When Your Dream Becomes Too Heavy

If I’m honest, there are times when I wish this writing dream would die.

When I began blogging several years ago, I dove in with both feet. I had no idea what I was doing or how many people would read what I wrote. All I knew was how good it felt to get the words out there. There was no middle man, editor or someone who deemed whether the syllables I strung together were good enough to print. It was just me, the laptop and the reader.

And I liked that.

But to pursue dreams and goals, we can’t remain in one place. We have to keep challenging ourselves to step outside what’s comfortable.

So I looked into the publishing world. I bought a writer’s market guide, took online classes and talked to successful writers. I learned what it took to get a publishing house to notice you, and I got my first taste of disillusionment with the industry.

Platform. Numbers. Followers and email subscribers. At first it seemed easy enough, until I heard numbers far exceeding anything I’d imagined.

I looked at other writers around me and thought I had to keep their rhythm and pace. Then I wondered why I was frustrated. I wondered why something I used to love felt heavy and burdensome.

I wanted my dream to go away, but it wouldn’t.

Every time I was tempted to close my computer and never see that cursor flashing again, a message would pop into my inbox. Or a comment would show up on my blog. A note of encouragement. A reader saying the words reached her at just the right time.

I knew this dream was so much bigger than me. I realized it wasn’t about me at all, really.

It was about the One who placed it in my heart. It was about the readers He brought here. Some close, and some in continents I may never step foot in.

A couple of weeks ago, I watched an Amazon original show that follows the life of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda. Or as he called her, “Z.” She was his muse, his inspiration, and the woman who kept him going when he was temped to give up.

In one of the opening episodes, Zelda’s father, who is a well-to-do judge in Alabama, drills Fitzgerald about his writing, asserting that it is not a viable career. Fitzgerald fights back, saying Mark Twain was a millionaire.

Zelda’s father laughs.

“So you’re going to be the next Mark Twain?” he jokes.

“No,” Fitzgerald says. “I’m going to be the next F. Scott Fitzgerald.”

And he was. He was a writer in his own right, with his own voice. He didn’t have to be anyone else, because his message was recognized as unique. It stood on its own.

Now, I’ll be completely honest. I am not an F. Scott Fitzgerald or The Great Gatsby fan. (astonishing, I know) But I have a fascination with these classic, early 20th century writers. I’m captivated by the fact that they would pursue something most people thought was completely absurd. That they were willing to go against the status quo and take a risk.

As I reflected on the scene from “Z,” what I felt like God was saying to me was this:

“You don’t have to be like anyone else. Just be Abby. Just be the writer I created you to be.”

My job is to put the words to the keyboard. God’s is to do what only he can do.

So to you, dear reader, I deliver this message:

  • When you’re tempted to look in the other lane, remember only you can run your race.
  • When you’re tempted to give up, remember your pace may not look like the person to your right or your left.
  • When you’re rejected, remember He can use each “no” to lead you to the perfect “yes.”

Your journey won’t look like anyone else’s. Because your journey was assigned by a limitless Creator.

 

Linking up with these communities: #RaRaLinkup, #RechargeWednesday

When Rest Feels Like a Prison Sentence {Link-up}

“Take the keys and go,” my husband said.

It wasn’t a question. From the time he’d walked in the door my tone had been short and snippy. He knew I’d had a long day and needed time to myself, even though I was insisting on cleaning up the dishes.

After stalling several times on my way out the door, I left. I played worship music in the car and talked to God about the things that were bothering me.

I didn’t take much time to listen. I didn’t pause to see whether he had an answer to my endless list of concerns and complaints.

But since our God is faithful and more patient than I deserve, he kept speaking.

One day in early February the weather was crazy warm. Spring warm. Our family went for a walk, and our five-year-old paused every five seconds to pick up rocks and sticks. He found his favorite bridge (a slat of wood) and hopped across, quite pleased with himself as he ran down the other side of the ravine.

Of course, I was trying to keep up the pace and burn some calories on the first nice day we’d had in weeks.

“Come on, Gabe! Bye, Gabe!”

“Wait for me!” he cried, running up from behind.

He was all dramatic but he knew we weren’t going to leave him. Within a few minutes, he was pausing again to explore.

