This morning I remember something I wrote in March 2012 about a miniature weeping cherry that blooms on the sidewalk. It’s so small it’s almost comical. Back then, I wrote this:
On the walk to school, we notice the tiniest weeping cherry. Amid the oldest and the tallest, the brightest and the best, this little tree–-so humble and no bigger than a chair–-makes her contribution. In the shadow of the tall oaks on either side of her, she seems so very small. Stand tall, Little Tree! The whole world might not see you, and you don’t stand nearly as tall as the rest, but for this one walk to school, this one street, and this one patch of grass, you bring joy. I want to be the kind of woman who brings pleasure and joy, even if I’m not the best or the most important. Maybe my assignment from God is to bloom small for just one street.
I wrote this, of course, before publishing novels or speaking to crowds. I wrote this with a settled feeling in my heart that my neighborhood was my place to shine. I wrote this with a content heart.
I remember that little tree on that one little street to announce to my heart that God ordains the scope of our ministry. If it’s small and never stands out, if it never gets any mentions on social media, if it never gets the attention of the world, it stands as a beautiful blessing to the few.
Often people reach out for advice on starting their writing and speaking career. Now that I’m so seasoned (old!), I find myself in wonderful conversations with younger women just starting on the author and speaker path. Since someone recently asked me for my top three bits of wisdom, I’ll share them below:
1. Write and speak as an act of worship. As my acquisitions editor, Judy Dunagan, always teaches: writing is an act of worship. In my own life, I find that I write and speak because it helps me connect with Jesus. I’m doing it with Him. This focus keeps my eyes off myself and the crowds’ approval or criticism.
2. You can only give yourself. Anything else won’t ring true. The closer you become to the authentic you, the more your words will resonate with others. Share the stories that you alone can share, in your way, because of who you are and what you’ve lived. You’re not for everyone, and that’s OK. Not everyone will love you. Not everyone will get you. But you’re not for them. You’re for the ones who need your message.
3. Vigilantly protect your heart from greed, the desire for fame, and self-exultation. These will rot you. They will ensnare you in a web that shimmers at first. Instead, invite the Holy Spirit to keep your heart humble. Surround yourself with godly people who will tell you when you are making too much of yourself. Regularly confess to the Lord anything in your life that doesn’t please Him. Writing and speaking position you in public, with people who will want to adore and celebrate you. As long as you remember that you’re worshiping Jesus–that He’s given you this task and ordained the fruit of your life–you will remember that it’s only His grace allowing you to speak the message in your heart. Think often that you might do these tasks for free and anonymously. Do you love Him that much that you would? Would you even let others receive credit? When I ask these questions, I learn my heart’s position before the Lord.
On the technical side of writing and speaking, don’t worry. You’ll learn as you go. Keep going. Keep writing. Keep speaking. But remember that no advice I could give would matter if the top three above weren’t in place.
My more intense season of speaking and traveling has officially ended (with the exception of a trip to visit my home church in May) until September. In fact, I’m writing this on the flight home from California.
At the same time, I’m about to post my final grades for my Penn State writing classes. For these past few months, I have learned to trust God through a season of simply working hard. My friend calls it a season of being a hardworking farmer who works for a season and then enjoys a harvest later.
Some seasons bring the hard work of whatever task God ordains. At other times, we embrace long stretches of rest, waiting, or prayer. These too represent a version of work, but it’s a more inward, peaceful kind of season. I feel this about writing manuscripts. It’s a different, quieter kind of work.
In any season, we trust the Lord, keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, and do what the season requires. He is with us and gives us all we need. And as I fly back to the East Coast, I’m so grateful that God sustained me and will continue to sustain me. I never have to worry when He ushers in a new season; instead, I learn more about depending on God, developing my spiritual life, and loving those in my path–no matter what kind of season I’m in.
Today I consider what it means to step forward in faith even when I’m uncertain. We simply don’t always know exactly what the Lord is doing. Our emotions waver. Our human understanding fails. So we return to the most wonderful truth from Proverbs 3:5-6.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Today I’m over at Proverbs 31 Ministries to share how a single passage of scripture changed my life. You can guess! It’s still Ephesians 2:6, and you can read my devotion here.
I apply the truth of being seated with Christ every new morning. When jealousy and comparison strikes, I know that I’m seated with Christ. He is working out my life for me, and it’s perfect just as it is. I’m already at the Greatest Table with the Greatest King, so I don’t need to fight for a seat at any table any longer.
I’m thrilled to share some great news! Proverbs 31 Ministries and their COMPEL training book club selected Seated with Christ for their online Spring 2019 book club! For four weeks beginning May 6, my acquisitions editor, Judy Dunagan, and I will lead the online book club through a series of lessons designed to improve participants’ writing.
COMPEL is and online membership to equip writers with all kind of lessons and resources. As part of the membership, you connect with authors and their editors through the COMPEL book club. You can find out more here: https://compeltraining.com/.
Meanwhile, would you pray for this book club and for all of those reading Seated with Christ? I’m so excited!
When there’s a few days left of class, I feel myself descending into that feeling of wanting to coast. I’m lulled into the relaxation of summer just over the horizon. I’m already transitioning to the book writing and travel that summer brings. I drive by college seniors posing for graduation photos. I note the mowers and planters and pruners and all that comes together to make campus beautiful for graduation next week.
But not yet. We’re not finished yet. It’s not over yet. I tell my friend who feels the same way that we must finish strong. Finish strong! Give it your best! Don’t quit now! We’ve got this!
We cannot slow down now. We’ve classes yet to teach, papers left to grade, and final lessons to prepare. We resist the urge to coast. We gather our strength and move forward with fresh zeal.
Today, I think of the infinite beauty of Jesus and what it means to worship Him. He is the One–the One with God from the beginning, through Whom everything was made (John 1:1-3). He is Creator and Sustainer. The Father has “placed everything in his hands” (John 3:35). He gives eternal life and is one with the Father (John 10: 28-30). It is by believing in Jesus that we become children of God and have life in His name (John 20:31).
I think this morning of how at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow (Philippians 2:10) and how there is “no other name under heaven given to men by which [they] may be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus is our righteousness (Romans 3:22). He alone frees us from condemnation and rescues us from wrath (Romans 8:1). God has placed “all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything” (Ephesians 1:22). Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15) who is head over every power and authority (Colossians 2:9). He is our Great High Priest (Hebrews 5, 9, 10). Christ is our atoning sacrifice, pleasing to God, to remove our sin, once and for all. He is the One we worship saying “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” (Revelation 5:12).
And this is just who Jesus is as our God, Savior, and Redeemer. This is enough to captivate our hearts and lead us into worship. Today I think about who Jesus is as the Lord. If He never answered another prayer, if I never knew Him as Healer or Shepherd in a practical, daily sense, I would know Him as my Savior and Lord. This would be enough. I worship Jesus for His infinite beauty as the Living God who rose from the dead this Easter morning. I stand in awe of His power, authority, and right to rule. He is the King, and I bow down.