Just Keep Working

I am feeling ever-so-slightly discouraged.

The Lord clearly told me to do something and I happily dove in. Then, I found out that I am doing something someone else is already doing...and they are doing a better job at it. So what do I do? Do I stop? Do I keep at my work?

This is not a new story. I am an artist, a photographer and a writer. In all of those things, someone else has that occupation as well...and most likely, a great deal of them do a stellar job. I cannot hold my work up to theirs to determine who is more superior. I have to just keep working. Because their work will touch a life that mine will not, and my work will touch a life that theirs will not.

So I keep working.

I keep spinning my words together, throwing them up in the air and letting them settle how they will.

I will keep picking up my camera and capturing tender moments in people's lives.

I will not let my pencils stray very far from my fingertips, dutifully sketching and molding a face of flesh and bone onto paper.

I will not stop.

I will not compare.

I will not get discouraged.

Because the breath of the Lord is at my back, spurring me on, moving me to action, never yielding. And as time moves on...the work grows better.

So that's that.

I have work to do.


My Personal Psalm

Verses Worth Sinking In:

"Don't be afraid, I've redeemed you. I've called you by name. You're mine. When you're in rough waters, you will not go down. When you're between a rock and a hard place, it won't be a dead end--because I am God, your personal God, the Holy of Israel, your Savoir. I paid a huge price for you...

That's how much you mean to me! That's how much I love you! I'll sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you."

~Isaiah 43: 1-4 (message)

With coffee at hand and the house washed in gray shadows, I am handing things over to the Lord this morning. You would think by now I would learn. Trudging through life with all my baggage and pain wears these narrow shoulders out. Worry and grief and pain...none of it was made to rest here upon my chest, wearing me down, stealing my joy. So I am handing things over...

What it comes down to is this:

"God, I love you...
You are worth this...
Whatever this is.

I will gladly stay here in this darkness if there's a lesson to learn...
I will believe that You have me in the palm of Your hand.
I will never stop believing in Your truths...
Or let truth be obscured by worldly compromise.

You are worth the growing pains...
The tears when I am confused and feel lost.
Because I will believe that you have singled me out.
You have!
I know it!
I feel it!

So restore my faith and joy.
Begin to breathe truth within my soul once more.
Feed me visions and dreams.
Don't let me forget.
Don't let the worry and the pain swallow me up.
Jerk me up by the back of my neck if You have to.

You know how stubborn I am, but You are even more so.
You know my faults and my weaknesses.
You know my strengths and my pitfalls.
You alone know me better than I even know myself...

So let me feel the palm of Your hand beneath me.
Let me feel Your breath on my cheek.
Let the strength of Your Holy Spirit pulsate through my veins...
Let Your love be a shelter in the storms...
Let You whisper be my beacon.

Because I love You.
You are more than enough.
You are all that I need.
You're worth it."

Whatever is happening in my life, whatever I cannot see, I know that He has this. He has me. He loves me. He has singled me out and made me his precious, peculiar daughter. He has set a crown upon my head. Today...I am going to embrace it. I am going to close my eyes and feel the weight of his gift resting upon my head. I am going to let go of the pain and worry...and for a while...breathe deep in His promises. It isn't what I can do, or what I choose in this silly life. It is what He is calling me to. Thank heavens I don't have to figure it all out on my own.

Today, I am pulling myself up to full height, shrugging back my shoulders, letting the balls of my feet settle deep into his palm...and taking a deep, refreshing breath of His spirit and strength. Think on that...He let's us stand in His palm...the hand of a King...



Time Travel :: Jazz Age

Before you begin reading, press play for the music...

Now close your eyes for just a second. Imagine (if you are a woman) being dressed in a drop-waist dress with silk stockings held up by lace garters. Imagine the feel of multiple strands of pearls hanging around your neck, trailing down your torso. Imagine walking into a New York club on a 1920's evening. The club is dark and smokey. It smells like cigars and cigarettes. Everyone smokes now. Even you...from a long stemmed holder, of course. Your hair gleams under the dim lights, shiny with pomade keeping your short, bobbed finger waves in place. You have thick, black lined eyes and a red, bow shaped mouth. Feathers and beads are tucked in the headband at your temple. All around you, couples are snuggled up. The dance floor is a flurry of kicking legs...garters, stockings and bloomers on display as men swing women around in the jiving steps of the Charleston...

After the First Great War, something happened in our society. Life changed forever. Perhaps it was the sight of so much death and destruction in Europe. After all, media was booming...in newspapers, photography and radio broadcast. For the first time, war coverage was everywhere. Children could see it, hear about it, imagine it. And war itself had changed. It was bloodier. Airplanes engaged in dog fights miles above the French and German terrain. Bombs leveled entire villages and cities. Gas attacks and chemical warfare were engaged. War could do more damage in a single firefight than ever before--and young, fresh men were witness to it. Women enlisted to serve in the Red Cross, tossed on lines to bandage stumps where limbs had been blown away. Perhaps they weren't prepared for it? Maybe they didn't know how to handle the affects it had on them?

Writers like Hemingway believe this is what changed their generation--pushed them over the edge, so to speak. Suddenly, life was only in the moment. It didn't matter what tomorrow or yesterday has or held. All that mattered was instant satisfaction. Entertainment began to explode. Silent movies were on the rise, and new-fangled 'talkies' were on the horizon. Music changed. Suddenly, children of slaves were transforming the music industry...creating a new, blue sound. With blasting cornets and squalling trumpets, men like Louis Armstrong created jazz.

