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10 Assumptions People Make About Writers

April 10, 2015

One reason I hate small talk is that it’s repetitive–and I hate repeating myself. I like my job, but after nearly 7 years, I’m so tired of answering the “so…what do you do?” question. I’ve gotten a lot of different reactions to “I’m a writer,” and have run into people who make some interesting (often wrong) assumptions.

1. All writing is the same.

My “day job” in writing (helping produce e-newsletters) is an odd mix of creative and journalistic techniques.Writing a novel involves creative writing, as does keeping up a blog, plus lots of research. But sometimes I get people asking me if I do, or would consider, technical writing. That’s a whole different ballgame, involves little writing writing, and may require a special degree/additional training and education. People may assume I’m a technical writer because it’s the only type of writing they’ve heard of that actually pays enough to live on. It’s not.

2. Any writer will automatically be BFFs with another writer.

“Oh, you’re a writer! My niece/brother-in-law/cousin’s third wife is a writer too! I should introduce you!”

“Writer” is a very general term for many different types of work. Two people who are “writers” do not have more in common than any other two people on the planet. A person who writes technical manuals for DVD players might not share the same experiences as a person who writes for the sports section of their local newspaper.

It’s also highly likely that the writer is an introvert who will not be pleased to be thrust into an awkward social encounter with a total stranger.

3. All writers are “word nerds” with huge vocabularies, who are really good at Scrabble and crossword puzzles.

Some of them, yes. Not me. I hate Scrabble and crossword puzzles; I suck at them. My vocabulary is average–maybe slightly above-average, at best. And I mostly care about words themselves only insofar as they can be used for conveying stories and ideas, which are of greater importance to me.

4. All writers are sticklers for grammar and spelling, and they are constantly criticizing your speech and your emails with the air of a stern schoolmarm.

This both is and isn’t true in my case. I do sneer at people who regularly confuse their/there/they’re and who write “should of” instead of “should have,” and I get frustrated by frequent misspellings, because what do you think that squiggly red line is for? I admit that I have zero patience for constant, willful ignorance, but that goes far beyond grammar. Still, people make mistakes. I’m not taking a red pen to your emails. I am much more articulate in writing than speaking, so I don’t fault someone for not realizing the proper way to pronounce a word. Aside from the mistakes I mentioned above, and the fact that I would defend the Oxford comma to the death, I am quite ignorant in grammar. I don’t know how to diagram a sentence, or what a dangling participle–or any kind of participle–actually is.

5. Being published = famous.

P.S. Being published also doesn’t = quality. For reference, see: Meyer, Stephenie;  James, E.L.; Sparks, Nicholas

6. If you actually make money as a writer, your work is widely accessible and visible.

“Ooh, you’re a writer? Anything I’ve seen?”

“Maybe? I don’t know your life.”

The e-newsletters I help create are for niche targets–specific trade associations, nonprofits, and medical groups, usually. Unless you’re one of their members, it’s unlikely you’ve read what I actually get paid to write. And the portions that I write may get mixed in with the work of other writers at that company, and that’s after it’s been edited and approved by still others. At the end, it’s hard to tell what’s mine.

You might have seen my blog, but it has a few hundred followers, so odds are that you haven’t.

And my novel currently ranks something like #3,562,009 in sales on Amazon, so you probably haven’t read that, either.

7. Writers will either read anything, or only read the most highbrow works.

Much like Albus Dumbledore, I am tired of people always getting me books as gifts, when I would really love to get socks. And just because I like to read, that doesn’t mean I’ll read just anything. At the same time, being a literary-minded person doesn’t mean I have hoity-toity taste. Yes, my favorite novels are Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters and Bronte’s Jane Eyre, but I also have Jane Austen’s Guide to Dating and The Disaster Artist, a hilarious book about the making of one of the worst movies ever made. And do you know why I think that Twilight is absolute garbage? Because I’ve read it for myself.

