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When I’m Wordless

19 Jan

writing_zpsrl2zcwbgAs a child, I remember stapling together notebook paper with simple ink drawings, probably of animals, doing some sort of merry little thing together.

My sixth grade language arts teaching told me I had a gift. I thought orchestrating soap opera quality plots with my Barbie dolls and playing, “Let’s pretend…” was just what we kids did. I didn’t know it was a gift.

As I read and wrote, I didn’t know I was developing as a writer. I was just enjoying life—and the the beauty of words. The ebb and flow, the emotion, the meaning, the contrasts. Words had power to evoke emotion, to communicate information, to tell great stories.

I didn’t want to actually BE a writer. I wanted to be a marine biologist, but despite my fascination with the natural world, I’m not scientifically-minded. I thought about being a teacher like my mother or a social worker or even a youth director at a church.

All my paths led me back to writing, even snagging freelance writing gigs at now-defunct Christian music magazine seemed like a divine appointment.

But now… There are no freelance gigs. Print media is becoming obsolete (thought I will always love the feel of paper in my hands) and everyone has a blog. There are so many voices, so many words, so much being communicated and I wonder, did I miss my golden opportunity?

Because I can scribble a few words in my personal journal, but the words don’t come easy. It could be that I’m out of practice. Maybe I’m just lazy. Sometimes I wonder if I just don’t have any more words. Am I REALLY supposed to be a writer?

It was so much easier to be a writer when I had assignments and deadlines and topics, where there was a think tank. Now I feel like I write in isolation.

And something in me screams—THIS ISN’T HOW IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE!

Not because I expected other things (I did, but that’s not the point), but because I NEED to write, even if I can’t find the words.

So bear with me as I stumble over atrophied muscles and dusty pages. I can always becomes who I was meant to be…and I trust the words will come.

Broken and Not So Broken

6 Jun

This is my walking boot. I decorate it, of course.

“God, I’m in the place again/I’m trying so hard not to fall/But everything keeps coming down with the rain.”–Everyday Sunday

I’ve always appreciated melancholy songs.  There’s something about the toned down, raw nature of a rock band that grips my heart and makes me pay attention, like KISS’s “Beth” or Five Iron Frenzy’s “Every New Day.”  (Yes, I just mentioned KISS and Five Iron Frenzy in the same sentence.  Incidentally, “Beth” is the only KISS song I know.)

Since lyrics and song melodies move me, it’s understandable why I’ve danced my way into the genre of singer/songwriter in my old(er) age (though I still enjoy Southern rock, like Credence Clearwater Revival and more recently, NeedToBreathe.)  Lately, it seems, I find comfort in the likes of Bebo Norman (surprise, surpise!), JJ Heller, Audrey Assad, Josh Wilson, and Andrew Peterson.

See, I haven’t had an easy go of things lately.  In mid-May, I broke my left foot. Yes, friends, another broken foot.  As you may recall, I broke my right foot about 15 months ago…and the healing process for the right foot has been excruciatingly slow.  After a couple tests, my foot doctor discovered my Vitamin D level to be pitifully low and started me on a regimen 50,000 units of Vitamin D weekly.  That’s the boring medical part.

This happened a week after I made some changes in my life, after all night prayer sessions, talks with my pastor, and weeping before the Lord, I felt Him saying to me, as He said to Elijah as he ran for his life from evil Queen Jezebel, “The journey has been too much for you.  Rest now, My child, I will take care of the details.”  Two weeks after resigning as lead of a ministry and falling into a more manageable role on the leadership team, I broke my foot simply by getting up from (or rather down) from one of our counter height dining room chairs.

This started a longer-than-I-anticipated journey of rest–no driving, walking around with a rollator (rolling walker), going down the stairs with a cane, needing assistance with normal tasks like showering, shopping, and getting here and there.  Oh, and of course, resting with my legs elevated to improve healing time.  Alone all day in my apartment.  It sounds perfectly lovely to harried people who could use a day off, but it’s house arrest for a social, relational woman like me.

So I’ve been spending a lot of time talking to God and listening to music.  At first, I was struck with severe anxiety, which I believe was my anxiety disorder as well as a spiritual attack from the enemy.  I cried–wailed actually–and copied psalm after psalm from the Bible into my journal.  My fervency for God was strong and trust was a moment by moment walk.  While I don’t miss the panic attacks and tears, I wish I could maintain the level of urgency for God and His Holy Word when I’m not in the throes of fear.

