No, I’ve not been foolish enough to pray for patience; I know better! You’d think I have been, though, with all of the frustrating things that have happened with this book. I keep having to remind myself that this is a process and I will eventually make it through, no matter how many little bugs try to get into the system.
But it IS coming! My goal is for Exploring the Bible: A Guide and Journal to be released by the end of this month. My fingers are officially crossed!
At my request, a friend created this custom artwork for my new office. I’d been thinking about how I wanted the office decorated and the ONLY thing I knew was that I wanted one constant reminder.
“Forever” is my absolute favorite word in the whole world because it reflects God’s amazing promise: His children get to spend forever with Him! It is also a reminder that everything I face today is temporary. No matter how challenging life gets, and oh my Lord but it does get challenging, I know that a thousand years from now today’s troubles will be meaningless in almost every way.
I say almost, because how we respond to today’s challenges will definitely matter a thousand years from now; our actions today work together to determine who we will be tomorrow. When I stay focused on forever, focused on Him instead of the trials and tribulations that sometimes seem to pile on top of each other, I’m much more likely to get it right.
It seems I’m always learning new things about myself. Or perhaps, more accurately, I’m gaining more understanding about what I’ve known for years. In school I couldn’t just listen to lectures; I had to take notes. I may never look at them again, but they made all the difference between getting nearly nothing from the lecture and getting…well, maybe not everything, but certainly a whole lot more. Taking the notes, handwritten notes, helped my sometimes overactive brain focus on what I was hearing rather than running off in a hundred different directions.
So let’s head to church. Like most, I used to sit in a pew with my Bible in hand. I had to take notes, of course, but I eventually realized that I also had a secondary problem. Way too often, my eye would be caught by a verse near the one the minister had us reading and my self-propelled brain would dash off into thoughts about that verse, sometimes never to return to the ministry going on in front of me.
I tried all sorts of things through the years, eventually settling on restricting myself to a Bible app on my phone, thus limiting the rabbit trail options, but that only helped with part of the problem. Hand writing the notes wasn’t helping as much anymore, so I switched to taking notes on my phone. Switching between apps slowed me down and helped, but I still had trouble concentrating and retaining.
And then I had some fascinating conversations with a friend who has dealt with similar issues. She explained that she needed to be doodling or sketching while listening if she wanted to retain, that it helped her stay focused. I don’t sketch, but I do have a color-by-number app on my phone, so I dared to disobey tradition and open it during a sermon.
It made all the difference! Being color by number, it’s a virtually mindless activity. It’s not enough to distract me from the message, but is enough to keep my eyes and hands occupied so that THEY don’t distract me from the message. It gives my antsy brain that one little bit of extra work required to make it settle down and actually concentrate on what’s being said.
Since I started doing this, I am more connected with Pastor’s messages than ever, take better sermon notes now than I have in a very long time, and leave service without the frustration that used to stalk me when I knew I’d missed too much. It is an absolutely amazing solution that works for me, and I’m so glad my friend helped me head in the right direction.
So if you see me coloring in church, don’t freak out; it’s a good thing.
In November, I wrote In His Mercy, an entry about my journey with a book He told me to write years ago. I’m making progress!
It’s currently in the hands of some beta readers whose judgement I trust. Once I get that feedback, I’ll make the changes I need to and turn it over to a professional for editing and format tweaking. Then it’s on to cover design and, finally, putting it up for sale on Amazon.
And then the not fun stuff starts. But that’s an issue for another post.
For now, just be proud of me for making it this far. If you read the other post, you know it’s been a long road for what really isn’t that complicated of a book. God is so. Very. Merciful! If He’s told you to do something and you’ve failed Him, He still loves you and still wants to use you. Just step back into the game and get moving.
A seed has an innate command to grow and, all things being equal, when it is planted it will obey that command. I’ve been thanking God for that fact this morning.
I’ve always thought I was raised serving God, but in reality I wasn’t, or not like one might think. When I was very young, we were in church, and seeds were planted. Then, for maybe a year or so while I was in junior high, we were in church again and more seeds were planted. And where regular church attendance is concerned that was it.
But seeds were still being planted. They may have been few, during conversations with my parents and grandparents, during that one week spent in Vacation Bible School, during Sunday morning Christian cartoons…. But they were being planted, and they grew, and they bore fruit, and I am where I am today.
So today I’ve been thanking God for each and every one of those seeds that were planted in my life. I’ve also been thanking Him for those seeds I’ve had the honor of planting in others’ lives.
Maybe I only managed to get one seed in the ground, one word about the love of God settled into someone’s heart during a brief conversation. I’ve been reminded today that even that one word can be enough.
Never discount the power of the words you get to plant as you speak into others’ lives, the power of your actions as you show God’s love. Even one seed can produce much fruit.
What happens when God tells you to do something and you don’t? Well, it varies, but here’s one story.
He told me to write a book years ago, and I started…then dropped it. Years later, He told me to get back on it and I did…and later dropped it. A few months ago, He told me to get back on it again, and I started planning, but… yeah.
I’ve been faithfully back at it, seriously at it, for several weeks now and I’m excited about both how it’s changed from when God first told me to do it and the progress I’m making as I work. I’m also excited by how clearly my story illustrates His mercy. He could have given up on me, but He didn’t. He kept coming back and saying, “Tammy, I gave you a job to do. Now let’s get going.”
And there’s even more to His mercy in my story. When I started, years ago, I thought I knew what it would look like, and it was fairly simple. Then God added more to the plan. When I picked it up recently, I knew I’d be working on the “more,” but then He added even more. Why? He knows me!
When faced with what feels like a huge task, I can get overwhelmed. God knows this, so He broke the book down into manageable phases. What might have had me throwing my hands up in defeat if I’d seen the whole vision up front, ended up being an exciting journey because I wasn’t worrying about the next phase while working on the current one.
God knows everything we will need to become who He wants us to be, and He’s merciful and gracious enough to work with our weaknesses.
I have a beautiful cross that I never take off. It is my constant reminder of everything Jesus has done in my life.
It is also a slap in the devil’s face.
Think about it. The cross was the most ghastly, abhorrent, abominable thing imaginable. If you were hung on a cross, you were a despicable human being worthy of the greatest contempt.
Cross = BAD
Now we see the cross as a beautiful thing. Even many who don’t believe in the saving work of Jesus Christ often wear it as decoration because it is beautiful. Imagine what a headache that constant reminder must give the devil.
But this is exactly what Jesus does. While He lived, He specialized in making bad things beautiful. Whether He was healing lepers, delivering a woman from being stoned, returning dead children to their parents…
And He does the same today. It makes no difference to Him that you’ve been bad. He doesn’t care what you’ve done. He cares about you letting Him do what only He can do – turning your life from bad to beautiful.
Have you ever really thought about Jesus, specifically about His emotional state, in Matthew 14:13-21?
He’d just learned that John the Baptist, His relative, the first one to recognize Jesus (in his mother’s womb), the one who prepared the way for Him, the one who baptized Him and announced to the people that He was The One they’d been waiting for, had been murdered, beheaded. Jesus was divine, but He was also human, and His human heart had to be torn.
So He set out to go to the desert to be alone. To mourn, perhaps? To talk to His heavenly Father about it? Who knows? But the very fact that He went shows that He had a need. However…
The people followed Him, and He chose their needs over His own. Honestly, He had every right to take some time off, to receive comfort for a while. But that’s not what happened.