Waiting for the other shoe to drop. Legend has it that the expression has its roots in tenement style living, where people would hear their upstairs neighbors kick off one shoe and – you guessed it – wait for the other shoe to drop (Wiktionary).
And I’ve decided – I’ve decided it’s the very worst kind of waiting. After all, you know it’s coming – that other shoe dropping. You already know the thud you’re going to hear and the slight wince you’ll make at the sound. You just don’t know when it’s going to happen, because maybe your upstairs neighbor kicks off both shoes right away, or maybe he likes to mess with you, or maybe he just got distracted. The point is – it’s going to happen.
Metaphorically-speaking, I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop for a month-and-a-half now, maybe even closer to two months. I expect to hear it any time now. It makes me anxious, and I don’t know why, because I know exactly what to expect and I’ve already made up my mind how I’m going to handle it. It’s the tension, I suppose.
And that tension is why it’s a popular saying. Waiting for the other shoe to drop.
I’ve been in this school a long time. Different circumstances, but the same overarching theme: the pull between what is right now and what is going to be. And what I’ve learned is that you have to put that other shoe dropping – however inevitable – is that you press through the tension of not knowing when by engaging with what is. That’s not to say you have to deny what’s going to happen, or that you shouldn’t make a plan for what’s going to happen. The point is – you can’t make it happen.
And when the shoe drops, you’re ready.
And you’re relieved, because the tension is broken.
Until then, though, you have to ride it out. Adapt. Re-adapt.
Hello, lovelies! I hope you’re enjoying Warfare Week as much as I am! It was great to talk about what God is working out in my heart with advocacy and I loved connecting with Emerald about her testimony about the fight to love yourself.
Today, I’m excited to welcome Kandi J. Wyatt, author of the incredible middle grade fantasy series, Dragon’s Courage, and medieval retelling of Hagar’s story, The One Who Sees Me. Right now, she is also sharing the Holy Week story from a unique perspective on her blog, which I’ve been really enjoying. To say the very least, Kandi is an incredibly gifted author, and I’m grateful to have her join me this week to talk about the ultimate spiritual warrior and some weapons for battle.
Please join me in giving Kandi a warm welcome!
When I think of a warfare, I think of a warrior—standing in the gap, willing to lay down his life for another, obeying orders to the end, holding out against all odds. Therefore, when I was asked to write about spiritual warfare, I immediately thought of a warrior—a prayer warrior. Phrases such as “Get down on your knees and fight like a man” came to mind as did the song, “She’s a prayer warrior down on her knees, wrestling with angels and principalities.”
My image of a warrior being in prayer formed early in life. I remember learning verses in Awana clubs. “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16) “Casting all your cares upon Him for He careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) These verses were emphasized through both Mom and Grandma. They taught me that Jesus was a friend that I could talk to at any and all moments. He was a living part of our home.
As I grew older, I was introduced to Frank Perretti’s books This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness. These novels added to my image of prayer as warfare. They give a unique glimpse into the angelic realm and portray angels as ready to wage war but waiting on our prayers to give them the victory! At the same time, my late teen years, I had three ladies who were my prayer warriors. They were either old enough to be my great-grandmother or in bed with cancer or both. They had not given up on life, however. They fought tooth and nail in prayer—prayer for me, prayer for our church, prayer for their families. I was about twenty-years-old when they died. I physically felt the gap from the loss of their prayers and said I would take up the banner and pray.
Being young and naive. I didn’t realize the war that took place when one is down on his or her knees. I have not been able to pray as earnestly as those three prayed for me, but I did find ways to pray. I’ve struggled and even now need to take my own advice and pick up the mantle to pray again.
In the hustle and bustle of our lives, I discovered it helped to pray when I had a specific list and a specific time. Living in a rural area, I found myself in the seat of a car on a regular basis. I drove past the homes of people I knew. I began to pray for them. My list began as I left the driveway, praying for my own kids. Then I moved on to pray for my extended family, from there, a person from church whose road I passed, then my son’s friend. Sometimes, I didn’t pass a specific person’s home, but a friend of theirs. To facilitate this type of prayer, turn off music until your prayer time is over, then you can add in some worship songs to finish praying. Know what to pray for. I prayed for salvation of loved ones, that they would be drawn close to God, that they would be kept pure for God and the one they would one day marry, for their marriages, for wisdom raising children, and if there was something specific going on that day or week. This type of prayer can also happen on a walk if you live in town and have a semi-regular walking schedule.
