When Things Don’t Work Out

image-1Coming up with good words after you’ve given your brain a month off is a little like trying to get the ketchup to come out of the bottle for the first time: it’s all in there, but it takes some maneuvering to set it loose.

That’s where I am this morning.

I read two books (fiction and memoir) in the first 3 days while on my “sabbatical –“ a forgotten love I haven’t had time for in years as I bury myself in commentaries and non-fiction inspiration like a good Jesus writer. I sat and watched my kids ball game after ball game and never once checked my phone, not even at halftime. (p.s. Who knew it was possible to sit and not scroll?) I went to the doctor with my ailing father and had necessary, hard conversations with my mother about plans for the future. I sweated and painted and fixed and pulled knobs off of things and nails out of walls in an empty house and cried a lot – the bottled up tears I have neglected. I petted my dog a little longer. My husband told me he likes me, again. Turns out social media can hamper a marriage silently and before you know it, you are in need of marriage ER.

I’ll be brutally honest: there have been moments in this hiatus I have feared I am done with writing – that the words won’t come, again…and maybe even scarier moments when I fear I am not – because when you’ve gone and gotten yourself a taste of a normal life – one outside the swirling social media world and the awesome burden of public inspiration and yes, consumption – you begin to crave it more, at least for the introverts.

The latter fear came true as I am standing on a ladder last week, fresh smudge of paint on my face, painting the inside of a bookcase I’ve known for 11 years but needed freshening. The symbolism to my own life doesn’t escape me.

I am thinking about you and how to tell you why we moved back to our old house after moving to the mission house for a year and all I can think about is Romans 8:28.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

And I know in that Holy Spirit speaking kind of way, that we, the people who so badly want everything to work out and all stories to have perfect endings, often misunderstand this. We take it to mean that all things work out, but it’s not true. All things don’t work out, at least not in the way we anticipate.

But with God, all things work together. Together is different. It’s not just one thing but joint things, in concert, collectively. Somehow, as we make each experience of our life mean everything, we miss this piece of all things, together.

This means that sometimes particular stories won’t end pretty, but when you put it with the rest of the stories and things, all of it, together, will be for our good.

And then, even with all the planning and hopes and following Jesus…some stories don’t end particularly bad – they just don’t meet human expectation, which quietly has become our Gospel. You must have an epic mission house story ending, some to me have said, and I know they want me to have one to tell. The thing is, I do not. We moved because some things happened that we know only God could orchestrate and we walked in obedience with the information we had at the time and we move back for the same reasons. It wasn’t bad and it wasn’t amazing. It just was. This year, we learned. We grew. We got less selfish and maybe learned to appreciate space. We also still fought and had to say we were sorry and got on each other’s nerves, just like in the other house. But it’s like when we started and closed a church in 13 months some years back and there was no neat and perfect story to tell the people like I wanted: some things are too God to be understood and too soul cavernous to be explained in 500 words. And some stories don’t yet have endings so it makes sense we can’t fully tell them. Sometimes stories aren’t epic, they are just another story.

All things don’t work out. I need to remind us of this, not to make us pessimistic about our life, but to remember God’s promise that if we love God and follow Him, our life works together – all the good, all the bad, all the hard, all the disappointing – and it is truly the best life, still and always because life doesn’t depend on one just thing — even a big thing — to make it good.

I tell you this because I know you’ve had things not work out at times, too. And I want you to remember that a perfect plan on paper not working out disrupts nothing about God’s bigger plan for your life experiences to work together for your good.

I have to tell you this one last thing.

Before God called me into this life of ministry (or perhaps when I finally said yes), I wanted to be an interior decorator. I was a few weeks away from enrolling in the Art Institute of Charlotte to further my dream when my mom and I decided to start teaching a class at church that wound up becoming my first book. As God furthered my writing and speaking, I put the enrollment papers away and determined one day, I would pick them back up if He ever let me.

Somewhere between travels and words and looking into people’s eyes and seeing God use me, the desire to pursue being an interior decorator left. But my love of decorating never did.

As I painted the bookcase the other day, I recognized the unexpected kindness in the things not working out like I had planned – one only God could lace a disappointment with so beautifully.

