Author update & Lent is here again

Author update & Lent is here again

Hi friends,

These past few years have been some of my least productive years in writing to date, but busiest in changing, stretching and growing. From finally working out forgiveness with certain people, to becoming a wife, to becoming a mother, learning to weigh a full time job with home and family responsibilities. I’m also very excited to announce that my application to become a staff writer for Tirzah Magazine was accepted and that I am now an official contributor over there too! Tirzah is an online publication dedicated to encouraging young women in leading lives and faith and I’m proud to be associated that team of godly women.

I have at times been overwhelmed, underwhelmed, joyful, grieving, and maybe a little bit crazy. But I’m hanging on to the call to write and to take up my pen in obedience and renewed confidence that only the Lord can provide.

Speaking of obedience and renewed confidence, you may know that today the season of Lent is upon us. I wanted to repost an article from a few years ago, because I found myself being reminded of how if we are not careful, we can turn it into a mere “Christian New Years’ resolutions day” rather than a heart-honest call to turn toward the Lord with renewed zeal.

I hope you enjoy it!


Why I’m dreading Lent this year [originally posted February 8 2016]

Lent is this Wednesday. I know. “What? Already?” I believe my exact reaction was, “AGAIN?”

Every year it’s the same. I spend all kinds of time sitting at Starbucks with my laptop trying to decide whether it’s coffee or chocolate that will get the boot. “Hmm…maybe I should just give up Facebook,” I think to myself, washing down a bite of chocolate-chocolate-chip muffin with a swig of mocha latte.

Lent is like the Christian version of New Years Resolutions. You make up your mind to give something up or start doing something good, only to let yourself slide until you have completely forgotten about the funny promise you made to God 40 days prior. (Chocolate bunny, anyone?)

If you’re not familiar with Lent, it is what Christians call that stretch of time between Mardi Gras and Easter. It is a time set out in the church when believers usually focus on growing closer to God through Prayer, Fasting, and Giving. It’s actually a great opportunity to rekindle the dryness that periodically creeps into our faith-lives. Everyday life and responsibilities cause so much noise in our heads that we forget to focus on the One who is the only source of wisdom, comfort, and salvation. This is why I’m such a huge believer in the practice of Lent. We learn to slow down and establish a structure of prayer that is oftentimes missing from our lives. So why am I dreading it?

Over the past 2 months I my article-writing engines have been on overdrive and I have loved every stressful minute of it. I’m writing for and with God for you good people spread across the Interwebs and all the while, I hear my heart beating in step with each piece. It’s buzzing with excitement: you are doing exactly what you are meant to do. I have SO many ideas for how to glorify God with my writing and my blog.

However, Lent means I have to slow down. It means that I actually have to stop trying, pull it back a bit, and slow down so that I can commune with God. As much as I don’t want to slow my mad productive pace, my soul hangs in the balance if I do not. I’m like a toddler running out the front door and down the driveway before my mom has time to put a diaper on me — I tend to run way ahead of God’s plans before I’m ready.

But this relationship with the master of the universe is vastly more important than anything I post, write, plan to write. I’m hearing his still, small voice in my heart saying, Be still, Molly. Quit trying to prove to me how awesome you are.

I want to be intentional about this year’s season of Lent so I won’t be posting every single day, but only as the spirit leads. I will be listening for God’s voice and striving toward closeness with Him.

Won’t you join with me in search for an intentional Lent? Whether this is your first Lent season or 100th, let’s take Lent seriously together this year. Let’s both commit to being companions of Jesus, instead of competitors. ☩

What I’ve learned from keeping a faith-based blog

What I’ve learned from keeping a faith-based blog

After 4 1/2 years of more or less consistent blogging, I feel I have earned a bit of wisdom I would like to share. This is not only what I would tell any beginner, but also what I use to preach to myself (no pun intended); sometimes the advice we most need to hear is what we are already telling others.

