New Beginnings

September in the midwest. The weather has begun to turn, the sticky heat yielding to cool breezes, cooler nights, and not-quite-yet crisp mornings. Glimpses of red and gold are appearing amongst the green of the trees. Cider mills are open and apples are ripe for the picking. Pumpkin spice everything is everywhere, equally loved and despised. Halloween (sometimes even Christmas!) merchandise is on store shelves. And back-to-school pictures began appearing on social media—a few here, a few there, and then in droves.

It’s a season of new beginnings.

I have to admit—I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year. I love the weather, the beauty of the season shedding the vestiges of summer in preparation for a season of rest. I love it even more when it hangs on and on, not wanting to let go and give in to the bitter cold of winter, like a child on the verge of sleep trying desperately to stay awake and keep his eyes open. But as creation winds down, my life speeds up. I can’t sync to the rhythms of nature; I need to keep pace with humanity. So when that school bell sounds to begin the long-distance race that lasts from September to May, I start running.

This Tuesday, I turned forty-five and started running.

fullsizeoutput_1a2

If you’re new to this blog, you may not know that I teach writing at a local university. Unless you’re familiar with the nuances of academia, you may not know the differences between assistant professors, professors, full-time and part-time lecturers, etc. For the past seven years, I’ve been a full-time lecturer, which simply means that I a) can’t get tenure (basically, a job-for-life guarantee); and b) my is to teach—a lot—rather than do research. In my job, I teach writing to a lot of people that don’t necessarily like to write, but will need to for their careers (it’s called technical writing).

Like I said, though, it’s a season of new beginnings. And this season is full of new new beginnings for me. Beginnings I’ve been eagerly waiting to announce to the world, and now I’m free to do so.

This season, I’m choosing to follow God’s leading in my life. I’ve been feeling the pull away from teaching and into more intentional ministry for a while now, and this season I stepped out in faith to follow that guidance. So starting in November I’ll be teaching part-time and freeing up more time to serve my local church body. I’m not hoping to be a minister (as in pastor) as some people outside the church have mistakenly thought, but to serve by offering my time and talents to God and to his people. For the foreseeable future, that means starting a guinea-pig, small group/writing group (October 1 start date! Eek!) and serving in a different and (I think/hope) more frequent role on the production team that runs the weekend services. For the long-term future? I have my hopes and dreams, but what’s exciting is that God has his plans—and they’re much better than I could ever dare to dream.

This morning, as I was pondering the new beginnings in my life, I thought of God’s promise in Revelation:

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:5, ESV)

All things new. That’s what I’m looking forward to this year, and in the future, and definitely in the end of the age when truly all things are made new. But the moment God started working in my life—and each moment I let him work in my life by saying “Yes!” to his leading and following in obedience—is a moment that God begins something new. I can’t wait to see what God brings, and I ask that you pray along with me that I will be faithful with these few things and prove worthy of being faithful with much (Matthew 25:21).

Can I Confess and Tell You Something?

I was in a two-on-one Bible study with my youth pastor’s wife when I was in my late teens. Two-on-one meaning my best friend and I got to meet and study God’s word with her alone, together. It was at that time that she urged us to promise God that we’d spend half an hour each day with him, reading his word and praying. In so many ways, that Bible study was the foundation of this challenge.

In my late teens, I made that promise. I remember one night, a few months (years, perhaps?) later, sitting, crying, and whining in that same friend’s house, confessing to her and one other friend, “I don’t want to read my Bible today!”

Can I confess to you now, two-and-a-half decades later, that I regret ever having made a promise to God? I regret having promised it because shortly after that night (months, maybe years?) I walked away from my promise. I broke it. I rebelled, and what it came down to was I didn’t trust God to take care of the most important parts—to me—of my life.

Thank God for his grace, for going back and calling his lost sheep back to the fold, time and time again (Luke 15:3-6). I am one of those sheep.

Looking back now, I realize what an incredible blessing that time in my life was—the time of pastors’ wives, pastors in training, and youth pastors pouring into me, discipling me. Because it wasn’t just the one pastor’s wife; at one time when I was young, I was so hungry and thirsty (Matthew 5:6) and I was blessed to be surrounded by Godly men and women who took their time out to feed and teach me.

Can I tell you that if you are one of God’s workers pouring into a young life, don’t give up hope? If it looks like your work has been in vain, if you’ve “lost” someone to the world’s temptations, keep hoping. Keep praying. I’m sure someone was hoping and praying for me. And remember that even when we humans are not, God is faithful.

As I was contemplating Day 12’s challenge question—”Why do I read the Bible?” for me—I was reminded, as I often am, of that broken promise, the one I should not have made. The urge to make it was well-intentioned, but in my young heart and ears and mind it was not accompanied by the appropriate warnings (Matthew 5:33-37). I’m not saying my youth pastor’s wife didn’t mention them—I’m saying that if she did, I did not take them to heart. And I didn’t understand that the promise I was making was one that was at the same time impossible to break and impossible to keep.

Journal with a hand-written page listing reasons the writer reads the Bible, and another, closed journal sitting on the opposite page. The closed journal has a floral design and the words “Happy thoughts and beautiful words” on the cover.

What? Both impossible to break and impossible to keep? Yes.