I don’t always listen to music.  I like silence, too.  I can hear the birds singing merrily, the engine of the mail truck, laughter and screams from neighborhood children, the clink of my dog’s tags as she roams about the apartment, and my cockatiel’s own chirps.  So many ordinary sounds that make up the backdrop of this orchestra called life…and most of the time, I barely notice.

And I’m reading.  As much as I love to read, I don’t always make time for it.  Besides my Bible study reading (The Story and Crazy Love) and my daily devotional, Jesus Calling, I’m juggling three books right now–One Thousand Gifts, The Parable of Joy, and The Covenant Child.  My attention span seems to have increased as a result of my sitting in this stillness.

My writing life has been rich, though much of it has come alive in my journal–private conversations between God and me.  While this isn’t a measurable source of earthly wealth, it is the most important writing that I can do.  I call it “holy writing.”  If my purpose here on earth is to bring glory and honor to God, then my writing–for Him and Him alone–can have no higher calling.  Face down before the Throne of God, I write and write, like some ancient, inspired scribe.  Perhaps I will pick out thoughts to blog about here.  Or maybe write that book I’m always thinking about.

Don’t get me wrong.  I would never have chosen this path, but I am learning to be thankful for it.  I am grateful for the friends God has given to support me in this time.  It’s funny how my One Word for 2013 is LOVED and He is showing me how LOVED I really am! (Even when I start to believe the lie that no one cares, including God.)  Who would have thought the path to knowing I am LOVED would come with so much pain and brokenness–the actual physical breaking of another bone?  It seems all paths are littered with sorrow and suffering.  Is it any wonder that these are little Much Afraid’s guides to the high places in Hind’s Feet on High Places? (I plan to re-read the book as soon as I finish The Covenant Child.)

I am loved.  It rings loudly and clearly throughout my days, and it is revealed through so many ways and so many people.

If I hadn’t broken my left foot, my small group leader wouldn’t have moved our Bible study into her living room so I could attend showing me that I am LOVED.  (Thanks, Amanda!)

Nor would I have received a ride to the Bible study I lead from one of the attendees.  (Thanks, Patty!)

I would never have trusted God to help me make it up to the choir loft for praise team or give me strength to sing when my jaw ached with TMJD pain.  (Thanks to the Praise Team for their encouragement!)

I have moments of despair, when I feel God’s touch or receive a phone call or text or Facebook message.  These are precious things I gather into my heart.  Someone is praying or God is teaching me to trust Him more and more.  I hate the aloneness, and I love the intimacy with God.

If this hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post.  Perhaps I’d write something else, or maybe nothing at all.  I know not the path I would’ve taken and it hardly matters because this is where I am.  Everything around me is speaking to me–the book One Thousands Gifts, reading the book of Ruth this morning (I was struck that Naomi was so very bitter and yet so very blessed through Ruth in the end.  In the middle, it seemed she would never have joy again), and in watching The Fellowship of the Ring last week. (Frodo never CHOSE for the ring to come into his possession, yet it did.  Yet he carried the burden anyway.  He chose to do the right thing in the midst of his circumstances.)

It’s a conscious choice, this choosing to be thankful and grateful in the midst of this disappointment.  Perhaps it’s a divine appointment to receive greater joy.  That’s an encouraging thought, isn’t it?

Tell me, how has God taught you to be faithful or thankful in the midst of something hard or disappointing?  What have you been reading lately?  Do you miss the fervency of intimacy with God when you aren’t going through trials?

My Dusty Ol’ Blog

15 Aug

It’s a little dusty here on the ol’ blog.   Yet the urge to run my fingers over the keyboard to share my heart with you is growing stronger every day.  Finally, this week is quieter, and I’ve discovered this moment–a pocket of peace in the midst of busyness.  My review copy of Andrew Peterson’s upcoming album, Light For the Lost Boy is playing in the background (review forthcoming…for REAL!) 