Trust your calling. love inspire encourage . How did you know you wanted to write

Stay connected to God. If I am not consistently walking in obedience and living step of God’s will, all is in vain.

Perseverance. breaking through the demon voices. conquering my own guilt over my sometimes unpractical expectations of myself.

Relevance is key. Care what people want to read. My calling is to share what I learn and teach through experience and writing. If it’s not relevant to anyone but me, it’s great but not helpful. “If you speak to people in words they don’t understand, how will they know what you are saying? You might as well be talking into empty space,”1 Cor 14:6-9

Refuse to be limited. At the same time, don’t care what people want to read. Don’t be hung up on numbers. This is a real problem self employed creatives face everyday, and there are tons of opinions on the subject. Some people believe you need to maximize numbers in order to maximize your  arc of  influence. You want it to matter to as many people as possible, but at the same time, I’m of the personal opinion that you can’t grow in a box. Like all plants, you can start out small, but as your roots grow, they need space to stretch out and explore new and exciting places. I speak from experience when I say – It will not do to limit yourself to what brings in the numbers; you will soon find that you become a slave to likes and followers, instead of the One who called you in the first place.

Be yourself, apologetically. (Unless you are actually just a troll. Then I’d say do some soul searching) Boldness is non-negotiable. I struggle with this one. The age of the Internet is truly one for the history (e)books. Blogging and social media have totally changed the way I interact with my friends, family, and world. Being that Facebook/Instagram is the only means of interaction I have with many, many friends and acquaintances, what I decide to post (or not to post, that is the question) can be powerful. If my words turn someone off, they will probably unfollow me or unfriend me. If my words inspire and encourage, they might still not be interested in what I have to say next time. That’s not to say that we need to pander to what we think people want to hear; I am not in the business of tickling ears. Rather I think it’s important to be respectful. (A dying breed, it seems!) I’m not trying to troll, nor will I be so afraid of what others will think of me. Rather, I want to find a happy medium where I can be myself according to my best judgement and conscience. Sometimes my conscience will not allow me to continue unless I have said something (e.g. Cupgate) and then very often, I find myself writing back to someone’s comment I think is stupid – step back, take a look at myself and ask if it’s really something I want to have spent my time doing. Oh how Facebook commenters enrage me someimes! But – again, respect. And remembering my calling: love, inspire and encourage.

Don’t be discouraged by lack of response. 4.5 years of blogging has generated very very little response.  Anyone working hard at their calling can agree that it’s very encouraging to witness a response.  I have a few regular readers (that I know of) I will shamefully admit that I have personally reached out to several friends and family members to incite some degree of participation, to no avail. Like Eve with the serpent, I have little Stats demons whispering in my ear-  Did God really say you should write? Maybe you heard him wrong because I don’t see him coming on the clouds to ‘Lazarus’ your ratings… While my focus has never been Stats, I do realize that any response good or bad is something. At least I can discern it from there. And part of this is my own fault (see Boldness above). I am introverted (meaning I recharge and gather strength from being alone rather than being around people) and I am private about my thoughts. So I find it more difficult than others to be open.

In the next 5 years I’d like to grow to be more transparent in my writing, allow more of my personality to shine through, and be consistent. to never stop creating. Blogging is an excellent exercise in getting consistent with any type of dream you might have. Whether it’s writing, drawing, learning something new it’s a great way to jot down some thoughts and have a sort of journal of your progress. The fact that it’s made public is all the more exciting to share with others. because what is the point of creating something you were called to do if it is not shared with the world to add beauty?

 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Matthew 5:14-16

Refocusing within the flames

Refocusing within the flames

Hi Friends! After a long break, Joshua chapters 23 & 24 are finally up.

Over the past several months I have come to realize that my focus has truly been split between wanting what the world has to offer, and wanting what God has to offer.

Joshua 24 speaks beautifully to that point. First he reminds us of where we’ve been and then where we are now. God has already proved his faithfulness to us – what more can he do to show he is worthy of our trust?