After 11 years of the same old paint, the same old look we were moving back into when we really wanted to be moving forward, I was getting to redecorate my home and make it almost like new. It wasn’t my plan when I lived there. It wasn’t something I had the time or resources to do. Had we never moved out in the first place, none of it would ever be done. I can choose to see it as coincidence. Or I can choose to see it as the Father who loves me, made me and knows me so very well, knowing what I love and letting me get to brush off the decorating passion and use it in a healing way in the midst of disappointment. I have to tell you – it’s been the sweetest of unexpected gifts to take this month off to create in my home.

That’s our Father, friends. He doesn’t stop being present when our life on paper doesn’t work out.

That’s our life: not just one thing working out but all of it, working together.

For our good.

When we love God and live in line with His call and purpose.

p.s. I’ve missed you. I am not sure exactly how all of my re-entry will look, as of now. But as always, I will write as God puts things on my heart to share. Thank you for your love and patience. I’m so very grateful for you.

Announcing: My Next 3 Projects!

I’m so excited…in a grateful, honored, still pinch myself that this is what I get to do with my life kind of way.

(p.s.Sometimes writing books still seems like a dream I fell into rather than dreamed up (well, because it was) – one others may be more qualified for but none more passionate about, I can promise you that.)

I’m releasing 3 new books/projects with Harvest House Publishers in 2017, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

 

IMG_1635Currently, I’m in the midst of writing my forthcoming book: Put Your Warrior Boots On: Walking Jesus Strong, Once and For All. In case you haven’t noticed, the world is in kind of a mess. I have been praying and thinking long and hard (like it keeps me up at night sometimes) about how to live in the mess better, and I believe God has given me the how-to. Put Your Warrior Boots On is an equipping and strength-inducing book. It is a what-do-we-do-right-now book. It is a book to help we, the followers of Jesus, live with a better strategy – not one of reaction and hopelessness and fear, but one of real, true strength. I want us to be steady, ready and sure as we walk in this world gone crazy. (p.s. Yes, we can be.) I want us to stop trying to brave ourselves into it. (Seriously can’t wait to talk to you more about THIS and share what I’ve learned about it because I think the shift in perspective may help you as it has me.) I want us to be consistent in our relationship with God instead of riding the spiritual roller coaster, once and for all. I want us to walk in His authority like He’s told us to do – with effectiveness in the world and tunnel vision on heaven. We are here and the world is not getting better and we can’t keep wishing things were different – we have to change up how we live to be solid and sturdy, no matter what comes our way. We need this, right? Man, how we need it.

I want you to know: it is with the softest of hearts and the deepest of love and the strongest of speech I write it. It is proving to be very much like writing I Want God, in the sense that the urgency is a second skin I’m wearing, the revelations from God are swift and piercing, and I find myself eager to hear what He has to tell me, every time I sit down to type. I cannot wait to share more as the release date approaches, as I believe there has never been a more important time to release a book like this. Release date: April 1, 2017

 

IMG_1638My second book is a different kind of book for me, and I’m so excited about it, too. It’s called 5 Word Prayers: A 40-day Devotional, to help kick start our prayer life in a way that is both doable and powerful. (We don’t need to talk about how ABSOLUTELY VITAL prayer is, especially right now in this crazy world, right? Like…prayer is everything. For real.) For years people have been asking me if I would write a devotional book, and for years I’ve thought about it but never moved forward. I’ve long believed that with our prayers, it’s not about word count but about heart intent. The documented prayers of Jesus are short. The older I get the more I realize that prayer is not me saying as many words as I can but listening and being with Him in communion, where our hearts unite. For this reason, this devotional book. This book will not only provide daily 5 word prayers, but it will also include a short devotional written about each prayer to help it really seep down deep. I have lots of love and belief in this book, and I hope you will be as excited as I am about it. Release Date: Fall of 2017

 

IMG_1644And last but absolutely not least…with the release of 5 Word Prayers will be the release of a super fun companion adult coloring book by the same name. I know ya’ll love these things. I know they are flying off the shelves like crazy. And I believe in this case, each coloring page and accompanying prayer will be something not only you can fly your creative flag with, but also meditate on and maybe even frame and hang on your wall as art or give as a gift to someone else. You should know I’m hardcore committed to these coloring pages being beautifully and meaningfully graphic. So I hired the absolute best, most talented freelance artist to draw the sketches. She just so happens to be my baby sister, so she shares my DNA. I still can’t even believe I was able to hire her – she works in an art gallery and draws sketches all day FOR A LIVING, and I begged her to squeeze me in. (Family has its privileges.) So you know…this project is going to be fantastic and is truly a labor of love. Go ahead and plan on it being one of your Christmas gifts for someone in 2017. Release Date: Fall of 2017.