Impossible to break, because if my promise—the intention of my fickle heart—was to spend half an hour each day with God, that was a silly, foolish promise because God is always with me. There is nowhere I can go that he is not (Psalm 139:7-8). But if my promise was to spend half an hour each day acknowledging God’s presence and spending deliberate time with him—the more literal way I interpreted it when I made the vow—then I was promising something that was beyond my control. True, most days I have the freedom to choose to pray, to choose to read my Bible. But God may someday take that choice away from me by rendering me too ill to be able to make that choice, like he chose to do with my mother who was bedridden, on pain relievers, and sometimes incoherent in her five months with terminally ill, stage four cancer. The point is that this was not a promise that was mine to make, simply because making it suggested I had the power, in myself, to keep it.

I did not.

Can I tell you something else? I am back to keeping my promise, have been back, for several years now. And these years that I have spent dedicating the best part of my day to the Lord have been the sweetest, most precious times with him I have ever spent. Because God has spent the time teaching me the answers to the reason I walked away in the first place: for several years now, he has been telling and teaching my soul, my heart, my mind, You can trust me.

You can trust me, because I love you. It struck me just how much God loves me when I read Psalm 139:1-6—the more famous verses of this Psalm are those often used by pro-life groups, verses 13-18—and recognized it for what it was: the description of someone so in love with another that he can’t help but watch her every move, memorize everything about her. Thinking of God being so attentive to me—to me—made me blush, not with embarrassment but with pleasure to think that someone could be so in love with me:

You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise,
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all of my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain. (NIV)

So yes, I read. I read my Bible not because I made a promise, but because God’s love for me draws me to it, to him. The Bible is God’s written word left for me—and for you—so that we can come to know him. So that we can come to trust him.


As a writer who thinks of writing as art, I want to leave the blog there—to just stop, and let readers be. But as someone who knows she—I—am ultimately responsible for my words, wanting them to shine and be refined in the fire rather than melt away into ash (1 Corinthians 3:11-13), I need to make two things clear:

  1. In no way am I urging you not to commit spending daily time with God. That has been one of the reasons for writing the challenge posts—to encourage people to do so! Spending time with God can change you, if you let him. And
  2. Neither am I saying that it is always wrong to make a vow to God—although some may interpret Jesus’ warning in Matthew 5:33-37 that way. Instead, I urge you to study that very question from a Biblical perspective, and look at commentary that interprets it, and determine in your own heart and mind whether it is appropriate or not—and whether the vow you intend to make is appropriate or not—before you do so.

One more thing—I can’t walk away from here without saying a huge, heartfelt Thank You to those who poured into me when I was young, whether they ever read this blog and recognize themselves in it or not. For each of you, I treasure your love for the Lord, your love for me, the time you spent with me, and your obedience to the Lord: Vicki, Kris, Trina, Tom, Micki, and Tony. Thank you.

Mom Fail

So, I had a major mom fail today. Actually, last night. My son lost his first tooth yesterday, something he’s been waiting on with anticipation.

Boy with missing tooth holding Ziploc bag that says “1st lost tooth” (the tooth is in the bag).

He put the tooth under his pillow and eagerly awaited the tooth fairy, who had just come to our house last week for his big sister’s molar. But the tooth fairy didn’t come.

Let me repeat that. THE TOOTH FAIRY DIDN’T COME.

Sad boy lying on a couch with a heart-shaped pillow behind him.

In other words, mom slept really well last night and it didn’t even dawn on her (me) to get up, steal away the tooth, and put cash under his pillow instead. And when his little feet came down the hall to tell me this morning and he came in crying—crying!—because he was so disappointed, I felt like the Worst. Mom. Ever.

I was really, really tempted to just blow the whole thing and tell him [SPOILER ALERT] that I’m the tooth fairy and I forgot, but it’s the first tooth he has lost. I couldn’t quite take that childhood rite of passage/fantasy away from him like that. Instead, I consoled him by holding him, telling him we’ll write a note to the tooth fairy to make sure she (or he, since Dwayne Johnson plays a reluctant one in the 2010 movie Tooth Fairy) knows he lost it. And I let him use the special tooth pillow my aunt made me when I was a kid losing teeth (the heart-shaped, Winnie-the-Pooh pillow behind him, above) to make the tooth easy for the tooth fairy to find.

There is one thing that redeems me as a mother in all of this, though. I love my child. I may not have completed what he expected and wanted to happen—yet—but I love him. And because of that, I care for him and will take care of him throughout the day and into the night, when I plan to fulfill my role as household tooth fairy.

Thinking of that brought to mind God’s love for me—for us—and the fact that his love never fails. He always loves us, always will love us, and always cares for us.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1, ESV)

And better yet—God doesn’t forget us. He isn’t so busy that he forgets to do something in our lives and has to feel the remorse that I felt when I failed my child. I think sometimes we feel like God has forgotten us, because he seems distant or our prayers are seeming to go unanswered. But when we’re feeling like that, we need to keep two things in mind: God’s timing is incredibly different than ours, and he has a plan for us.

With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. (2 Peter 3:8, NIV)
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, NIV)

Even if my son knew that I was the tooth fairy, I doubt he’d think that because I failed to complete my task it was proof I didn’t love him. Don’t ever doubt that God doesn’t love you, either—he hasn’t forgotten you. He loves you, and he longs for you to love and trust him in return. Trust in his love for you, in his plans for you. His love never fails.