Thursday, October 31, 2013
“To be accepted, to find home, to belong.”
How often I have realized that so much of living revolves around this theme. No matter who we are or where we grew up, we want to feel needed, accepted, cared for. We desire that place where we can take off our shoes, relax, that place where we can be ourselves, and belong.
The need to belong is a universal theme, a basic human necessity and I use it in my novel, Still Life in Shadows. To portray this theme, I chose to set my story in the fictitious North Carolina mountain town of Twin Branches. Gideon, who is one of my main characters, has come to this area after running away from his Amish home in Pennsylvania. He knows what it’s like to leave home and community. He understands what it takes to adapt to a society removed from his own.
Yet Gideon has carried some of his old rigid thoughts and beliefs about God with him. As he learns the ropes of working as a mechanic at Ormond’s garage, he realizes that he can be just as judgmental as his father and those in his Amish community that he couldn’t wait to leave. On his farm in Carlisle, life revolved around the Ordnung: order, rule and discipline. Here in Twin Branches, Gideon longs to fully embrace the freeing love of Jesus Christ. But in order to do this, he knows that he has to forgive.
I grew up as a missionary kid and pastor’s daughter in Japan. I have been in churches and among Christians all my life. Yet, I see how guilty we all can be when it comes to having pride and lack of humility. We forget to put on the nature of Jesus like we read about in Philippians 2. We neglect the passages that we are not to judge, but to love. “Make love your aim” (I Corinthians 14:1) seems far removed from us on days when we are filled with strife or disharmony in our own communities. And for those times when we see our shortcomings and beg to be forgiven, there are times when we feel we don’t deserve it. We have been a disappointment to our very selves. Sometimes being able to forgive ourselves is the hardest task as Gideon learns when his brother comes to visit and when he has to make that unexpected journey back to his roots.
Kiki, my autistic teen character, also strives to belong among her peers. She has some disadvantages, but in spite of them, teaches Gideon more about God’s grace than he could learn from any adult. Kiki is quick to love, eager to accept.
In Still Life in Shadows, I want my readers to know that they are each loved by God and that as a shepherd He carries us in his arms, close to His heart. No matter who we are, no matter how far we might feel from Him. He asks us to bow down and worship the One who knows our name, the One who has our very name tattooed on the palm of His hand. The One we belong to.
Come, stop running, take off your shoes, rest, and learn from Him. He always welcomes you.
Read the reviews for Still Life in Shadows and get a copy today.
[First posted at River North Fiction on October 28, 2013)
Thursday, October 3, 2013
But those who wait on the Lord
shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings as eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)
I used to think that the person who would do all of this soaring in the sky was doing it AFTER his waiting was over. So as a waiter, I sat and hoped and prayed. Weary, I read how one day I would run and walk without the burdens of wondering and waiting.
The other night as I sat under a crescent moon on my porch stoop, I saw it all differently.
Because although we do have to wait, and often painfully long, God is a God of now.
He is calling us to live now.
Even in our waiting, He doesn’t go on vacation or cease to listen to our cries or leave His throne.
He grows us.
We grow while we wait.
In fact, my waiting has produced some of the best growth and spiritual character. In spite of waiting I can still live today. I can still experience joy and contentment (as the Apostle Paul wrote of). I am learning in the waiting room of God. I cling to Him. I have also felt the needs of His people, praying often for others who must wait, dear friends old and new who have asked me to pray for their really tough circumstances.
Last night I promised God that when He answered one of my prayers in this waiting room, that I would not feel as though I was done with needing Him or trusting Him. I promised that I would not grow cocky or overly proud or think I had accomplished anything. I told Him that I would still love Him, still seek His face, and still know desperately that I need Him. Always. And that I can do no good thing without Him. I told Him I would never want what He has taught me to be taken away from me.
I felt as though the clouds of my mind had parted. It was a growth spurt.
Today, as I was going about my usual writing and wondering when God was going to act, I received a wonderful surprise. I received an answer. I was given a writing assignment from a publishing house to write for them! I rejoiced. I wanted to run, to soar.
Hallelujah! At last!
Happy, I was eager to celebrate with a hunk of chocolate or drink that special tea or even open the bottle of champagne. God had heard my cry, God provided me with work!
But the truth is, this is not my first time to have to cling to God and wait nor will it be my last. I still have other areas of my life to wait over.
Yet this time around, instead of wanting to hurry up the wait or push it aside or hold my breath until it leaves, I'm learning that waiting upon God is not at all ONLY a season. The truth is, it is a way of life.
Before I thought once my prayer was answered, I could kick up my heels and I'd be done with waiting. (I used to be young once and I think youthful minds think this way.)
Now I see the value in waiting, the beauty in growing, the honesty of a cultivated-by-God heart.
Dear God, I am your servant. I belong to you.
And I wait.
Because you are a God worth waiting for.
Are you waiting?
What are you waiting for today?
What do you want to learn as you wait upon Him?