Well, there it is. These are my new projects. I hope you are as eager to get them as I am to get them to you.

So many of you have spread the word about I Want God and as a result, helped change lives. (For real. You should hear the stories.)

So many of you are faithful readers to the messages God has put on my heart to share. I wish you knew how humbling this feels and how much responsibility it brings to my heart, and how seriously I take it.

I think you and I are on the exact same page. I believe we share the same heart.

If you, like me, want to live with a better strategy, want to walk Jesus strong instead of walking tentative, defensive and reactionary, want to be the steady and sure believer of Jesus that He can use in this world in these crazy days to influence the rest of the world…if you, like me, sometimes feel like prayer books make me feel more intimidated about my prayer life, like I don’t measure up, love the idea of 5 powerful prayer words to pray every day for 40 days to better communicate with God…and if sometimes you just like to be a little artsy but are intimidated by Pinterest :)…these books are for you.

Can’t wait to share them.

Love you.

Mean it.

Thanks for letting me share my new projects…and my life…with you.

What the World Needs Now From the Christians

IMG_1568In this crazy and getting crazier world, I’ve been thinking a lot about what the world really needs from us, the Christians.

It doesn’t need more of our words, in most cases. We’ve said a bunch. 

(Pause here, followers of Jesus. I feel tender towards us. Because I know, we really want to help and we don’t know what else to do sometimes but say something to make things better and right. We say what we want to do and want to believe, even when our flesh fights us to act on it. Saying fills awkward spaces. Saying gives alternative to moments that feel hopeless. If we can just offer something through our words, we think. We think. And p.s. yes, God has used our words in many cases, thankfully. I have to believe this. I’m a writer. Hello.)

The truth is, we have good hearts and intentions, most of us. We really want to meet needs. We really want to reach out and show the love of Jesus. We get sidetracked and selfish sometimes, mind you. (Don’t make these out to be small words. We have been known to massively mess things up.) But deep down in our core, we want to help.

It’s just that words alone are not what the world needs to turn them to Christ. We know this, right? We’ve tried this speech giving.

Instead, what the world needs is steadfastness: preaching the same, loving the same, doing the same, being the same, no matter what. A ministry of sameness. The gift of stability. We are used to big waves and floating around and in 2016, who is not looking for an anchor?

I know. On one hand, the world preaches change. I, myself, preach it, too, as the alternative to destructive patterns and ruts. Hope requires belief that yes, even if …. in our past, today, we can change. (Psst. I believe it.)

But one day, my friend gave me a compliment that caught me off guard and taught me the value of sameness: “Lisa, thank you. I feel like you are always the same person no matter what, and I admire that.”

At first, I didn’t like it. The compliment felt small. It felt stifling, like I was a person of little growth, which everything inside beat against in rebellion. I want to change and get better. I have. Age and Jesus have done great things for me in the maturity department. I didn’t want to be known as always the same person.

But then I realized that this sameness was not about the unwillingness to grow. It was about being a solid, consistent person to count on. And I knew, then: that was it. That is the thing we need to see. That is the thing the world needs now from the Christians.

Consistency.

Preaching the same message, over and over, again.

Loving the same, no matter the race, the issue, the preference.

Doing the same things that build character, even when they feel small and redundant.

Being the same person so people know where to go to find the Anchor.