Morals shifted, and, at times, nearly disappearing. Even in an era of prohibition, liquor was everywhere. In fact, the attempt to make our country dry only fueled the need, or want, for it. Gangsters and the mob took control of the country--engaged in a cat and mouse game with the authorities. The entire nation was spellbound by the 'action' and followed the movements of the notorious criminals as if they were today's A star celebrities.

In this new time, women began to shave the hair from their legs and from beneath their arms. They had to. Dress hemlines were shorter, dresses were sleeveless. Slang was on the rise. Sweethearts became 'baby'. Affirmatives became 'ab-so-lut-ley'. If you had a complaint, you had 'beef' with someone. You were not a big shot. Instead, you were a 'Big Cheese'. Extraordinary people, things or ideas became the 'bee's knees'. A rich boyfriend was a 'daddy'...girls were 'dames' or 'dolls'...'A Dead Soldier' was an empty beer bottle...money became 'dough'...an 'egg' was a person who lived the big life.

F. Scott Fitzgerald captured the life and moral decline in his books like "The Great Gatsby" and "Flappers and Philosophy". Hemingway portrayed it in "The Sun Also Rises" and "A Farewell To Arms". The Lost Generation rose from the ashes of The Great War and captured their decade of a Golden Era between the pages of their masterpieces.

So as you imagine yourself sitting down in the smokey club with Kid Howard's Olympia Band reverberating through you, try to imagine what it takes to change an entire country so dramatically. What does it take for women to revolutionize fashion and fight for their rights? Why does crime and underground worlds of bootleg appear when men are suppressed? How are morals shed so quickly and easily? How, in nearly a blink of an eye, can every thing change so drastically?

Because it is about to happen again. Here and now. But hopefully, perhaps it will be a movement to pick up the pieces of broken darkness and shape and mold something whole and beautiful--nothing like once was, but something unique to us? Maybe...


The Cost of Growing Up In Church

Coffee in hand, children tucked in to bowls of Fruity Pebbles, I take a second to pull up today's devotion. The first line:

"Most of us come to Christ with a certain“inloveness”—a stirring of emotion mixed with an inexplicable knowing that we’ve discovered our reason for being."

But not me.

I grew up in church--raised by a mother that did a wonderful job at being dedicated to raising my brothers and I up to believe in God: pray before meals and at bedtime and to sit quietly while the pastor preached his sermons. I remember being hauled to the women's bathroom and getting a firm swat on my backside for causing too much ruckus during church. It only happened once or twice. I learned my lesson. Mostly.

But when I came to God and confessed that Jesus Christ was my Savior, I didn't do it because I was in love with the Lord...or because I had discovered my reason for being. I did it because I was scared. I didn't want to die and go to hell. I wanted to be 'good'...and be safe. Did that confession mean as much as the person with stars in their eyes and mercy washing away their sin? I think it did. After all...I wasn't even ten years-old yet. The only mercy I needed was for snickering too loudly when the pastor read that other world for 'donkey' out loud from the Old Testament.

However, God certainly has a way of seasoning and toughening those of us that have always 'known' Him. He doesn't let us get by on life on the shirt tails of our parents' faith. He forces us to know Him in a deeper, real way. He sets us in the middle of an ocean, waves angry and high, and allows the storms to rage on all sides of us. Sometimes, He whispers to us...comforts us. Many times, He stands by--eyes always on us--but deadly silent. He watches us grow. He waits to see if we will still believe in Him...or if we will surrender to the world, just in hopes that the waves will die down. But He will not let us keep that childhood fairy tale forever. He will force us to make a grown-up choice: to truly be His and know Him...or grow lost in our own delusions and dreams.

So today, I can confidently declare that the twenties will most usually be the hardest for anyone that grew up in church. During this time, God places you in the heat of battle. During this time, your worth is determined; your faith made or broken. And I praise God for it. I praise Him that He saw in me a reason to make Him real to me. I praise Him that He saw fit to put me in the midst of one terrible, dark storm after another. Yes, it has hurt. Yes, it has been more than frightening. Yes, I still do not understand how He will rescue me out of this mess. But praise God He has His eyes on Me!!!! How amazing is THAT?!

And, as I sip my coffee...I cannot help but to smile a little mischievously. Because this year...I turn thirty. For some reason, I think the worst of this 'growing up' will be behind me after that. The growing pains--the worst of them, at least--might ease up. I think. I hope. I trust. I hold on, no matter if the storms are always there...one after the other. I believe. I come to Him...in love...content...ready to serve His greater purpose.

Because even if I die in these storms...it's worth it.


Our Hearts Keep Beating--And I Keep Writing

Today I resumed writing, preparing a dusty manuscript once again to be sent out to risk rejection. In the process, I've been reading a lot...thinking...brainstorming...switching on old war movies and studying the actor's faces. And it occurs to me, there's one thing that always grips me about human beings: their ability to keep living even when their worlds have fallen apart.

Over the ages, men and women have seen their worlds collide with the frightening possibilities of war and violence. Things outside their control wrench their worlds from their careful grasp and crush it into the midst of something greater, more powerful, much more frightening than they ever could have imagined. Each generation, all of them from the start of time--all those countless men and woman and children--have felt what it must feel like to have a heart that continues beating even in the middle of chaos. And they each have a story, a past, and a hope for their future. They all have a reason to grit their teeth and jump into the fight, kicking and screaming, biting and clawing to free what remains of the world they had built. Because hope for something beautiful: love and warmth, family and friends, love and safety, a God and eternity...spars them on.

And this is what my mind is flooded with as I hash through each paragraph, changing tenses, fixing typos, adding emotion where it was lacking before. I place my fingertips on the keys, breathe deep, and feel the pulse of time and mystery beat to life. As silly as it may sound...

And the frustration of failing, the hurt of rejection, the possibility of success, is worth it.

I'm almost certain of it.