Full Circle

There’s a rule about stories (that may or may not be unspoken) that the story needs to come full circle. It needs to begin with somewhat of a theme or idea that ties into the ending. That’s what makes a good story. And that is why most of us aren’t writing novels about our lives. We have too many loose ends. Too many things that don’t make sense, and won’t make sense this side of heaven. In a novel, things have to be justifiable… otherwise the reader won’t buy into it. In life, we just have to trust that the Author knows what He’s doing… even when we think the pages of our lives look like a dozen different story ideas crammed between the covers of one book.

Maybe that’s why I was so surprised to find that my last journal has the makings of a novel. Okay, so maybe the stories in the middle aren’t exactly what anyone would want to read (or what I would want anyone to read), but the past seven months of my life have truly come full circle. For example… Page One: March 3, 2012 talks about how rough my recent transition in life was and how desperate I am for Jesus. Then it says this:

I’ve taken some advice from my brother’s musical friend Phil Collins and recognized that I’m on my way. And instead of dreading the future–instead of letting the uncertainties consume my heart–I choose to love every step I take.

I finished that same journal last night with an entry that began with the words, “Today was beautiful–and I’m not just talking about the weather.” And the final paragraph–my farewell words to posterity–read:

Life is a journey with unexpected twists in the road–an adventure far beyond my imagining. And I’m finally not ripping to find the answers. I’m finally content with seeing just this one step. So tell everybody I’m on my way… and I’m loving every step I take.

So, it may not be novel material, but for now I’m content to know that God is bringing my story full circle. Today, I’m satisfied to trust that God is alive and at work in my life and that He will not leave a work unfinished.

So if you’re finding that your life feels like a dozen stories mixed up in one, that’s okay. Because you’re on your way. God is still working on bringing you full circle. And He will bring you full circle… many times in your life.

(Side Note: If you’re still needing a pick-me-up, I recommend Phil Collins. He’s always good for that.)

The Story of Today

This Sunday in youth group, we studied Psalm 34:8: “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refugein him.”

In small group, the idea was to share a story about how God has been good to you. One? Just one story? How could I possibly upload to these girls how great God is with just one story? Which story would I choose? And does one story even begin to cover the hundreds and thousands of days when God has proved Himself absolutely and totally 100% faithful?

I remember one other day in youth group when we talked about Jesus moments and God encounters–those days when there was no denying His hand in our lives. We got a little off track (typical), so I asked the girls why it was so easy to talk about everything but those Jesus moments. One student answered me, “It’s easy to talk about the other stuff because it happens every day. Jesus moments only happen once in awhile.”

I think I literally heard God’s heart breaking in that moment. It was like I could hear Him say, “What? Every single day I’ve breathed into being? Every single sunset I’ve painted? Every single gift I’ve handed to you throughout the course of your day? Did you not appreciate any of it? Did you not see that I was the One giving it to you?”

Sometimes I feel like God is simply jumping up and down on the sidelines of our lives screaming, “Hey, I’m right here! Look at me! Me–your biggest fan.”

And we go right on living as if He isn’t there. As if Jesus moments only happen once in a blue moon. As if we only have one story to tell–one single moment when God actually showed up and changed everything.

And we forget. We forget that ever single moment of our lives is God-breathed. Shaped and crafted by His hands. We forget that every moment is a Jesus moment, alive with wonder and possibility.

We talk about work and school and sports and the weather because, once again, God didn’t show up in a way that we could clearly see.

But I think what we need to ask for is the gift of awareness and the ability to see the numerous gifts God crafts for us each day. Because every single day is another story to tell of how God has been so good. So alive. So wonderful to me.

Let’s not forget to look for the story of today.

The End of the Story

He left a steady job, sold his house, and said goodbye to the woman he planned to marry, all because God called him to some country he knew nothing about. In obedience, he pursued this calling halfway across the world trusting, but never truly knowing, that God had something glorious in store.

He was in the country a whole two weeks before the government sent him home. He was angry, confused, and more than a little bitter. Why? he wondered. God, why did You send me here? Why did You make me sacrifice so much for nothing?

But his sacrifice was not for nothing. Because even as he struggled to find answers, someone else was searching too. Someone else was reading the Bible he left her. Someone else was finding herself found in the One True God. But our friend didn’t know this – almost never knew this. In fact, he could have spent the rest of his life thinking his sacrifice was in vain. Except this new believer tracked him down to thank him. She came to his house to tell him the story of how God spoke to her through His Holy Book and how she was called to minister to her people – something this man had not been allowed to do.

Often, our sacrifices seem to be in vain because we don’t know how the story ends. We don’t know the impact of our love and prayers. We don’t know if the words we’ve spoken bounced off a hardened heart or seeped into fertile soil. We just don’t know. And so we get frustrated. Disappointed. Angry, even. We look to the heavens and ask, “Why? God, why did You send me here? Why did You make me sacrifice so much for nothing?” When all along, our sacrifice is making a bigger impact than we know.

So be encouraged, my friend. Your questions are not the end of the story. Something much greater is at work. And while you may not find your answers this side of eternity, one day you’ll know how the story ends. Don’t give up just because the call may not make sense in this moment. God could be using you to bring hope, change lives, and touch nations.

You just never know…

The Day a Dream Comes True

I’m a published author. I have been for over a week now. And I’ve known I was going to be for a lot longer than that. But somehow I find myself having to look in the mirror and say it to myself over and over and over. Because it’s hard to believe in the day a dream comes true.

Since I was fifteen years old, I dreamed of writing something that someone other than my mother would read. Now I’m getting messages from young women I’ve never met, thanking me for writing the book that would help reshape their story. And I still can’t believe it’s happening. Can’t believe they’re thanking me – ME! – for something I did so reluctantly.