8. Writers are totally willing to divulge any and all details about works in progress.

People are usually joking when they ask “So how does it end?” That’s fine. I might even tell them, if I know they weren’t going to read it anyway. But I hate being asked “what are you working on now?” because if it’s actual paid work, I probably forgot about it the moment it was finished. If it’s for my blog, just read it for your freakin’ self, jeeze. With more creative endeavors, it is actually detrimental for me to tell people much about a work in progress. (Plus, it’s probably fanfiction, and that’s conversational territory I don’t traverse with just anyone.) Creative writing is very personal; asking about a work in progress is not unlike asking a couple for details on how they’re trying to get pregnant.

9. One writer’s technique/system/path to “success” will work for any others.

I’ve already said that different types of writing and writing-based jobs are…well…different. One person’s method is not another’s, even within the same field. It’s almost physically painful when someone asks me for advice on how to get a job in writing (especially working from home), or how to get published. In publishing, I’m about as far from a success story as you can get. I decided to self-publish just because my odds of getting an agent and accepted by a “real” publisher were already slim, so I decided to fumble my way blindly on my own. I’m not pleased with the results, but I’m not sure I’d do it much differently.

As for my current job? I found it on Craigslist. After moving to D.C., intending to work in a non-profit. I worked in the office for a few years, by which point they knew they could trust me to get the work done from home when I moved back to Ohio. Things kind of fell into place, but I’ve never had specific career “goals” or a five-year plan. Absolutely nothing about my post-college life happened “by the book” or in any way that could be deliberately replicated.

10. Writers do nothing but write.

Writing is a major part of who I am, and if that were completely wiped away, God forbid, I wouldn’t know who I was anymore. But it’s not everything about me and what I do. I love books and movies, and some music. I like to travel, and go to museums and festivals and zoos. I like jewelry and cooking and sites of historical significance and makeup and Myers-Briggs and putting together bookshelves. I have even *gasp* gone an entire day without writing anything. (Unless you count email or texts.)

The short version: You may have your own ideas about who writers are and what they do, but you could be wrong.

Gluten-Free Update, 1+ Month on

March 22, 2015

It’s been more than a month since I adopted a GF lifestyle. Although it can take many months and even years for the body to adjust to such a change, I thought I’d post an update on my progress so far.

There have been some agonizing moments. I miss Chinese food and fried chicken and hearty sandwiches and crusty sourdough bread. Sometimes I sit around hungry because I can’t have the only thing that I’m hungry for. There was a family gathering a few weeks ago where I had nothing to eat but coleslaw (which I don’t even like) because everyone who was in charge of the food either didn’t know or forgot that I was GF now, so I went home crabby and famished. I’m tired of trying to figure out the best way to eat a bunless Five Guys burger, and bitter that I have to pay the same amount for it.

There have been some victories. The other day I made not only the best GF pizza crust I’ve ever had, but possibly the best pizza, full stop, that I’ve ever made. I successfully replicated my mom’s chocolate-cake recipe with a GF all-purpose flour mix that I put together based on Gluten-Free Girl’s mix. The GF pretzels at the nearest grocery store cost twice as much as regular store brand, but they taste better. I made Yorkshire puddings that tasted just like my old gluten recipe.

I’ve had to make unexpected adjustments. I’ve realized I’d been in the habit of feeling crappy because of gluten. I tried a GF naan recipe that was okay but, after eating it, I got inexplicably anxious. I was waiting for the stomachache, for the heartburn, for any other symptoms that would send me in a mad dash to the bathroom–a waiting that had become second nature. When the symptoms didn’t come, my brain didn’t know what to do; I almost psyched myself into a stomachache. I made dragon noodles with brown-rice pasta, expecting to feel discomfort from the spicy, buttery sauce, but all I felt was a burning tongue and a full belly. But that’s another weird thing: I don’t always feel as full anymore after a meal now–and I’m wondering if I have gotten so used to nausea and bloating after a meal that I mistook the feelings for satiety.