Something in me says, “You need this, too.”  Maybe it’s the still small voice of God, maybe not.  This may be the elusive thing I haven’t been able to grasp, despite all the amazing things God has allowed me to do.  My gift is to write my soul’s thoughts to encourage the Church, to reach out to my fellow travelers as we meet heart to heart through words.

This blog is a solitary act of worship, an expression of my soul to connect with yours.  Oh, how I’ve needed this!  Oh, how I’ve neglected this.

I won’t make blanket promises to do better to keep you, my reader, captivated by Backseat Writer.  Now that I’m out living life, something I so longed to do when I chose my word for 2011 (read post).  Having achieved a “life” with meaningful activity for the glory of God, I feel it hard to “fit” in the things I love, like blogging.  I’m still learning how to find balance between my weakness, my work, my worship and quiet times with my Creator, and this precious heart expression called a “blog.”

Now that I have an unhidden life, I have to be more careful with my words, for I do not seek to injure others, nor do I want to reveal too much.  I must consider what I can share knowing that my friends at church, people I see face to face on a weekly basis (or more), may think of me.  It’s a slippery slope, though sometimes I think that life is a slippery slope, which is why we must always God’s direction or we may fall.

As I navigate this new path laid out before me, I ask for your prayers.  Like Solomon in 1 Kings 3, I like I’m very small and unable, but I am asking God for a discerning and wise heart, for I’ve no idea what I’m doing.  (If you want to take a gander at what I’m working on, head over to http://www.bethanyumchurch.com/women.)

As always, dear friend, let me know how I can be praying for you and let me know what God is doing in your life…and what music you’re listening to on your iPod (or listening device.)

A Memorial Day Tribute to My Grandfather

25 May

My grandfather never served in the military, yet for some reason an American flag has been place besides his gravestone honoring him at a World War II veteran.  At first, I wondered if it should be taken away, but who do you notify about something like that?  Plus, I just couldn’t make a call like that.  I couldn’t bring myself to say, “You mistakenly put a flag by my grandfather’s grave, but he never served in the military.”  While my grandfather never wore army boots or rode in the Calvary or fixed an army tank, he loved his country and he served in World War II…just in a different way.

See, my grandfather and his brother tried to enlist at a locally, but were rejected due to their flat feet.  Undaunted, they drove to Philadelphia, thinking they might slip by the recruiters in a bigger city.  Alas, their giant, flat feet sold them out.  I know that throughout his entire life my grandfather felt a sense of shame believing that he wasn’t “man enough” to be in the military.  But who knows what would have happened if he had served?  Would he have been killed in the Battle of the Bulge like my grandmother’s first husband, Luke?  Or did God have another use for my grandfather’s talents?

My grandfather was a craftsman.  If anything was broken, he could fix it–and he took great delight IN fixing it.   Eventually, he became a mechanic for a large sewing factory, teaching woman how to sew and fixing the machines when they broke.  He invented devices, that if he had thought to patent, would’ve made him a very rich man in his later years.  While the factory started out making bras and slips, as the war raged, they started to craft parachutes and American flags.  In some way, this was a salve to my grandfather’s broken spirit.   Who knows how many more lives were spared because of the parachutes my grandfather and “his girls” crafted? 

Like I said, my grandfather, Edwin Landis, never served in the military.  But he used the gifts given to him by God to protect the military.  Though it may seem inappropriate to some, I think that American flag is properly placed because if there was ever a man who did something for his country, it was my grandfather.  He may never have his name memorialized in a tribute concert or a plaque, but I’d like to honor his contribution to freedom right here and right now.  You did a good job, Poppy, and I’m proud of you!

Prone to Wander

15 May

When I first learned that I broke my foot, I comforted myself with the thought of lying about my apartment—in bed, on the couch—reading, watching documentaries on NetFlix, catching up on my mental to-do list, and writing my little heart out.  I haven’t finished one book, watched one documentary, written a to-do list, yet I have been writing…in my journal.  While these conversations with God are precious and private, I feel that my silence has added to my struggle with identity.  Oh, I know my identity is in God alone!  I know He created me and He defines me and He tells me who I am!  I know this!

But…sometimes it’s difficult to explain that to others when they ask me what I do.  It’s a long story.  A really long story.  Fortunately, my faithful family (which includes dear friends) knows my story as do you, my loving readers, because you’ve been on this journey with me for years.  Even though I’ve spent so much of the past year in silence, even though some of you have wandered to other blogs, know I appreciate you, pray for you, and cherish you.