Because, you see, I didn’t want to write Beyond Waiting. If it had been entirely up to me, this book wouldn’t exist right now, those stories would not have been reshaped, and I would be someone else entirely. But thankfully, it wasn’t entirely up to me. Thankfully, I’m not quite as stubborn as I pretend to be. And thankfully, this unwilling vessel finally submitted to telling the story that God intended to tell with her life.

As a fifteen-year-old girl trying to envision my life as a writer, I didn’t imagine I’d one day be writing guest posts for Love and Grace Media and Start Marriage Right. And never in my wildest dreams was this the interview I would have with Misty Gatlin. Because I, too, have learned from Beyond Waiting. And perhaps what I’ve learned with most clarity is that there is often a difference between the story I want to tell and the story I need to tell. But I think I’m finally learning to tell the more important story – the story that needs to be told.

Because sometimes it’s the dreams we didn’t realize that were made for coming true.

#5 – Remembering the Story

It’s simple, really, to dig back into the past and remember what God has done for me. How He stepped down from the heavens and made Himself incredibly, breathtakingly real in my eyes. I should do this more often, for it never fails to fill me with wonder.

I don’t have a dark, ugly past that haunts me. I was born and raised in a Christian home by parents who have done a marvelous job in teaching me what unconditional love is, and more importantly, Who unconditional love is. But while I knew all sorts of things about Jesus, I never really knew Him. I knew the Sunday School answers like I knew the answers on my history tests. Although I had given my heart to Jesus when I was a small child, I didn’t fully grasp the idea of what a relationship with Him should look like.

Then, in God’s providence, I opened a book and read the words: “In a busy, noisy world, a little girl walks onto a dark stage and begins to perform.” As her story unfolded before my eyes, I found that it was my own. And when God showed up and invited that little girl to dance with Him, I found myself accepting the invitation.

In that moment, God became so real and alive and vibrant to me. Since that day, I’ve found myself captivated by the thrill of God’s Divine Dance. There’s such a joyous freedom in knowing that I don’t have to perform or pretend any longer. God accepts me just as I am. He loves me in spite of my flaws.

God has given me a story that is completely my own, but so closely resembles what He wants to do for every other person on the planet. If your story hasn’t yet been written, check out the invitation God offers you today. And if you know exactly what story I’m talking about, I invite you to once again lose yourself in the wonder of what God has done for you.

Tell Me a Story…

Tell me a story any day, and I’ll find Jesus in it. Guaranteed.

That’s why I think it’s funny that there are people who consider fiction a waste of time. Fact is all that speaks to them. Even Christian people. People who have read the entire story of the Bible. People who study the STORIES Jesus told.

I think Jesus told more stories than He preached sermons. Or maybe I just remember the stories. Because I’m not one of those people who wants the facts. I want the story. I want to find my own truth through the eyes of a character. There are certain things you could preach to me all day, and I’d turn a deaf ear. But with a story, you’re presenting the truth in a non-threatening way.

Think of King David. After his sin with Bathsheba, God sent Nathan, not to preach a sermon, but to tell a story. (You can check it out in 2 Samuel 12.) Why? Because if Nathan would have barged in there and told David all he had done wrong, David would have gotten defensive. But Nathan didn’t start pointing fingers. He posed a “hypothetically speaking” story that got David’s blood boiling. And that’s when David acknowledges that he has sinned against the Lord.

The story and the sermon have the same message, but only one reaches the heart of the person who hears it. Because only one is capable of disarming the defenses. After all, what threat is there in a story?

I’m reading a story right now that isn’t even a Christian story. It’s mainstream YA fiction, but I see Jesus all over it. It’s a story about taking risks and finding that some things are worth fighting for. It’s about a girl who has lived all of her life in a bubble and is about to break free.

I’m not sure that I’ve lived in a bubble (leastwise, not so much as the heroine in Ally Condie’s Matched), but I’m definitely on the verge of taking a huge risk, so Cassia’s story has been as encouraging and inspirational as it is well-written.

So tell me a story… and it might just be the thing that catapults me into taking that final step and breaking out of the little world I’ve created for myself.

What stories has God used to challenge you lately?

Remembering the Story

Since my trip to India embarks in two weeks, I spent this last week completing my assignment of preparing my personal story. It’s simple, really, to dig back into the past and remember what God has done for me. How He stepped down from the heavens and made Himself incredibly, breathtakingly real in my eyes. I realized last night that I should do this more often, for it never fails to fill me with wonder.

I don’t have a dark, ugly past that haunts me. I was born and raised in a Christian home by parents who have done a marvelous job in teaching me what unconditional love is, and more importantly, Who unconditional love is. But while I knew all sorts of things about Jesus, I never really knew Him. I knew the Sunday School answers like I knew the answers on my history tests. Although I had given my heart to Jesus when I was a small child, I didn’t fully grasp the idea of what a relationship with Him should look like.

Then, in God’s providence, I opened a book and read the words: “In a busy, noisy world, a little girl walks onto a dark stage and begins to perform.” As her story unfolded before my eyes, I found that it was my own. And when God showed up and invited that little girl to dance with Him, I found myself accepting the invitation.

In that moment, God became so real and alive and vibrant to me. Since that day, I’ve found myself captivated by the thrill of God’s Divine Dance. There’s such a joyous freedom in knowing that I don’t have to perform or pretend any longer. God accepts me just as I am. He loves me in spite of my flaws.

God has given me a story that is completely my own, but so closely resembles what He wants to do for every other person on the planet. If your story hasn’t yet been written, check out the invitation God offers you today. And if you know exactly what story I’m talking about, I invite you to once again lose yourself in the wonder of what God has done for you.