And physically? I feel better. I can’t say that I’ve felt less depressed, or more energetic, or that I’ve lost weight. My depression has been less severe, but that could be the change of seasons. I haven’t been sleeping well, but part of that has been daylight savings time. But digestion-wise, yes, there is a noticeable difference. It’s at the point where the prospect of eating a regular sandwich fills me with dread, however sorely I am tempted.

So there’s my update. The short version is that there have been a lot of difficult moments, but I am exploring and sometimes having fun, and it is worth the effort.

gluten-free apple crisp

Sex and Wholeness and the Single Christian

March 20, 2015

It’s been a while since I got furiously worked up over a church sermon, so I guess it was about time. And boy-howdy, did I get worked up.

Just to bring you up to speed, I moved back to my hometown-ish area in NW Ohio in January, and I have since joined a young-adult ministry and small group. In general, this has been a great experience, but since the group is for ages 18-29, I feel quite the old-timer.

Pictured: me at Bible study

A few weeks ago they preached on sex, and I listened to it with the expectation that I wouldn’t get anything out of it. I’ve been single for all of my 29 years, I’ve attended church for most of them, and I have heard a variety of sermons about sex (and read books/articles on the topic) since I was about 15. At this point, I could give the sermons.

I was right–the sermon didn’t present anything new. But that doesn’t mean I had no reaction.

It’s been a whole year since I wrote my two-part ‘series‘ on female sexuality in the Christian church, so this might be considered a sequel, though it’s not specifically about female Christians. (If you want to know more about what God has taught me about sexuality as a single Christian female, check out those links if you haven’t already.)

Firstly, I’m really tired of hearing older, married-with-children men tell me how awesome sex is. Not only am I tired of hearing about the topic from someone who hasn’t had an experience remotely similar to mine, I’m tired of hearing that God intends for all of us Christians to have fantastic, mind-blowing sex after we get married–and all we need to do to achieve that is to avoid having sex before marriage.

None of this means a damn thing for a woman approaching 30,who has struggled with sexual temptation and loneliness all her life, with no relief on the horizon, and zero prospects for a husband.

The church needs to stop using “You’re going to have more awesome sex after you get married” to bribe people into chastity. (“Chastity” meaning both celibacy before marriage and faithful monogamy after marriage.) Maybe this “bribery” method works on some people, but to make it the primary motive is a dangerous distortion of priorities.

The messages, sermons, and discussions need to be about how chastity is important because self-control is a valuable skill/virtue to practice in all areas of our lives, sexual or not. (Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit; marriage and awesome sex are not.)

The messages need to emphasize the importance of obeying God, even if it doesn’t make sense to us or is really difficult. God is worth obeying because He is holy, He is far above us and sees so much further and so much more than we do, and He has given us everything.

Encouraging chastity just by saying, “you should save sex for marriage because the sex will be better that way” only prepares people to think, “If I do what God wants, then God will give me what I want.” God is not a vending machine, nor is He paying you for your chastity in awesome sex. A relationship with God is not about economics. I have been guilty of thinking this way for as long as I can remember, and I am still dealing with severe damage from that mindset and trying to untangle myself from it.

And even if I did find this sort of motivation helpful, it’s complete bullshit.

Sex isn’t automatically better because you waited. There’s a learning curve–two people with different needs and desires and sex drives and energy levels and experiences and schedules won’t necessarily be totally compatible and in-tune right away. Then there are physical problems, such as erectile dysfunction or painful intercourse, that could make even marital sex unsatisfying. People may have psychological problems and issues with intimacy, even if they don’t have a lot of emotional baggage. People may have sexual emotional baggage even if they are technically virgins. It’s not as simple as “save sex for marriage” = “best sex ever.”

And guess what? People who have sex outside of marriage can experience really enjoyable sex. They may not even feel guilty about it! And if you have a person who grew up hearing nothing but “marital sex is the best sex,” only to learn that it’s not necessarily true, how likely are they going to trust what else the church tells them?