My fellow Jesus people: this is what the world needs. Not our braggadocios storytelling. Not our angle to arm wrestle non-believers over or hold loud Jesus pep rallies cheering about His goodness and the next minute we’ve thrown down the pom pons because Jesus has disappointed us. But to be known by our sameness: the ones to love and the ones to live holy and the ones to stay faithful to Jesus, no matter what. Our life needs to say: you know where to find me. This is where I am and where I’ll always be — this is where you can find me at any time, on any given day. You can count on my consistency. People will know they can count on Jesus by how consistently we live.

  • A consistent person will be sure.

Sure of what we believe. Sure of what we know about God. Sure and unwavering. Most people aren’t sure about anything, so we have to be different.

  • A consistent person will be tireless.

Yes, we are human. When we try to lead from our flesh, we will become exhausted. But when we lead in the Spirit, we are replenished, consistently.

  • A consistent person will be specific.

We can’t beat around the bush, be passive aggressive with our faith. The world needs clear direction and teaching – for us to be specific with what to do and how to survive unstable times.

  • A consistent person will be selfless.

We can’t do this life thing if we are not, because eventually, selfish people can’t maintain a servant (aka, Jesus) lifestyle. It’s not about us. It’s not about our words. It’s not even about our story, for the sake of telling people about our life. It’s not about popularity. It’s not about followers and being accepted. It’s not about getting things off our chest, pontificating our opinions, writing and speaking for a particular response. Just be the messenger. Just be wise. Just be about God.

The world doesn’t need more of our words. It needs more of our consistency.

Maybe it’s time to change our goals.

Finding Your Family Mission: An Update

 

IMG_9704I’ve started this blog post 7 different ways and none of them feel right. So instead of writing, I think this time I’ll just type it however it comes out.

We moved into this #missionhouse nearly 8 months ago, and many days I’m over it. (If you’re thinking, what is the #missionhouse? READ THIS FIRST.)

I realize to some this will sound whiny. That’s fair. It is a first world problem to go from 3,700 square feet of house (I mean, really: who needs all that?) to 1,500 square feet of house built in 1945 with mice and ants and squirrels the size of people having dance offs on my back porch every day. It’s rained more than I ever remember it, and the yard is hemorrhaging wet leaves, still, far beyond fall, which stick to shoes and get tracked in and are generally annoying. I know it’s not life and death that my office, where I’m supposed to enjoy quiet in order to be inspired, is now shared with our kitchen eating area slash homeschool room and laundry room slash pantry slash utility room slash garage, but when an artist can’t create she keeps the things inside and when that happens, things can get rough.

Don’t get me wrong: the house is still cute – just now more little sister that’s sometimes a pest cute rather than French boutique cute – and when it’s close enough quarters that you can watch tv from your bed three rooms down and kids are old enough to have adult time understanding, it can majorly interrupt marriage flow, if you know what I mean. The kitchen with the camp burners that mostly don’t work. The grossly uneven front room floor that makes the bookshelf falling over a very realistic possibility, especially when big hairy young man feet jump too hard and disrupt it, every single day. I could go on.

It’s just all, not ideal. It’s just not what, in this moment, I want. (Maybe you’ve got some not ideal, in this moment not what I want things and can relate.)

Since we’ve moved in we’ve had a legal issue, 2 cars go to the car graveyard, a car wreck, employees quit, rejections on new projects, and most difficult by far: a friend of our child die. We’ve had a dog who had to have surgery and some complicated days with our kids and hard issues with mean girls over texts and other things I can’t write in this blog.

We know God told us to make this move. But for months, we’ve struggled with wanting to understand it and see some type of pay-off.

I want you to know the truth. I don’t believe in painting unrealistic pictures because when people make God moves we tend to get inspired and think these when I do this thing He’s asking me to things:

God will do exactly what I think and it will be amazing.

God will not let things get too hard.

God will come through at my proposed time.

If only we were right. If only these things were true. They aren’t.

What is true:

God will do exactly what He knows is best and it may be both hard and amazing.

God will let it get hard to drive us to Him.

God will come through at the perfect time He knows we need it.

Because in the smaller, the more inconvenient, the not as cute anymore, I have remembered, anew, 2 things about doing the right, hard thing and the pay-off (read: blessing) we so desperately hope to have when we obey God.

  • Sometimes the pay-off is not quick.
  • Sometimes the pay-off looks different than we planned.