Writing for you to make my joy complete (see post) has fallen by the wayside.  And part of that is my fault, for chasing after things that don’t add life.  Things which, in fact, break my heart.  God says, “No.”  Quietly, patiently, lovingly He says, “No, this is not my best.  You can have this thing you so desire, but I have something even better in mind.  Just you wait and see what I will do!”  I imagine a glimmer in His eye; I hear a hint of it in His voice.  And even though I don’t like surprises, I know whatever He’s planning, working, creating is good because God is good.

So I will wait.

Still, I really hate waiting.  My anxiety fights for control.  I understand matriarch Sarah’s confusion as she waited for her promised son, Isaac.  I imagine her wringing her hands, noticing the wrinkles, new age spots.  She stood up and her knees cracked and ached with each step she took. The laugh lines around her eyes—ha, what did she have to laugh about?!  Yes, God, You have promised something good…but is there something I’m supposed to be doing?  I mean, should I be vigilant about the process?  Maybe help You out a little?  What if I miss it?  As if Sarah could miss pregnancy!  As if I could miss my blessing from God!  (Side note: This blessing, though a mystery to me, will probably not result in immaculate conception and/or marriage.  I just know it’s something, and it may not even seem like a gift from God to anyone else…but I will know it’s from Him.)

As I wait for this good thing, I know I’ve missed the blessing of writing and the joy it brings—the complete joy.  Because I’ve been so busy “making it happen,” I didn’t factor in the time it cost me—time that could have been more effectively used to do things like read, watch documentaries, or even write for others!  Not that my free time has been a complete waste either.  I just know that I might have been blessed and been a blessing.  Oh, distraction will get us every time when we take our eyes off the prize! (God used Sara Groves’ song “Eyes on the Prize” from Invisible Empires to help me realize this.)

I’m sorry for not being there for you, for chasing after that which does not satisfy, for that which leaves me longing for more.  I told you I would write to make my joy complete, that I would let the Holy Spirit fill me with all joy…and I meant it then and I mean it now.  Sometimes I get distracted by the scenery on the side of the road; it comes when you write from the backseat, I guess.

“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it…” I’ll try to keep the wandering to a minimum…as long as I’m wandering towards God, towards His joy, and towards the better, make that best, choices.

Let’s chat.  Like me, are you prone to wander?  What do you do when you realize you’re still on God’s path, but you’ve stopped to smell the roses for a bit too long?  Will you pray for me?  How can I pray for you?

in the middle

28 Feb

Who doesn't take identity advice from hookah-smoking caterpillar?

“Who are YOU?” said the Caterpillar.

This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation.

Alice replied, rather shyly, “I–I hardly know, sir, just at present– at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”

(Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 5, HT to Renee Altson)

This morning I offered to give someone tips on blogging, which was probably a mistake, since I’ve been such a bad blogger the past few months.  Books are strewn all over my desk.  I don’t know what music has been released or who I want to interview.  My ideas are constant, and I am praying over each one to see what comes to fruition.  I am happy to report that my relationship with God is vibrant. 

As I consider the past six months, I am amazed at the amount of change that has occurred in such a small amount of time.  Six months ago I was ambivalent about going to church at all and next Sunday I will be officially accepted as a member at my new church.  My faith, my life, everything was falling apart, and from these ruins, God is building something incredible.  I continue to marvel at it, even on my worst days when I’m my own worst enemy.

I see myself at a crossroads asking God, “Now what?”  I don’t want to linger too long in this place, for I fear I might take up residence here.  I don’t think that life was meant to be lived at the crossroads, though crossroads are often a part of life.  

Being new at a church, I am trying to cultivate relationships and one of the first questions people ask is what I do.  I’m not sure how to answer that question anymore.  Am I a writer? A blogger? An author? A photographer?  A social networker?  A counselor?  A communicator?  A creative force in the world today?  A Bible study leader? What am I? 

All of it.  Yes, all of it. (Try to fitting that on a business card.) And some days I’m not very good at any of it.

Maybe I should just say “beloved child of God” or “beloved.”  Of that much, I’m certain…I’ll let God work out the rest.