Oversimplified bullshit helps no one.

If you hear the message at 18 and you get married when you’re 21, great. You were privileged, and you have it easier in many ways than people who went 10, 20, 30+ years longer without getting married. But the church makes it sound like that will happen to everyone. And that is simply not true.

No one in the church seems willing to discuss the fact that some of us aren’t going to get married. This is truth. It doesn’t matter if the majority of people in the American Christian church these days do get married–there are still people who will remain unmarried all their lives. There are people who will get married, only to become unmarried through divorce or death. In these cases, “wait until marriage” is not an effective motive for chastity and sexual purity.

Hammering on the idea of saving sex for marriage just to have better sex after marriage also can imply that people who did have sex before marriage (which I am not advocating, but it happens) are “damaged goods” even with God’s grace and forgiveness, and that they have ruined their chances of having a fulfilling sex life if they do get married.

Abstinence–and then marriage–do not automatically grant a person spiritual wholeness. I have discussed this issue many times, at great length, with a friend who has pointed out that the church should do more to teach people how they can be healthy and whole, sexual or otherwise, in or out of marriage, instead of emphasizing the finding of a spouse.

Wholeness and satisfaction in all areas of our lives do not hinge on good sex, or obtaining a spouse, or any other human relationship. True wholeness is only found in Christ, and in surrendering our lives to Him.

I’m not great at coming up with practical, real-life actions to take to carry out my ideas. So I don’t have a good to-do list for how to find wholeness in Christ. But I think there’s one thing we need to understand before we can do anything else:

Wholeness can only be achieved with Christ, because any desire we have comes from God in the first place.

In fact, in a 1930 letter to his best friend Arthur Greeves, C.S. Lewis discusses sexual temptation (specifically, masturbation) that arises because of deep longings, and suggests fighting back by “turning my mind to the One, the real object of all desire, which…is what we are really wanting in all wants.”

Whether we know it or not, God is at the core of everything we want: intimacy, physical pleasure, inclusion, fulfillment, purpose.

To invoke Lewis again (in paraphrase this time), nothing on this earth can fully satisfy these desires, because they are not from this earth. If we keep this in mind, if we see God as the source of our desires and consider our temptations as opportunities to call on Him and draw closer to him, then I think we have a better chance of finding wholeness, whatever our relationship status.

Thoughts on the Fruit of Jealousy

March 18, 2015

I think about envy a lot. Envy–with jealousy and covetousness–is probably the sin I have struggled with the most, for the longest, and which has caused the most damage to my life and character. As far as I can see with my limited human vision, at least. It’s something I have been praying about for years, and there are times when it seems I’ve gotten better, and other times when I’ve gotten worse. Even as my self-awareness in this area has grown, sometimes that makes it feel so much worse when I screw up.

“There’s cute-jealous, and then there’s Othello.” ~ Gilmore Girls

If I spend my time and energy wishing I had something other than what I have–the job, home, possessions, intelligence, relationships, or opportunities of someone else–that not only gets me nothing, but it spoils and wastes what I do have.

I don’t have nothing. I receive my gifts from the same Giver (the Father of lights, as it says in James 1:17) as anyone else. If He wanted, He could give me the same gifts, but He has his reasons for doing or not doing so. Then an analogy came to me, because this was my brain after all.

If I receive a pear, and another person has an orange, I could do nothing with my pear and covet the orange. I could complain about the pear, ignore it while I ask God for an orange, question the existence o pears, long for an orange, resent the pear, and even try to pretend that my pear is actually an orange. In the end, all I will have is a rotten pear, because I wasted it wanting an orange.

Cezanne, “Still Life with Apples and Pears”

Wouldn’t it be better to try to enjoy the pear, and make what use of it I can? I can’t turn it into an orange or do anything else that would change the pear itself. But God could give me an orange if He wanted to. He must know that it is best for me to have the pear, at the time and amount that I have it, and that I will make–or have the potential to make–use of the pear better than someone else, and better than I could have done with a different fruit. Maybe an orange would be worse for me in some way I don’t yet know. Maybe the person who has an orange would not make good use of a pear.