I tell this first thing to my kids a lot, about the pay-off not always being quick, because turns out: life is not easy for our young people trying to grow up and delaying gratification is an uphill swim in this culture. Sexual images they will never forget and may well one day lead them down roads to wreck them, available for their pleasure in one internet click. Hidden apps to hold porn. The F word which is now usual conversation and no blinks. Phones which have become gods and parents who cannot cope and every one of us thinks we are connecting but we are actually isolating and we don’t yet know the full expense to our souls.

I tell them: how I know a lot of their peers are wilding it up and how staying a virgin until marriage and not getting lit off weed and alcohol all seem like the horribly unpopular things right now but that one day, trust me, kids, the pay-off will be worth it.

To have a marriage that doesn’t have all the enormous sexual baggage.

To live without heavy regrets (we underestimate the power of a clean conscience).

To save ourselves from the heartache of one bad decision that changes our life.

And yet, we all want the quick pay-off. Trouble is, God is not about quick. He’s about thorough. I preach this to myself.

And I think about the #missionhouse and how we had our hopes, dreams and plans when we moved here. And how kids, too, with their very real struggles have their hopes, dreams and plans and how, sometimes, for all of us who seek to serve and honor God, the pay-off looks different than what we dream up. We may make a move for one reason and we find out later it was for completely another. We may ask God for one blessing to our doing right and honoring Him and it comes to us in a form we did not expect, and usually better, and always the real thing we need.

And so, as we walk our #missionhouse thing out…and as the kids walk their honoring God with their bodies thing out…and as you walk your hard but right thing out…may we cling to the belief and understanding that…

the chiseling will be what makes us better and

the inconvenience will be the gift we never wanted and

God will do exactly what He knows is best and it will be both hard and amazing.

Let’s Do the Important Things with Our Lives

IMG_9521Hi.

It’s been awhile.

I won’t make up excuses for my absence since we all have a million for our very busy lives. I’ll just tell you that I am living a life of loose ends at the moment, facing a son graduating from high school and several other major things at once that leaves me (how do I say this politely?) emotionally stretched. When it comes to words, I’ve found in times like this they either provide refuge for me or I refuge from them: sometimes I have them and sometimes I don’t…and for my sanity, that oft-overlooked aspect of respite from writing must be honored. Over time I’ve learned not to force words I don’t have because eventually they start to sound made up, and you and I both deserve better. My friends who pump out words like a sport are amazing creatures in which I greatly admire but cannot relate. For me, sometimes I must share and other times I must focus on living and keep the few words I do have to myself.

But I have been silently collecting some words as of late and have a few things I want to tell you very soon: a few things for you writers, a few things for you parents, a few things for you married people and a few things for the Church. I’ll let you know when, but shortly. I think some of them may be important to you, so be on the lookout for this upcoming short blog series.

But for today…just this.

I think a lot of us are doing the ok things with our lives. We are doing the acceptable, normal things and our life feels fine. I just want to use this blog post to say to us: let’s do the important things with our lives. I think we will be happier.

This message in my inbox last week, from Stacey, reminded me that it’s possible to leave what we know to find what we love. I share it with you now, with her permission…

In case you need to know God still moves and works in everyday people.

In case you need to see and hear a tangible yes to God story to inspire you like it inspired me.

May we all, the everyday people, want God most and in turn, do the important things with our lives. 

[An aside: Make sure you check out the picture of Stacey and Robert at the end of her email. I can’t help but notice the happy on their faces. This is joy. This is the Jesus life. Yes, please, always, to some of this.]

Hello Lisa,

My name is Stacey. I came to your conference in Kearney, Nebraska, in October on an invitation from my stepdaughter.