I felt the cool breeze on my face and sensed that little nudge in my spirit.

You could learn from him, you know.

And it was true. I knew it. But was I willing to be taught?

They say knowledge is power, but is it really?

Knowledge may bring power, but wisdom comes when we’re willing to change.

For months I’d known what God wanted me to do: Rest. But I’d resisted. He wanted me to let someone else shoulder some of the load, but I wouldn’t open my mouth to ask for help.

I lived in a prison of my own self-sufficiency. Instead of receiving, I insisted on pouring out.

And pouring some more. But you can’t keep pouring from an empty cistern.

Even when I gave myself time to rest physically, I knew what I needed was spiritual. Soul nourishment. Time listening instead of talking. Time noticing his gifts instead of racing past them.

When we don’t see immediate fruit, we often think our time is wasted. But friends, time spent resting is not a waste.

Some of the most abundant fruit we produce will come after seasons of rest. Seasons when we’re willing to let someone else yield the harvest. When we’re willing to sit at the feet of Jesus instead of running ourselves ragged.

Fruit needs time to ripen before it is harvested. And the time God spends refining us is just as important as the time spent reaping the benefits.

If you feel called to a period of rest right now, do yourself a favor and take it. God will use it to teach you and mold you.

He may even show you some scenery you’ve been missing along the way.

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A Promise for When God Seems Far Away

When I was five, my best friend locked the two of us in the trunk of his dad’s car. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why the heck would he do that, right?

Good question. I still wonder about it, myself. If memory serves me correctly, we were pretending as kids often do. Our story involved being kidnapped by an awful person who threw us into the trunk of his car.

Of course, we had to climb into a trunk for effect. My friend didn’t intend to for it to latch, but it did.

Oh, crap.

Wonder why I’m still claustrophobic? Yeah, that’s the reason.

My friend and I were not big kids but that trunk was cramped. It was dark. The air was musty.

But do you know what I still remember? The little streak of light that shined through the crack in the door. It was bright. It illuminated the small space and we could see outside.

We could see neighbors riding by on their bikes. We could see the driveway and the trees.

This little pencil beam of light gave hope we would be found. It made me believe I wouldn’t take my last breath cursing my friend who decided this was a good idea.

We weren’t sure if anyone could hear us, but we called out for help. When someone didn’t come the first time, we continued yelling.

The past few months, I’ve felt like that little girl all over again.

I see the little streak of light and I’m calling. And even when the answer doesn’t come I keep lifting my voice.

Last Sunday I was putting on make-up, getting ready for church and I told my husband how I felt: overwhelmed. Like I’m wading through quicksand and I can’t seem to get a good foundation underneath me. Everyday tasks like getting the kids to the bus stop are more difficult than usual, not to mention the big projects that seem larger than life.

But the most frustrating part of it all is spiritual. When I come to God, my prayers feel sluggish. Like I’m fumbling through the dark, trying to find my way.

When I’m going through these times I love to read the Psalms because David didn’t hold anything back. He put it all out there, crying out to God with his soul deep needs.

One of my all-time favorites is Psalm 40. It starts with David doing something we followers of Christ loathe. Waiting. Waiting patiently for the Lord.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.

Psalm 40:1

We aren’t patient people, are we? We want God to sweep us out of the pit right now and give us the answer to the prayer, desire or need.

But God is refining us. We are being pressed from every side but we don’t despair.

The crushed vessel still shines because of what’s inside of it: Christ.

It shines because the Spirit inside keeps calling out. Abba, Father.

That little streak of light I see? It’s the things I know about God. The aspects of his character I hold onto. His faithfulness, his perfect, unchanging love, and the many times he’s delivered me in the past.

We are not orphans, friends. God hasn’t abandoned you or forgotten you. You are his daughter, and he stands in the fire with you.

There is nothing you are walking through that he hasn’t already delivered you from.

My friend and I? Someone heard us. After a few minutes his dad came out looking and saved us from the imaginary kidnapper.

Just like David, our persistent cries brought an answer. They brought relief and comfort.

No matter how distant God seems today, keep crying out. No matter how grim your situation seems, keep coming to him.

If you can’t see the pencil streak of light, grab a hold of another believer’s hand and simply say his name. The answer will come.