Joshua doesn’t demand the same answer from everyone. He simply requests that each and every one of us take a hard look at what we want out of life and then commit to it.

If you want to follow the world, do it with full-fledged commitment. If you want to follow the Lord in faith, don’t just say so – really do it and just watch God transform you and your path.

It’s up to you and no one else can make the decision for you. Not your parents, not your peers, not your pastor. Just choose something – or else allow yourself to become a terrible waste of perfectly good potential.

I love this word, not only because it’s challenging and bold, but because it is so applicable in every season of life.

As for me, you might have noticed that I’ve been MIA over the past several months. For those of you who don’t know, I’m now 5 months pregnant and experiencing all the pleasures of pregnancy, like being told the same cliche advice over and over, and having total strangers touch my belly.

It’s great, but it’s made me realize something important. There will soon be a little sponge who will witness everything I say and do, and naturally, want to imitate me. I am about to become an example -one of the first and most profound examples- of faith in Christ to another human being. Does that just blow your mind? It does for me.

As such, a holy fire has been lit under my bottom to strive for more scripture-soaking than ever before. If following Jesus was important to me before, it is now a matter of life and death.

Not that I look forward to coercing my child into faith – I’m not that naive. Rather, to practice what I preach. My goal is to be a living witness to the transformation faith in Christ brings – not only in our individual lives but here in the midst of a world falling apart. The last thing I want it to see is another hypocritical Christian family who says one thing on Sunday and does another on Monday.

I’m sorry that I haven’t always been this zealous, but He’s faithful in giving me a fresh new reason to go forth on the directive I received many years ago. It was to learn, live, and share with others how Jesus is the only thing I need to navigate my life.

I’m not sure yet what this will look like for the blog, but I’m planning – God willing – to incorporate more scripture study, more discussion, and more application to the 2017 world in which we find ourselves.

Molly

My Adovah

My Adovah

Friends,

<This article> has brought much needed breath and water into the parched desert of my calling. You may or may not have noticed my absence since May, which was unplanned and honestly, painful. Don’t worry, I’m alright. The kind of pain I mean is the kind of artistic pain that comes with being unable to produce.

Any artist  knows that when the block appears or inspiration runs dry we live in a constant world of – I need to be busy, but can’t. We are listless, unquenched, dry, like a dark night of the writer’s soul.

That I don’t write when this darkness overcomes, is my fault. This concept of Adovah has turned the table on my perspective. “Your adovah, your work, your art, and you are liberated from the bondage of praise power people-pleasing… Striving makes us slaves”

Indeed, I confess, that it was exactly striving that caused me to become exhuasted and frustrated. I began PD as an upside down blogger, as a gift to God first and encouragement second to anyone who needed it. I lost my way amongst comparisons, impractical great ideas and schedules that were too aggressive.

When I fell, I fell hard because my heart was no longer pure. Blog ratings, traffic had seeped into the mix, making it difficult to tell apart service and striving.

And yet, as always out God is merciful and faithful to continue his call on me to keep writing, even as days, weeks, months have gone by without so much as a journal entry, he knew what I needed because I’m beginning to suspect that it’s not actually writing I’ve been needing to do, but the sanctifying work of Adovah – my service, my art, my worship.

Just hit send

Just hit send

Does anyone else do this?
You take forever writing an email because you keep doing more editing than actual writing, and then once hitting send, you immediately open up your sent mail and read and reread the same email you just spent 3 hours on, poring over it, rereading it aloud to yourself, and continuing to pick it to death and kicking yourself for errors found only after the fact. Something has to hit you over the head with a proverbial brick to snap you out of your reverie and continue on with the next task. (What was the next task again?)