(P.S. Having only met Bebo in person once, I never realized he had prettier fingernails than me.)

So…where are you?  Who are you?  Do you like Bebo’s fingernails?  How has God shown you want to do?  What has it been like for you at the crossroads? (And, please, don’t mention that terrible Britney Spears movie!)

Amy’s Christmas Message: You’d Better Be Good Enough!

23 Dec

“Maddy!  Stop jumping on the wrapping paper,” I yelled at my shih tzu, who thought it was playtime. I was attempting to wrap Christmas presents.  Undaunted, Maddy ran to and fro across my open roll of paper engaging her sister, Cassie the Peekapoo, in a rigorous game of “Catch Me If You Can.”

Half-amused and half-frustrated, I said, “You two better knock it off or Santa Paws won’t bring you any presents!”

It was a bold-faced lie.  BFF Sarah and I had already purchased doggie delights for the two little scamps on our mega-Black Friday shopping extravaganza. (Usually, we are the only two people running into PetSmart with unadulterated glee on Black Friday!  Half-priced candy cane bones!  Score!  Well, we weren’t the *only* two people this year because there was a hot deal on kitty litter.)  My dogs don’t know who Santa Paws is anyway.  If a bearded old man did somehow break into our house on Christmas Eve, Cassie would probably bite him and Maddy would give him a tour of the apartment.  (And I refuse to leave my chocolate chip cookies out for anyone, even Santa.)

See, they can’t even behave long enough to get a cute Christmas picture taken!  Maddy the Shih Tzu instigated an attack on Cassie the Peekapoo.

Then it struck me how often I’ve heard parents tell grouchy youngsters to behave or “Santa won’t come.” As if he really wouldn’t come!  I mean, there are a few cruel parents out there who may abide by this principle, but for the most part, it’s a lie.  No matter how terrible your kids are, like my dogs, they are going to get some awesome gifts come Christmas morning.

The “be good, get gifts” myth is further propagated by the emergence of “Elf on a Shelf.” For those of you who haven’t been acquainted with this marketing tool, let me explain.  For $30, a family can get a cheaply made freaky-looking elf that spies on kids and reports their misdeeds to Santa.  Oh, and he comes with a book. You can also buy a skirt to make “him” a “her.” But it really just looks like a boy elf wearing a skirt.  Personally, “Elf On a Shelf” freaks me out. (And it also disproves the myth that Santa is omnipresent.  I mean, “he sees you when you’re sleeping.  He knows when you’re awake”?  Is Santa stalking me?)

It’s no wonder that people think they have to earn their God-given salvation.  I mean, when everything we get is based on our behavior, how can the free gift of grace actually be free?  Surely, there is a cost for entrance into heaven!  What’s the catch to this whole “broken curse of mankind” thing?  In a culture obsessed with good works, earning potential, and extreme couponing, free only comes with hard work, smarts, time, and a bit of creativity.

Yet the gift of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is very costly indeed.  It costs everything—our minds, souls, bodies, and spirits.  But if you’re like me, you’re a mental mess, a failing body, and a spiritual disaster.  There’s not much to give a God who created everything and everyone, including me.  A renewed relationship with God, a broken curse, and spending eternity in a place where God’s glory lights the place in exchange for an earthly life given to God’s use and for His purpose?  There’s no comparison.

This awesome cake was created by Sugar Weave Custom Cakes.

And I can never, ever, ever be good enough to get that.  No matter how many dogs I rescue and return to their owners, how many times I help out my elderly neighbors, or how many Bible studies I lead, I’m still carrying the curse of Adam and Eve.  Or I would had I not accepted the hand God held out to me so very long ago.

I will never be good enough—not for Santa’s gifts or Christ’s salvation.  But, fortunately, even if I’m on Santa’s Naughty List, there will always be a heavenly scroll that bears my name and I will always be close to the heart of a God who has “Amy” written on His very palms.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who finds Santa’s Naughty List disturbing.  When looking for funny pictures of Santa, I came across Amy (doesn’t she have a lovely name?) Henry’s post, “The Flawed Theology of Naughty and Nice Lists.She says it beautifully, but doesn’t talk about shih tzus or Elf On A Shelf, so you’ll have to read mine, too.