Maybe I’ll never completely understand why I have a pear and not an orange. But envy will steal the time I could have spent enjoying the pear–and it still will not get me an orange.

You ask ‘for what’ God wants you. Isn’t the primary answer that He wants you. … Of course, He may have a special job for you: and the certain job is that of becoming more and more His. ~C.S. Lewis, letter to Mary Van Deusen, 25 March 1954

Biting the (Gluten-Free) Bullet

February 17, 2015

For the sake of those readers who did not grow up with medical professionals and so are unaccustomed to casual discussion of any and all bodily functions, I will try to avoid too many details. Suffice to say, for almost as long as I can remember, I have had a wide range of digestive problems. After talking to someone with celiac disease over a year ago, I realized that gluten may be a trigger. This seemed to be confirmed when I reduced–but did not eliminate–my consumption of gluten, and saw less frequent symptoms. But I started to have other problems since my gallbladder removal last year, and in recent weeks, I’ve been feeling all kinds of worse.

On Friday, I made some homemade naan, and as I was lying around in low-level but undeniable discomfort, I realized that I needed to follow the advice of the great Ron Swanson:

It was time to admit that my current system wasn’t good enough. I had to make major, whole-ass changes. Starting this past Saturday–Feb. 14, because Valentine’s Day doesn’t suck enoughI became one of “those people” and went fully gluten-free (GF).

I am not happy. I come from a family not only of cooks and bakers, but of skeptics. I haven’t informed my parents (who dine heavily on pizza, pasta, and sandwiches) of this change yet, but I rather expect my dad to dismiss it as just a fad. I have cousins who are already dairy-free for health reasons, so I’ll be throwing another wrench into holiday-dinner plans. I’m visiting a friend in Las Vegas this weekend, and I dread the inconvenience my new lifestyle will cause. I had to nix plans to get Chinese when another friend visits next month, because with all the wheat-containing soy sauce, egg-roll wraps, noodles, fried-food breading, and fortune cookies, I may only be able to eat white rice, green beans, and orange slices–which I can have at home. I will never drink Guinness again (yes, I know they make GF beers, but Guinness is the only beer I’ve ever enjoyed).

IMG_0251

*weeping*

Thankfully, I enjoy cooking and baking, I enjoy experimenting, and I enjoy learning about the science behind how things work. So with Internet sources like Gluten-Free-Girl and Gluten-Free Goddess to guide me (not to mention Amazon.com), this might even be fun. I’m not only learning about what this means for my body, but what gluten itself is and how it can be replaced. I feel smarter already.

Right now, though, I’m still in a mourning stage. When it comes to changes, especially ones that seem negative at first, I don’t do well with the part that requires me to make peace and reconcile myself to a new reality–the feelings aspect. I want to fret and fume and whinge about it. But when it’s time to take action, I do a whole lot better. I can problem solve; I can be practical; I can do. In time, my feelings will bow to my actions and my logic, and all will be well.

And no matter how much I b*tch about this, there is something I can’t deny: It’s Day 4 of my GF life, and I already feel better than I have in the last few weeks–physically, at least.

How I like my crumpets

I WON’T LOSE YOU, DEAR CRUMPETS!!! I WILL FIND A WAY FOR US TO BE TOGETHER AGAIN.

Wish me luck.

And fear not, regular readers–this isn’t going to become an exclusively gluten-free blog. As I said when I wrote about my singleness status last month, GF posts will just become a part of my regular grab-bag of topics.