This is typically how I compose and send emails at work, which admittedly is a huge time waster and not company-friendly. But it’s not just at work, I’ve always done this all my life. (If my manager is reading this, don’t worry, I’m truly trying to break the habit.) Outside of work and other administrative-type emails, I mostly write random encouraging emails to all kinds of people. bloggers i’m inspired by, family members, and friends I don’t keep in touch with often. I don’t keep a schedule of correspondence, I just do it when it occurs to me. It’s a bit of a fun hobby: I go through my list of contacts in my phone, and keep scrolling until a name screams out to me in my heart. Then I try to think of something that might make their day.

However, it’s that maddening email-editing craze that often slows or completely stops this spirit-guided process to encourage someone else. It’s a kind of fear I’ve only recently thought to take notice of. Throughout my intense editing session, I’m half listening to these foreign whispers. What will they think of me? Is this weird? Yeah, this is weird. No one ever emails me like this. They probably won’t even respond.

Sometimes I end up scrapping the entire email and not sending anything. That person continues on in their day, with no idea I’ve spent so much time trying to reach out to him or her. Like a light under a basket, no one ever benefits. And it’s obvious what is behind it all — Fear.

Fear of embarrassing mistakes, either in content or grammar.
Fear of being embarrassed
Fear I wont be taken seriously
Fear that I’ll be taken too serious (This happens quite a bit, thanks to my annoying habit of quoting obscure lines from my favorite TV shows that no one gets)
Fear I’ll be ignored
Fear of being annoying

Because communication through the written word is hard. It’s a difficult art to master, at least for me. When you have to convey anything that will have an effect on the recipient, it’s a big responsibility. Like when I’m trying to tell someone to do something without telling them to do it. It takes nuance, carefully worded sentences, and sensitivity to the reader and their particular environment. Our words have so much power. That’s why the Bible is chock-full of wisdom concerning the careful use of our tongues. They truly have the power of life and death.

That being said, there’s a point at which you just have to let go and hit send. Wanted or not, there it goes. It can be scary, depending on the message. Be it a resume, break in a long silence between friends, or a hard word of truth that must be spoken. Sending an email out there is like sending a vulnerable extension of yourself into the unknown. But unlike the lamp which sits indefinitely under the basket, we must get these messages out before the opportunity is gone. Funny how in order to encourage someone, we often must take the first step of courage.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

2 Timothy 1:7

Is there someone on your heart today? Maybe reach out and send that email or text of encouragement, whatever it might be. We have no idea the journey our words will take, but if God’s spirit is behind it, there’s no doubt that they will soar on, accomplishing His will.

Not an email person? Here are some other ideas for brightening up someone’s day:

  • Send an E-card (sort of dorky but sweet) Dayspring has a great ecard selection
  • Leave a message on social media site of choice
  • Can’t go wrong with a quick text
  • Post an old picture and tag your friend with a couple of nice words
  • Go way old school and pick up the phone
  • Go even older-school and (if you can) arrange a hang out session in person

Thanks for reading! Let me know in the comments below how you like to let someone know you’re thinking of them.

xo, Molly

 

A writer’s food for thought

Won’t you take a moment and read Proverbs 4 with me?

My son, be attentive to my words;
incline your ear to my sayings.
Let them not escape from your sight;
keep them within your heart.
For they are life to those who find them,
and healing to all their flesh.
Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.
Put away from you crooked speech,
and put devious talk far from you.
Let your eyes look directly forward,
and your gaze be straight before you.
Ponder the path of your feet;
then all your ways will be sure.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
turn your foot away from evil. ~Proverbs 4:20-27

I’ve always wanted to be a writer of short stories but never before have I had such an opportunity and a reason.

I think, but I don’t know for sure, that God has called me to reach people through the written word. But I am having trouble coming up with what I want to say. The question isn’t just, who will this target, and will they want to read it, but am I able to say what God would have me say, and still say it in a creative and compelling narrative? I don’t want to write for the existing Christian Fiction section, although there certainly is a market for it.

Gingham dresses and prarie romance  aside, I want to write more like C.S. Lewis or Tolkein (lofty goals, I know) but their fiction has so much depth and meaning in every layer, without sounding “holier-than-thou”. How can this even be possible to do for an ignoramus like me?