Friday Faves: Linus’ Blanket Edition

16 Dec

Last week, I admitted that I wasn’t OK and gave you my permission to revel in your not OK-ness (not that you needed my permission).  If last week was not OK, then this week was one, uh, terrible.  I mean, wretched.  Gut-wrenching.

It was bad.

I think that’s what I like about Friday…the hope of the rest, relief, and recreation the weekend provides is just on the horizon.  We can let ourselves go, have a Pajama Day Saturday, rock out with the worship band at church on Sunday…and then have at it again.

But were weren’t made to live from weekend-to-weekend.  We weren’t even meant to live day-to-day, but rather moment-t0-moment…and in those moments, in each and every moment, we were meant to rely on God.  We can’t have faith in the past moment.  We can hope to have faith in the future moment, but we MUST live in the present moment.  Oh, there’s nothing wrong with finding happiness in the weekend!  We were also meant to hope in the future…or rather for a “future hope.”

When life is painful, moments creep by.  Moments until the pain meds kick in.  Seconds between each sickening sob.  Minutes pass like hours as we wait on God to answer our cry.  Hours are like days.

I imagine this is how the ancients felt as they studied the prophecies regarding the Messiah.  When is he coming to save his people?  Probably a question asked by many as they looked for a sign, doubting He would come as a helpless baby born into abject poverty.  They watched and watched for Emmanuel, and so many missed God in their midst because He didn’t fit their expectations of a Messiah.

I know I miss God with me all the time, especially when I let those moments pass by failing to give each and every one to Him.  Deep thoughts for a Friday. (But, who knows if I’ll roll out a Christmas post this year?  I mean, this could be the last time I’ll post for three weeks.  Who knows?)

And, with that, here are some of the things amusing me this fine week…

* “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was on ABC last night.  There was some weird elf special on after the amazingness that is vintage Charlie Brown, so I decided to abandon the television until a repeat of  “Bones” came on at 9 PM.  I love watching Linus quote the Bible, even putting aside his little blue blankie to take the Christmas musical crew about the real meaning of Christmas.  Incidentally, my pastor is a lot like Linus.  I think he has the WHOLE BIBLE memorized.  When he preaches, he uses NO NOTES and recites all the Scripture he uses from memory (OK, he does occasionally glance up at the big screen…but not often.  He *IS* a senior citizen).  It should be noted that my pastor does not use a security blanket, but I do think his Bible is super glued to his hand.  I love my pastor!  I also love Linus’ blanket, so this edition is for you, Linus.  Or, rather, your blanket…because we all need a little tangible security.

*Author Mary DeMuth isn’t just a superhero(ine) for aspiring writers who want to publish books; she’s just super in general!  I admire Mary’s honesty, wit, and transparency, which are qualities that not only shine in her memoir, Thin Places, but also on her blog.  This week, Mary wrote a great post called, “Criticism Does Not Define You.”  Oh, how we need to be reminded!  I am HORRIBLE at taking criticism, but EXCELLENT at dishing it out.  As a writer, I need to be open to criticism.  Mary’s post helps with the sting.  AND…if you sign up for her e-zine, you can get a free PDF of Mary’s e-book, Live Uncaged, which has a very beautiful cover featuring a bird! (Sadly, my Kindle only shows the cover in gray-scale.  If only I had a Kindle Fire…)  I am enjoying the challenge of reading Live Uncaged because Mary writes in a way that makes my soul flutter.

Click on image to view a bigger version.

*My friend, Eric Altson, isn’t just married to one of the coolest women on the planet (Renee), he also has some mad drawing skills.  With pencil, he sketched “The Last Supper of Childhood” (pictured above) AND gave me permission to share it with y’all.  Isn’t Eric *the* best?  He warned that I may get a cease-and-desist letter from those who hold the copyrights to the characters depicted, but I’m gonna risk it.  And it’s NOT like he’s making money off of it.  Also, please remember the Altsons in your prayers right now.

Sorry, ladies, this handsome fella’s engaged!

