Reassurance Just In Time

God always knows what we need, when we need it, doesn’t he?

I have been working on plans to begin a writing group at my church (I mentioned this before in Dog Walking. But Not Really.) and have given myself a deadline for getting the initial planning done and ready to present to the creative arts pastor for approval and feedback. As I was taking notes, pondering options for the structure, the purpose, the critique method, the everything, I began to have serious doubts.

Pile of writing journals

You’ve called me to do this, Lord, but I’m unsure of myself.

Ahem, Rhonda. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV).

But I’m not a published writer. If that’s someone’s goal, I don’t know how to get them there. (Is that even the point? What IS the point?)

Again, Rhonda, think. You’ve been thinking all along about creating a community that can support each other in their faith and grow friendships in the Lord, but do so through the medium of writing. So that is one purpose, perhaps the underlying one. Your obvious purpose is to help each other become better writers (you are well equipped for that). You also want to support the church through collaborative writing.

Give us a collaborative writing project. I’ve been asking all over the church to help as a writer and so far nothing. Nada. Zilch. Except that one time I was asked to write something that was so far outside of my writing realm that I honestly couldn’t do it, even though I tried.

There will be a project. (Maybe this is something you shouldn’t worry about. Maybe someone else will be the ideas person.)

I have a tendency to want to do it myself. I have to remember not to insist on running things alone. This is already difficult, because I already want to call it “mine.” But it’s yours, for YOUR glory. Don’t try to steal that! And if other people are meant to be involved as leaders, who are they? Who else, Lord?



But then today, in a devotional I was reading, God’s timing showed up. It was perfect timing, perfect reassurance about God equipping you to do the work he has chosen you to do. And I know I have been chosen to plan this group, to start it up. I just honestly have no idea what I am doing. But then I read: “Holy Spirit will bring you wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and even skill as you step into the creative tasks God is calling you to. He’ll even bring you a crew!” (p. 144).

Nothing like God telling me he’s got this, right when I am getting anxious about it. He’ll help me with the plans, he’ll send the right people along. So now I’m praying that God will take away my anxiety, help me to trust him, and enable me to do what he needs me to do, as he would have me do it. And if you’re working on something you believe God has called you to, but have no idea how, I pray that he’ll show up just in time with the reassurance you need. Praying for you, friends!

Defining Me: Identity

What if you were asked to write a bio of yourself using 25 words or less—not for any specific context, but simply with a goal to describe yourself? Could you do it?

Then, what if later that same week, you were asked to capture the word “identity” in a photo—could you do that?

Those were the challenges I faced this week through my small group at church, for which we are using the book Courageous Creative by Jenny Randle (Challenges 21, 22, and 25). And that’s what they were: challenges.

First came the bio. Let me cheat and describe myself, particularly my training as a writer, in more than 25 words: I have degrees in technical writing, in the teaching of writing, and in rhetoric and professional communication. For my research at the Master’s and PhD levels, I focused on writing for audiences. Thus, having some idea about who I’m writing for when I write is pretty important to me, even when it’s not something that falls within the “professional” realm. And there I was facing a generic challenge to describe myself—my “awesome self” to be exact (p. 109).

Ahem, Jenny, not enough info. For whom? Why? For what platform/medium? (These are the first questions of writing! Audience, purpose, context! Especially for a technical writer trained in rhetoric like myself.)

I thought of the people in my small group. Seemed not to fit the bill. Too small. But something like a Facebook or Instagram bio didn’t seem to fit either. I was lost. Since the book we’re using is a Christian devotional, that did provide some direction: What do I think of myself, particularly in relation to God?

The day I read the challenge, all of the above thoughts came to mind, I panicked a bit, and then I put it away. Not today.

The next day, I tried to narrow down the type of info I’d put in this bio. Naturally, I wrote two-and-a-half pages of notes that didn’t come near to covering who I am.

The third day, I came to a draft. By now I had read the devotional and challenge for day 22—to revise the bio—so I knew I could draft it (something I have trouble doing, anyway, being the not-perfect perfectionist that I am). So I drafted it:

I’m a child of God,
imperfect but redeemed,
a sinner but forgiven.
I want to shine like a star in the universe
and glorify HIM.

I liked it, but again, draft. And it seemed like there was so much more that I was missing, even though I managed to put my life verses into it.

The next day, I completely revised it—not yet getting anyone’s input, as the challenge suggested, since I figured I could get input from my small group on Thursday.

child of God
being sanctified
shining like a star
holding out the Word of Life
for the GLORY of GOD

Ehh. I packed a lot more in there, but honestly, who would know it’s supposed to be a bio without any context?

Still struggling with these (and not satisfied), I put off the challenge I came across for Day 25. Jenny cleverly put these close together, not necessarily saying they were related, but still. Days 21 and 22 were write and revise a bio, and then day 25 was to capture the word “identity” in a photo using the negative space around the focus of the photo as something of interest.

Identity. In a photo. I had no clue what to do.