On Being God’s Specialists

January 30, 2015

In general, I struggle with comparing myself to others–usually to my detriment. One example involves my introverted/INTJ personality. Such a personality means I’m a lot better at having fewer, deeper relationships than many broader acquaintances. I struggle to serve and care about people with whom I don’t have a previous connection and with whose history I’m not familiar. I’m not good at loving people just because they are people. I know we as Christians are commanded to love others, all others, but it is hard for me to give a crap about strangers. I’m not trying to excuse myself–I know this is an area where I can be stretched and challenged.

It’s not wrong that my nature, the way God created me, makes me better at channeling my love and service into a few profound, focused, devoted friendships. But often I feel inadequate compared to pastors and missionaries, whose work serves dozens, hundreds, even thousands, sometimes in a single day or hour. I don’t want to be a missionary or a pastor, and I don’t believe I am called to be so in the traditional sense. But sometimes I can’t help feeling like a failure because I don’t have a natural inclination for such work.

The other night, I was reading a couple chapters of Mere Christianity, at a part where C.S. Lewis describes humanity as not a bunch of separate beings all walking around, but one big organism extending back all through human history. Each one of us, he says, is a different “organ” in that organism.

When you find yourself wanting to turn your children, or pupils, or even your neighbors, into people exactly like yourself, remember that God probably never meant them to be that. You and they are different organs, intended to do different things. On the other hand, when you are tempted not to bother about someone else’s troubles because they are ‘no business of yours,’ remember that though he is different from you he is part of the same organism as you. If you forget that he belongs to the same organism as yourself you will become an Individualist. If you forget that he is a different organ from you, if you want to suppress differences and make people all alike, you will become a Totalitarian. But a Christian must not be either a Totalitarian or an Individualist.

It got me thinking about my role in that organism (also called “the Body of Christ”). I thought of how doctors have different specialties. Some of them are more generalized than others, but they all have their purposes.

When it comes to caring for the “organism” that is God’s people, maybe people such as pastors and missionaries are the family physicians and general practitioners. They are really good at meeting a lot of common, general needs. Maybe more intense, focused, introverted people like me are the specialists, the cardiologists and oncologists and psychiatrists. We’re there when something (or someone) needs special attention.

A heart surgeon has fewer patients compared to a general pediatrician, but they serve different purposes. The one doesn’t have the knowledge or capacity to do what the other does. In God’s grand plan, neither is “better” than the other. They just have different roles. Sometimes they may be called on to do things outside their usual scope, but in general, God has particular niches for them.

Now, people in the church do tend to think that certain roles are more noteworthy than others. Pastoring and being a missionary, for example, are often considered the “important” jobs, probably because they tend to serve the most people, and they are often the most visible positions.

Depending on where a person is in life, however, or what they are going through at the time, they may get nothing out of a sermon. The pastor is fulfilling his role, but it is not what that one person needs. Instead, it may mean everything for this one person if another Christian, one without an official title in the church, just sits with them and listens to what’s going on in their life, and offers some simple prayer and encouragement. That doesn’t diminish the pastor’s role; they are just serving different needs.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. ~I Corinthians 12: 13-27

A Lengthy Breakthrough

January 27, 2015

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

~Isaiah 61:1-3

As more regular readers know, I’ve been struggling with a lot of things since my recent move. It’s been hard to feel established and make connections here. (Ohio’s winter weather doesn’t help.) I’ve been anxious, depressed, and lonely, and feeling far from God. I’ve been frustrated because ever since I began to consider leaving Columbus over a year ago, I’ve tried to do the right thing, but often found myself in situations I didn’t want–such as being at my stepdad’s for longer than I intended, and moving back to my hometown instead of someplace more wild and exciting. I thought this was what I was supposed to do, but I felt frustrated at every turn.

This process–especially most recently–has exacerbated old wounds and longtime struggles with beliefs that I have come to have toward myself over the years. Things like: I don’t belong anywhere, I’m not meant to have a purpose and a “niche” in God’s kingdom, I’m unworthy, God doesn’t care about me in particular, I’m unlikeable and worthless and my life is pointless.