I can guarantee it.

Why the World Needs Your Voice and No One Else’s Will Do

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I saw the look of frustration on my son’s face. We were leaving his classmate’s birthday party and he tried to get her attention, but his voice was drowned by the noise of the skating rink.

After he called her name several times with no response, he gave up.

“It’s loud in here, buddy,” I said, trying to reassure him.

And it was. I could hardly wait to get outside into the sunshine after two hours of musty air, loud bass and sticky floors. But I knew he felt a little defeated.

For better or worse, he’s inherited my quiet demeanor and his voice doesn’t always project. When he has something to say, he’s intentional about it, but his words sometimes get lost on those with a short attention span.

I can relate in more ways than one. All it takes is a few minutes on social media for me to feel overwhelmed by the influx of voices.

“What do I have to say?” I ask myself. “No one is going to miss my words.”

Will you continue reading with me? Today I’m sharing over at PurposefulFaith.com about why the world needs your unique voice in a world that’s loud. You can read the rest of my post here.

Like Whispers Between Bunk Beds

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It’s an hour past their bedtime and I hear giggling from outside the door. These two boys of mine are sharing a bedroom for the third night as we await the arrival of baby sister, and they are loving it.

I marvel at how they can be yelling at each other one moment and hugging necks the next. And as much as little brother drives firstborn crazy, he is always there to pick him up when he falls.

They disagree on many things. Their personalities are as different as night and day.

One likes chocolate ice cream; the other is a fan of vanilla. One follows the rules and instructions, and the other likes to make up his own.

Will you continue reading with me? Today I’m sharing over at Malleable Heart as part of Jessica Galan’s That’s Amore series. You can read the rest of my post here.

One Truth to Hold Onto When You Crave Recognition

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Can I make a little confession? I’m a gold star craver. I love affirmation for a job well done, and when I became a parent this need multiplied. I constantly worry that I’m messing up my kids or they’re going to need therapy when they grow up.

You can relate, right?

So this week we celebrated Valentine’s Day and after an incident at home I had no time to do anything. I’ll admit, most years we don’t do much for Valentine’s anyway. To me it serves as just another reason to give the kids sugar.

Trust me, my kids don’t need more sugar.

But it had been a rough week and I was feeling a little guilty about not getting the kids anything.

Enter…my husband. He comes home from work with two little heart shaped boxes of chocolate and puts them on my dresser. Each one has a cute, fun message on the front. Each one perfect for our boys’ unique personalities.

“You’ll always be their first Valentine,” he said.

I could have cried. He saw my need even though I didn’t express it.

The next morning when I came to kitchen table and gave each son his gift, my oldest jumped up and gave me a hug. And hugs from this eight-year-old are getting fewer and farther between.

“I love you,” he said.

I looked at my hubs, knowing this moment was because of him. But he didn’t need credit or recognition from the boys. Seeing their reaction was enough.

That’s what Christ’s love is like, isn’t it? We’re his ambassadors here on earth, but often we’re so worried about getting the pat on the back or gold star that we forget who deserves the glory.

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I’m not saying we should stop encouraging each other. Scripture says to build each other up in Christ Jesus.

But let’s not forget our gifts come from him. And at the end of the day if his love shines through us and points others to their Creator, we’ve done well.

He sees the heart we pour into our families. He sees each tear we cry for their sake.

He’s been where we are, completely human in every way.

And you know what? People didn’t recognize him either.

He wasn’t here to bring himself glory, but to do the will of the One who sent him. To give us glimpses of the Father here on earth.

Come to him today. Tell him your need. I can promise he already knows, but when we are honest we just might get that gold star we crave.

He can fill us up with the love he feels for us each day, whispering, “I know you, my child. And I am pleased with my creation.”

 

Linking up here: #ChasingCommunity

When You Feel Criticized {A Guest Post}

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Dear friends, I hope you will give my friend Kelly Balarie a warm welcome back to the blog today. Kelly just released her first book, Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears, and today she is talking about a fear that hit me very close to home: fear of condemnation. The need to be right, and taking well-meaning advice as an insult. Perhaps you’ve been there? I hope you are as blessed by her words as I was.

