s a preliminary blurb:

Three people held back by regret but one God to help them rise above.

Angela Meadows is ready for a clean slate, to launch a career, and to embrace her newfound freedom in Christ. But self-loathing and remorse for a life forever lost hold her back. When she encounters a single mom married to an incarcerated felon and her children, Angela’s shame becomes swallowed by something greater—compassion. Her past draws her to them, but will it drive away the only man she loves?

And, speaking of taking risks and dying to one’s self, you might enjoy the post I wrote for fellow ACFW member, Ralene Burke titled Confidence in Uncertainty. 

On Tuesday, I visited More to Life to share how a motherhood struggle drew my heart to single moms, and how this impacted my latest release, Intertwined. You can read that HERE.

And, speaking of books, for those of with book-lovers on your list…

Background photo by Unsplash taken from pixabay.com

Background photo by Unsplash taken from pixabay.com

Living Fully Present in the Present

ID-100208307Ten years ago, one could go to a restaurant and see families actually talking. They could hold a conversation–like a full, twenty minute one–without the beep of an incoming text or emails halting it.

But then came smart phones and Facebook and all those alerts and instant messages that come with it, and suddenly, these things that we thought would free our time actually hold us in bondage. Those devices that we believed would keep us connected actually distract us from the very people we most want to connect with.

And I am by far the most guilty of this. I think it’s the instant ID-100103470gratification thing. Or maybe some sort of conditioning–you know, like Pavlo did with dogs and dog food. The bell rang; they got dog food until the bell alone could make them salivate. Now swap dogs and dog food with humans and instant messages. 😉

This week, I’ve been focusing on living fully present in the present. This started on a particularly hum-drum day when my body decided to rebel but my mind wanted it to behave like it had five years ago. I think that’s maybe the hardest part of chronic illness, well, the hardest part of adapting to it; realizing that life has changed. And that you can still find joy in that.

Unless you’re consumed with thoughts of what once were or what one day might be.

Because you can’t live–fully live–in the present if you’re always searching for a way back to the past. Nor if you’re trying to leap up ahead. It’s like maybe we feel we’re missing out on something.

Which we are. If we’re not living fully present in the present. We’ll miss out on a lot.

And we’ll never really enjoy the blessings God is giving us now.

Today I focused on doing just that. I put my to-do list, hum-drums, concerns for tomorrow or thoughts of yesterday aside and spent a wonderful afternoon with my princess.

It started with a trip to the UP building to join my hubby for lunch. The weather couldn’t have been better. Overcast, a slight breeze, maybe 75 degrees. Plus, I had annoyed my daughter a total of 0 times on the drive over. (If you didn’t believe in miracles before…)

We get there to find my husband waiting, inching toward the exit. We’d fully expected to eat in the company cafe’, which is lovely.

But he–and God–had other plans.

My husband surprised us by asking if we’d perhaps like to eat somewhere else, saying he “had time”. Guiding us out of the building and toward the historical Old Market area with it’s cobblestone streets, amateur musicians, eclectic stores, and every flavor of cuisine one could imagine.

We chose to eat at Blue Sushi Sake Grill as sort of a thank you for the generous donation they gave to the Hope for the Homeless event. Then my husband returned to work and my daughter and I spent the rest of the afternoon being silly-goofy.

Being fully present in the present.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this. You can’t fully enjoy today if you’re trying to cling to the past. Nor if you’re always looking ahead for what might be. And it’s easy to allow all those momentary distractions to occupy our time, but though they may give us “pleasure”, they’ll never give us joy. Rather, left unchecked, they’ll steal from us those very things that do bring joy: close relationships, peace, solitude, gratitude, and praise.

In what ways are you living a partial life? What have you allowed to hinder your joy of today? What can you do today, right now, to live fully present in the present?

For those of you wanting to go deeper in your friendships, you might find my latest Crosswalk article helpful: How to Maintain (Imperfect) Friendships.