For months, one of my best friends has been unfailingly encouraging and telling me that things are eventually going to get better, that God was at work, and that my efforts would see results. This was nice to hear, but I just got more discouraged because things never quite got better. There were good hours and good days here and there, but things did not seem to really change.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.
Strangers will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
And you will be called priests of the Lord, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast.
Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.
“For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them.”
Isaiah 61:4-8

Yesterday, I had a little bit of a breakthrough. I realized that I have been praying for changes in my circumstances, in the hopes that that is what would alter how I think about myself and make everything right. But I realized that, even if things happen the way I want, that won’t change how I see myself. I do have friends who care about me, who are petitioning God on my behalf, who enjoy being around me and want me in their lives. I’m appreciated at my job and I make enough (if not lots of) money. If this hasn’t been enough to change my mind, what will? No change to my circumstances was going to do anything. I had to leave it up to God to make the changes inside me that would alter my thinking and help me lead the life that I was meant to live and be the person I am meant to be. There was absolutely nothing I could do–and I hate hearing that.

With that in mind, I went to the young-adult church service that I’ve been going to for the last few weeks, that I mentioned in this post. There was worship and announcements and I saw S, the girl I met that first night. Then the pastor announced that they were starting a new series of sermons this week. The series title is True Lies: You Are What You Think.

Right away, I think, “Uhh. This sounds…relevant.”

disappointedcat

The pastor told a little story to introduce the general idea of the series, but once he got into the actual sermon, I don’t think I stopped quietly crying until it was over.

He talked about how we are constantly bombarded with thoughts and messages, many of them lies: either from Satan/the Enemy, from society, or from ourselves. (You can imagine how much I was thinking of The Screwtape Letters the whole time.) He talked about how discerning truth from lies was important because what we believe, we act on. If we believe a lie, whatever it is, sooner or later that will become some kind of action. Some examples he gave were from his own struggle with pornography, such as, “God is holding out on you,” “It’s not that big a deal,” and, “You can control this.”

He wrapped up the sermon with asking, “What do you believe?” and “Who do you believe?” He then had us all anonymously write down a lie we believe and put them in buckets. The church leaders are supposed to pray over these cards and come back to them next week.

The whole time, I was thinking about how I see myself and what I’ve come to believe, and I was struggling so much. I kept going, “But what if it’s true? What if I’m not wrong? What if what I think about myself is true?” Then I thought, “Why do you want to believe the worst about yourself?” I didn’t have a good answer.

“It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.” ~The Screwtape Letters

No one looking at me could have known what was going on in my head (though obviously they would have seen the tears), but I felt raw and exposed. I thought, “Wow, God sure prepped the soil for these particular seeds, didn’t He?” Then I realized, “If I’m here, and this is exactly what I needed to hear, and this could change everything, then God must care if He let this all happen.”

It didn’t stop there. It was the last week to sign up for small groups. I had signed up online, but I went to the signup table because I wanted to make sure they had my info. S was there with her husband, and she said, “Oh, we already have your info. You’re gonna be in A’s group.” (I met A the same night, and I had wanted to be in her group already.) S said, “I told him ‘Emily has to be in A’s group!’” And I was overwhelmed, thinking, “Wow, someone remembered me, and actually did something for me, and is trying to help me fit somewhere.” And then I got in my car and cried most of the way home.

I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.
Isaiah 61:10-11

I really need this sermon series, and I needed the experience I had last night. Yesterday I reached the end of my tether and was going “God, I don’t know what You want me to do. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I don’t think there’s anything I can do. Whatever has to happen to my life, You’re going to have to do it.”

I kept thinking about how moving here created the situation that pushed me and frustrated me and drove me to a point that I was completely prepared to receive that sermon. And if I hadn’t moved here, not only might I not have been prepared to hear it, but I wouldn’t have heard it at all. And who knows what other fruit this will bear that I would have missed out on otherwise.

  

 

(By the way, did I listen to “Let it Go” on a loop while I wrote this post? Maybe Yes.)

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