God’s whisper seems to keep bringing me back to the fact that I was set aside for Glory.

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. ~Colossians 3:1-2

In this excellent lecture by Ray Bradbury he implores budding writers to “stuff” their minds with short stories and poems and essays on every subject imaginable. He knows that you can’t learn to write unless you read, read, read. But as I took down notes on what he was saying, and subsequently went searching for his recommended material, I had to steer clear of many books because of the content.

I’m a mature adult. I’m also trying to be a mature Christian. So what I techically could handle, I decide that I won’t because it’s not God-honoring. That’s why, sad as I was, I had to put the David Sedaris and Roald Dahl and Jules Verne back.

Proverbs 4 says that if you want to be wise, you have to “get” wisdom, “get” insight. Do not turn away from God’s word or forget about it. So while other aspiring writers try to “get” wisdom by reading anything and everything they can get their hands on in the world, I must be more selective in what I stuff my mind with.

So I’ll start with the Bible and Church fathers, and stuff my head with exclusively Christian content. Only then will I be able to be confident that I’m not overstepping the boundaries of my freedom in Christ.

Does God lead your writings?

Happy Sunday dear readers! I bring you an exciting and challenging realization…

We are starting a new sermon series at my church for the summer, going through this book. I am barely through the first part of the first chapter and I had to set the book down and blog about it! 😉

From the title, one can gather that the thrust of the book is about what makes a healthy church. At first I wasn’t so sure I’d be interested in such a subject, but the more I think about it, there is nothing more important to be aware of than the health of your church. After all, the Church is the hands and feet of Jesus in the world! We are the eyes and ears and hearts of God sent out to love in His name. If we and our congregations are on the path to destruction and blindness, we immediately become workers on behalf of the enemy. C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters come to mind. In that book (another one I encourage you to read!) demons are on a mission to cultivate an underhanded type of misunderstanding; humans sin but think they are doing the right thing.

If you are reading this and you don’t exactly belong to one specific church, or perhaps you don’t believe it’s necessary to belong to a church, I pray that God put it on your heart to still read this book! (Or feel free to listen to my excellent pastor’s sermons on the book starting next week at CBCSB.org)

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Now, the reason I’m so excited about the first chapter: Mark Dever says, an important mark of a healthy church is Expositional Preaching. Expositional Preaching is the practice of taking a passage of scripture and “throwing light” on it. [This is in contrast to Topical Preaching, which is the practice of choosing a topic and then going into the Bible to find all the supporting evidence for that topic.]

The difference is that Expositional Preaching looks to God’s Word first, and gleans all the nuggets of truth, versus already knowing what you want to say and going and finding verses to back yourself up. I realized, or God revealed to me, the major implications this concept has for the art of writing blogs!

If you have your own God-centered blog, this is especially for you: If you’re like me, you’re going through your day constantly mulling over in your mind anything that might be ripe for a post. Learning this tiny piece of Seminary 101 knowledge has completely changed the way I think about forming blog posts. What if…I didn’t already have an idea of what I wanted to write about, but let the Word of God lead me? Have you ever had a friend who dominated the conversation so much that you avoided talking to him at all? How much better if the other person were made to feel included. I’ll be the first one to admit my tendency to dominate my conversations with God, and leave him little room to respond to me.

Disclaimer! This is not to say that topical preaching is bad! In fact, we all need to hear what the Bible has to say to us on a particular topic. And like I mentioned before, I’m not halfway done with the chapter yet. So don’t stop your topical devotionals by any means! I only mean to bring attention to the type of thinking of which I myself am guilty – selfishly writing on topics that only interest me, and with which I am comfortable. My intention is to be more mindful of how I write and with what motivation.

Hopefully this idea is inspiring to someone! At any rate, I know that God works his power in us mightily, no matter what.

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose  for which I sent it. ~Isaiah 55:11