*Apparently, I’m just a magnet for talented people…or I just flock to them.  Whatever the case, you NEED to check out the photography of the one-and-only Justin Gifford.  I’d like to say I taught him all he knows, but I’d only be telling you the truth. (Or not.)  Since my RSS feed is jammed with 1000+ blog posts that I’m going to read “some day,” I asked Justin if I could subscribe to his blog via email.  And you know what he did?  He added an email subscription option–just for me!!!  Secretly, I think it’s only because I gave him a six-pack of Rockstar energy drinks when he watched my dogs a few years ago.  I think Justin capture the range of human emotion so expressively.


*If you’re like me (and you’re probably not), then it’s your dream to witness a singing/dancing flash mob OR be a part of a singing/dancing flash mob.  I live vicariously through the plethora of flash mob videos that are uploaded onto YouTube.  A word of warning–there are some pretty mediocre flash mob attempts.  But all-in-all, watching flash mob videos on YouTube is a great waste of a morning.  I just want to flash mob the holidays away!  The above video features one of the most advanced singing/dance routines I’ve seen.  I mean, Irish Folk Dancing?  Wow!

Well, I have some cookies to bake.  Actually, I don’t.  I just thought that was a clever way to say, “I’m ending Friday Faves now because I’m tired and I’m going to bed.  Though I probably won’t go to bed right away.  I might catch up on Facebook, read a little, and so forth.”  But I am going to bake cookies with BFF Sarah this weekend, so by the time you read this, I may very well be baking cookies.  How’s that for blatant honesty?

What’s your favorite Christmas cartoon?  Do you have a “security blanket” like Linus? (Mine’s called a “journal.”) Does your pastor memorize his whole sermon (if you have a pastor)?  Is it also your dream to be in or witness a flash mob?  If not, what is something outrageous you’d like to do?  Do you think I really taught Justin all he knows? (If  you answer “yes,” you can have a cookie from the batch I may or may not be baking at this very moment.)  Do you let criticism define you?  Do you think you could be Eric at Pictionary? How do you “miss” God in your life?

Poetic Breathing

18 Nov

Trying to explain my anxiety (or depression) to others is a tall order.  Generally, my list of responses include: “Oh, we all get anxious!” (Uh-huh.) “I get nervous about going to the doctor, too.” (Is it a week-long obsession for you?) “Trust in the Lord!” (Who says I’m not?) “I totally understand!  One time in [insert year], I went through terrible anxiety.  Thankfully, the Lord delivered me from it [and He will deliver you, too.]” (Sometimes we all just carry around our own “thorns in the flesh.)

I know that most people want to relate to me and are only trying to encourage me.  I used to feel exactly the opposite—misunderstood and discouraged.  Then I met others who shared my struggle, who knew what it was truly like to lie in bed with a Bible as a way to chase away the demons, who understood that getting dressed and brushing my teeth is a major accomplishment some days, and who truly walked this path hand-in-hand with God.

Due to my recent health concerns, I’ve been feeling anxious.  While I am doing a much better job of seeking God in my trials, adrenalin still courses through my veins and my mind screams, “You’re not safe,” while my heart pounds in my ears.  So, the other day I wrote a poem about anxiety.  Sometimes a girl’s just gotta say it with poetry.

“The Panic Attack” by me

Right brain, left lobe

Bouncing to and fro

Never ceasing, never ending, never letting go

Nausea, adrenalin coursing through the veins

Breathe in, two-three

Out, three-four

Hold on, hold still, as the world spins

Heart pounding, hands shaking, sweat dripping

Breathe in, four-five

Out, five-six

Fighting, ripping, raging, screaming

Left brain, right lobe

Breathe in, breathe out

Fifteen minutes go by

Just keep counting

Just keep breathing

Just keep living

It will be over soon

In a reading of “The Panic Attack,” I will quicken my pace as I read to mimic how a panic attack grows and rages and then eventually ends (usually in fifteen minutes).  Unless I make a vlog, most of you will never see this reading, so you’ll just have to use your imagination.

“Breathe In, Breathe Out” one of the tracks on Jason Gray’s latest album, A Way to See in the Dark, says that we breathe the name of God.  And I even found a video of Jason explaining the song and playing it (by the way, this is almost exactly what Jason said at his concert.  He would probably also want me to tell you that he sounds perfect on his albums, so you should buy one.  If you can’t afford it, you will have a chance win an autographed copy here in the next couple of weeks!)