In the past,  I would usually attend a conference with the intention of repairing some brokenness. However, at that point in my life everything was wonderful! So I went to enjoy the fellowship. By the end of Saturday God had smacked me right between the eyes about how much I was hanging onto my comfort zone. I wanted my comfort zone more than what God wanted for me. That day I laid down my comfortable pain-free life and said I want God more! Within 3 weeks this happened:

My husband Robert and I, who have become increasingly aware of the amount of pain people are experiencing in the world today and we wanted to do more to make a difference, decided to open our hearts and minds to whatever direction God would lead us. I came across a story late one night, posted by friends in Virginia, about this center in Iowa called the “Dream Center” where they meet the needs of hurting people. ( spencerdreamcenter.org) We called, drove 6 hours the next day to take a tour, and discovered the director/Pastor was good friends with my Mom 29 years ago in California, and we have several mutual friends but didn’t know each other. We drove home the next day after telling them we would move there, live in a single room, and volunteer for at least a year.

We realized sometimes you just have to take a step and the path will appear in front of you. We would appreciate your prayers as we embark on this journey!

p.s. We have been here a month now in Spencer Iowa at the “Dream Center” and are amazed and humbled at how God is using us as an answer to prayer. Thank you for your ministry and your willingness to share the hard stuff! Blessings!

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What I Hope you Will Buy Someone You Love for Christmas

FullSizeRenderI have written 4 books, to date. I love them all, and all of them mean something to me.

But I Want God, my baby of just a year old is different.

I tell people all the time: writing {w}hole (my book from 2011) broke me open. Writing I Want God put me back together.

I can’t tell you in words. I truly can’t. Writing I Want God was a holy experience. It was God and me tangled up like I have never before known. When the writing was over, intense and tedious as it was, I mourned it because I didn’t want God to stop breathing on me hard, pulling scales off my eyes and letting me see.

One of my biggest prayers in writing I Want God: that people would be so moved they would need to put down the book, hit their knees and pray. I wasn’t sure a human book could do that. But what I knew was that when I wrote it, I had to stop and do just that. So in that space, I was hopeful.

So you can imagine when Bree at a Texas event came up to me and said, I prayed and wept through all of chapter one. Mostly prayed, because God was so near what that did to my insides. Others have said the same thing. All I know is that these were answered prayers.

I tell you this, not to brag on me. Oh my goodness, that’s the miracle, folks. If God can be powerful through this haggard mess, He can be powerful through any. I think that’s why I hold I Want God so very dear. It’s way beyond me.

So this month it’s another prayer for I Want God: that my readers who have not yet gotten the book will get it. And my readers who have and it has impacted them like they say will get it for people they love.

I can only tell you why I ever buy a book for someone, anymore. (I admit. It’s a short list. I have gotten ridiculously picky.) I can tell you that it’s the same things people have told me about I Want God.

  • It’s a book that changed my life in some way. I Want God changed my life. It has changed other people’s lives. This I have heard, repeatedly. I can’t think of a better gift for a loved one than to hand them something that could change their life.
  • It’s a book I would read, again. I feel this way about very few books, honestly. This is one of the most frequent things I hear said about I Want God and I marvel it every time because I know that’s huge. That people want to read it two, three, four times…some who say they will read it every year…lets me know this book is a keeper.
  • It’s a book that drives me to God. Candidly and with full disclosure: if you don’t want to be pushed towards God, don’t read this book.
  • It’s a book that shows me how to live after the book is closed. I was intentional about this, so very intentional. The last chapter of I Want God has a Scriptural formula in it that is not only memorable and easy, but tried, true and evergreen. I know how to live now through what God showed me in 3 simple words.
  • It’s a book that convinces me I can get better. I have to walk away from a book convicted (if it doesn’t challenge me, it doesn’t change me) and buoyed in my belief that long standing patterns can be broken in my life. This is hope. I Want God challenges us to get better because God says we can.

It’s for these reasons I ask you to invest in I Want God for someone for Christmas. I wrote it, not to entertain or make some best-seller list. I wrote it to change your life. I believe it will. I also believe spending under $10 at even the slightest chance of that is well worth it.

Here’s the ordering link.

Here’s a page all about it.

Here’s what other people have said.

Read the Amazon reviews.

Tell your friends. Order it for yourself and have someone near to you wrap it up and put it under the tree. Buy it for all the people you love who you know want to change their life, too.

I’m with you in the pages and here, now, on the journey.

May 2016 be the year all of us want God most.

I turned the page, devoured the rest…and here I am, speechless. The reading of I Want God is a wrecking and a revival and a resurrection, all at once. ~Jill, New York