When You Feel Criticized

We stood in the kitchen staring at each other. It was that moment, the moment we all hit, probably a thousand times a day. How will I respond? I had to decide.

Would I speak defensively, thereby covering my guilt and horrific mothering skills with platitudes and strong pleas regarding my goodness?

Of course, I was going to do more than this! I had big plans. You don’t know them.

Or would I, bow low, get real and listen to his words?

Yes, you have a point.

Two roads and, one, for me, is far less traveled.

I’ll admit: I am horrible at receiving new ideas and feedback. So, my husband’s comment suggesting a different type of breakfast? Well, umm… I took it as a rapid-fire slap in the face with a thick leather belt. Ouch!

It conveys: You did bad. You do bad. You always will do bad.

It reminds me I am probably the only mom on the block who goes frozen everyday – frozen waffles, frozen pancakes, frozen french toast – with a healthy dose of mom guilt whipped and delicately placed on top.

Push, then, comes to – shove back. Without a second for evaluation of response, I lean in and throw out: You don’t know. You aren’t in my shoes. You don’t have as much work as I do. You aren’t trying to manage laundry, lunch boxes and putting toddler clothes on squirming snakes, all before the clock strikes 7:30 AM (Imagine: Hands on hips!).

 I’m an expert at this talk: I divert his eyes, strengthen my stance, and deflect like crazy.

It’s not my fault. He pushed first. It’s his fault.

This is what I tell myself. He’s messing with my inner Martha Stewartness. How dare he? He pushed me!

dont-tell-me-what-to-do

It’s not easy to love when you’re throwing a virtual fit. It’s not easy to learn when your mind is totally against it. It’s not easy to grow when opportunities feel like an assault on your inner character.

He was insulting my character, wasn’t he?

I think about it more. The guy suggested I make another type of meal. That’s it.

He wasn’t saying I was a flunky. He wasn’t circling my fat (although it kind of felt like it). He wasn’t stamping me bad. He wasn’t acting mean. I was.

Have you found yourself so pushed, like me – that you shove? Do your words rush out from a place of worry – you’re not enough?

I’m certainly not one to judge you. Nope. Because I 100% understand you.

But, I’m also considering the consequences of my words, the divergent paths I can take when I stand at the crossroad of – what to say next…

If I go left, I go towards a pride-filled response: heated words, barriers rising, anger flowing, discouragement, frustration and guilt. Usually, it ends, at best, with me knowing I lied a little, but satisfied because I still got away with it. Or, at worst, it ends with the overwhelming guilt I am not only the worst mom, but also the worst wife.

If I go right, I can choose kindness and love. I can find an opportunity to grow, to learn and to take risk. It’s not easy, but I can receive hard words because I trust God will:

1. Help me believe my worth is based on his truth, not others opinions.
2. Equip me to do what he calls me to do.
3. Comfort me, even when I feel hurt.

God will do the same for you, you know? When we make space to hear God’s voice, our voice speaks differently…

We make space when we ask God: What do you want me to do here? Do I need to change? What do I need to see? How should I approach this scenario where my husband feels valued and so do I?

God’s love changes our capacity to love. What he speaks is not condemnation, but peace. And what he brings is not an overwhelming to-do list, but a lesson in letting go. We react differently. We smile. We nod our head. We sit down. And we laugh at the table with our family. And, if it’s me, we eat something non-frozen.

 

Interested in fighting fear? Join the 4 Days to Fearless Challenge!

 


About the book, Fear Fighting, Awakening the Courage to Overcome Your Fears:

Author and Speaker, Kelly Balarie didn’t always fight fear – for a large part of her life, she was controlled by it. Yet, in her book, Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears, with God, Kelly charts a new course. Join Kelly, on the journey to go and grow with Christ’s bravery, the Spirit’s counsel and God’s unending love that squelches fear. This book reads like a love letter from God, while offering practical heart-calming prayers, anxiety-reducing tips, and courage-building decrees that will transform your day. www.fearfightingbook.com

 

kellypicKelly is both a Cheerleader of Faith and a Fighter of Fear. She leans on the power of God, rests on the shoulder of Christ, and discovers how to glow in the dark places of life. Get all Kelly’s blog posts by email or visit her on her blog, Purposeful Faith. You can also find a variety of resources for your fight against fear here.