Let me tell you how, “Yah (1, 2, 3) Weh (1, 2, 3)” can really help during a panic attack; it’s gasping a prayer to the One who can truly provide peace. 

Do you suffering from anxiety or panic attacks?  If so, what silly things have well-meaning people said to you?  What does a panic attack feel like to you?  Do you like Jason Gray’s song?  How can breathing the name of God help you when you are anxiety-ridden?

To make my joy complete

8 Nov

For a couple of weeks now, I yearned to write a blog post, yet I was afraid that it wouldn’t be as elegant as I envisioned, that my writing was somehow lacking in my sabbatical.  Oh, the messy scribbles in my journal were good enough for God and still I wanted to present something “better,” more polished to my blog readers.

There was something faulty in my thinking.  I thought, “God always invites me to come to Him as I am, but shouldn’t I present my very best to the Creator of all things?”  And then it struck me—those messy scribbles are my truest words, for they are the yearnings of my soul, a heart crying out to the living God.  Perhaps my journals contain my most precious writings. 

Therefore, what I write for you, dear readers, is what is leftover.  Since these “leftovers” come from the outpouring of my heart, they are not sloppy seconds, rather the first fruits of a heart yielded in obedience to God.  I believe that even at the inception of Backseat Writer I failed you by giving you only what was left of me, by not filling up with God’s Word, by not trusting the Holy Spirit to guide my words.  Simply put, I was running on empty, putting on airs to impress you with my garbled speech, and trying to prove to the world and myself that I was a decent writer.  Thankfully, God in His mercy used my words anyway. 

“[i] write this to make my joy complete.’ 1 john 1:4

While tiptoeing through the New Testament, I found a verse in I John that defined my true desire as a writer.  John says, “[I] write this to make my joy complete.” (I John 1:4)  When I read that my soul leapt, for I had found my purpose, a life verse of sorts, for the thing I love to do most.  I will not write to please people or publicists or musicians or anyone else.  Instead, I choose to write to make my joy complete, and that joy, of course, comes from God. 

Like the tear-stained scribbles in my journal, I hope my joyful ramblings will edify you as well.  Even if my words are foolishness to the world, I suppose that is all right, for I want to find my wholeness in God, not in man.  Of course, this is not something I have yet achieved because I still look at myself in the mirror with a critical eye and I not-so secretly wonder if this post will make a difference in anyone’s life. 

As humans, I think we all long to connect with others, to know that our words can and do make a difference.  My problem has been that I wrote chiefly for the accolades (not always, but often) and not to make my joy complete, not primarily for the glory of God.  I failed to realize that writing FOR the glory of God is how I can make my joy complete.  So, above all, I choose God and I choose joy and I write to make my joy complete in God.

{I caught downhere’s show with Jason Gray and Aaron Shust this past weekend.  Their song “Let Me Rediscover You” from On the Altar of Love hit me straight in the heart, so I thought I’d post the video.}

Coming up: Even though I do write to make my joy complete, I’d like to share my joy with y’all, so I thought I’d give you some tasty tidbits of what’s coming up here at Backseat Writer. 

*My thoughts on Elisabeth Eliot’s book, The Path of Loneliness, which is an excellent book that rubbed my soul raw. (Psst!  There will be a giveaway!)

*A very lengthy and thorough review of A Way to See in the Dark, the latest album from singer/songwriter Jason Gray.  As I’ve mentioned before, this album has been a soothing balm for me.  I had the opportunity to meet Jason at the show.  I may have purchased an autographed copy of A Way to See in the Dark to give away to one lucky reader.  I guess we’ll just see. (I’m terrible at keeping secrets!  I bought two CDs, which Jason graciously autographed—one for me and one to give away!  I’m trying to figure out what I didn’t buy the special edition for myself. Duh!)

*Why “Choose Joy” is my new mantra and the woman who inspired the slogan…and why I didn’t read her blog earlier.  (Hint: It has something to do with my anxiety disorder!)

*A guest post by Wes Pickering on his new song, “Open My Heart,” complete with music video and lyrics!

*Whatever else crosses my mind…possibly a “Friday Faves” is on the horizon?  Photo essay?  We’ll see.

Dear, dear friends, what is going on in your world?  What are you reading, watching, listening to?  Dish it in the comments sections!

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