Honestly, I considered pulling out my dictionary (okay, pulling it up on my phone) and looking up the word. But I knew that wasn’t the point, because Jenny had asked her readers to pray about it and encouraged/reminded us that we have a God-given identity, and shouldn’t focus on/believe the lies we tell ourselves (or that are told to us) instead.

But how was I to capture that in a photo? Ideas flitted through my mind, some that I don’t have the resources, skill, or technical know-how to pull off. None of them felt quite right anyway. But today it was rainy and I was given unexpected time to be alone with God and my camera, and I think I did capture it—at least, my rendering of identity.

A cross on a necklace in foreground, chair and bookshelves in background

My savior, Jesus, represented by the empty cross, and in the background is the place in which I meet with him every day. This is my identity—he is my identity. I can’t separate myself from him. And I hope people see him when they look at me, and are drawn to what they see.

I will be the first to admit that when people have seen me in the past they haven’t always seen Jesus. Or, perhaps, they’ve seen me in some of (or only) my worst moments—there have been plenty—and think they’ve seen him and are repulsed by what they’ve seen. I know someone who has rejected even the existence of God because of the example his Christian parents provided as he was growing up. But that’s exactly why I need a savior: I’m a sinner in need of redemption, of someone who can restore my relationship with God and sanctify me (and thank God he is doing that day by day by day and won’t stop until he’s done).

And if I’ve been that bad example for you—shown you the need for a savior rather than the savior himself—I ask that you forgive me. And that you would look beyond me to him.

But I digress. Back to my story. When I took this photo and captured what, to me, encapsulates identity—my identity—it suddenly dawned on me why I couldn’t write that bio. It was because the bio has already been written for me. It’s more than 25 words, but Jenny must have miscounted when she made that request in her book.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, NIV)

I’m thanking God for giving me an identity in him tonight.

A Smoldering Danger

The dishes had been washed and dried and were ready to be used again. The dishwasher cycled to the automatic shut-off function—and failed. Something went wrong, and instead of shutting down, the motor kept whirring, doing nothing but whirring, and began building up heat. The wires started to smolder, and one by one they snapped, burning and melting away from the circuit boards. The house began to smell like burnt plastic, a pungent, acrid smell. Mere feet away, the two children slept on the couches as was their weekend ritual. On weekends, Mommy and Daddy let them fall asleep watching tv.

This is what I woke up to at 1:13 a.m. Sunday morning. Only half alert, I left the bathroom and remembered to shut the door since the cat was on the loose. (The bathroom is home to one of our two dwarf hamsters, a home of necessity and convenience in order to avoid a pet-becomes-the-prey disaster.) My hand had barely left the doorknob before I noticed it: a smell. Something was burning.

Following the smell, I entered the kitchen and thought that, somehow, a stovetop burner had been left on and was scorching one of my dollar-store burner covers. (I’ve turned on the wrong burner enough to recognize that smell.) I spent a good ten seconds inspecting the burner knobs in the dark, trying not to wake my children sleeping in the family room just on the other side of the kitchen island, before realizing the burner lights weren’t on. That’s when I heard it. The dishwasher was still running, but after four to five hours the dishes should have been sparklingly clean.

I pulled the dishwasher open, only registering a few moments later that the “clean” light was on—another indication that the dishwasher should have been off. Nothing. Clean dishes, dry dishes—meaning that motor sound hadn’t just continued washing the dishes—but no evidence of anything burning. I knew this had to be it, though, so woke up my husband. Smoldering fires that go unnoticed can turn into big ones, and it was only a few years ago that the neighbors three houses down lost their house in a fire that started smoldering in their chimney while they slept. When I told him that the dishwasher hadn’t shut off like it should, my mechanically-minded husband knew it had to be a problem with the wiring and shut off the breaker to the dishwasher. Then he opened up the control panel, and of three sets of wires soldered to circuit breakers, two of them had burned completely away from the breakers themselves. He snipped the wires, doused them in water, and took the part outside for good measure. All I could do was hold the flashlight—we still were trying not to wake the kids—and say, over and over, “Thank you, God.”

Without God’s protection, we could have very well lost our house. Our pets. Our children. Our own lives.

Yet God protected us. He woke me up and brought that smell to my attention from the other end of the house. He helped me locate the source of the smell and then gave my husband the knowledge and ability to locate the problem and ensure it wouldn’t continue. So yes—over and over again, the prayer of my heart and lips was a prayer of thanks.

The next night when my son was a bit scared to go to sleep, I reminded him that God kept us safe the night before, God takes care of the baby birds that just vacated a nest outside our bathroom window (Matthew 10:29), and God will continue to take care of us—that God even has angels watching over him (Matthew 18:10). Then we put on our oils (I’ve recently started using doTerra essential oils, and the kids have some of their very own—that night he used Brave and Calmer) and prayed, thanking God for keeping us safe and asking him to do so again. We slept through the night without incident and God has kept us safe every night since.