Another way my prayer life blossomed was through Moms In Touch, an organization that helped moms pray for their school age children. The format was intimidating at first—gather with other moms to pray for a full hour! Yes, you read correctly. Pray, not talk to your friend, but pray for a full hour. The more time I had with the group, I found we often had to limit ourselves to an hour. With the format it became easy to pray for that long. We began with praise to God focused around a specific verse. We would praise God for who He is based on an attribute or something He had done listed in scripture. Then we would have a time of silent confession of sin, again with a verse to guide our prayers. Next we would use a different verse for thanksgiving, thanking God for what he had done in our lives or the lives of our children that week. The meat of our prayers then focused on our kids and their schools. A verse guided our prayers. It is amazing the power of praying a verse for a person. You can pick it apart and pray many specific things for them. Finally, one person closed the prayer. The amazing thing with Moms In Touch was the way we prayed together. One person would pray a thought and someone else would pick up and echo or expound on that thought. It was a time that bound us together as moms. To this day, a lady at church still prays for my kids and I pray for hers.
Several years ago, I read the book, Radical by David Platt. It explained how the American dream has filtered through to the church and its teachings. I was challenged to pray around the world. Being a literal type of person, I found the CIA fact book and began reading an entry each day and then praying for that country. If I knew missionaries in the land, I’d add them to my list. After a year or two of using the CIA fact book, I discovered a 10-40 prayer calendar. It gave a specific people group each day of the year to pray for with some detail of their needs at the beginning of the month.
Prayer calendars are handy. Besides the 10-40 calendar, I also have one for praying for your kids and one for praying for your spouse. These two give you a verse to pray each day of the month for the specific person.
As the years have passed, I have struggled with prayer. The routine gets old, the enemy whispers lies in my ears. I need encouragement. So, writing a post on prayer has challenged me to return to praying. What tools have you used to keep up a consistent prayer life? Please share. I’d love to hear them and let you know which one I pick up next.
Thanks for joining us, Kandi!
Today, I am delighted to welcome the lovely Emerald Barnes to share her fight with learning to love herself. Every day, she is out teaching others to love themselves, too, not only through her books (Entertaining Angels, Before We Say I Do, and the soon-to-be-released Delivered by Angels), which deal with important teen topics such as self-esteem and forgiveness, but also through promoting #loveyourself and #youarenotalone on social media. I am so honored this fierce warrior chose to spend this week with me!
Ladies and gentleman, without further ado, please join me in welcoming the one and only Emerald Barnes!
For years, I hated my body. I hated my looks, and I didn’t feel worthy of much of anything, especially God’s love. I was beat down and broken, and I didn’t even realize that I was being held back from my full potential. I honestly thought it was “normal” to feel this way, but in time, I have come to realize that was just the devil blinding me from the true love of God and from being who God has called me to be. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t learned from my experience, and now, I’m using it to show others how they too can overcome their hatred of themselves.
Warfare is nothing to joke about, and it’s even worse when you don’t even realize the battle that you’re fighting. I had no clue that I fought a battle on a daily basis to love myself. I didn’t realize that that was a tool used by the devil to hold me back and to make me seek validation from people instead of God. I was so dumb looking back it, but it just goes to prove how smart the devil is.
I’d fought small battles before: fear, doubt, mild depression. Those were so small in comparison to the battle the devil was using against me to beat me down into his submission when I should have been under submission to God.
As long as I can remember, I’ve been overweight. I’ve been the fat girl, the “DUFF”— Designated Ugly Fat Friend—, the “friend” to the guys I’ve had crushes on. I was the girl in the hallway everyone else made fun of. The bullying from them was nothing compared the bigger plan the devil had in place for me.
All of these years of the devil using people to beat me up, spreading lies in my ear as I looked in the mirror, wore me down. I used food as a means to replace my emotions. I literally ate my emotions. I didn’t live a healthy lifestyle, and so I gained more weight.
I yo-yo dieted my entire high school and college existence, thinking that if I lost weight I’d feel better. Thinking that if I lost weight, men would find me more attractive. I longed for a relationship where people would love me for who I was, the fat girl longing for love.
I dated guys who weren’t good for me. I had convinced myself that they loved me, but instead, I was foolishly being used. They didn’t love me, and I didn’t love them. I was just in love with the idea of being in love because I had spent so many years longing for that, even writing romances and daydreaming of finding that perfect guy. (I also daydreamed of being skinny—and that is when I would find my “true love”.)
I lived completely in a fantasy world, longing for something that I didn’t have, and wondering if God would ever send me someone who loved me like I had hoped they would.
It never happened, and I fell into this strange, almost depression like mood, and I would literally cry, begging God to change my body and send me someone who would love me. I never expected the answer that I would receive.
I’ve told this story many times because it’s the moment that I realized that I had been under an attack of satan for most of my life. It’s the moment that God showed me just how much I was truly loved, and it wasn’t by any earthly man. It was the Man who died on the cross for me.
I was driving home from my cousin’s house one night when MercyMe’s Beautiful came on on the radio (K-LOVE), and at this time in my life, I rarely ever listened to Christian music. (I had gotten to the point where I thought hearing it in church was enough. I was wrong, of course.) I almost stopped in the middle of the road as God’s presence filled the car, wrapping me in His love. I knew then and there that God was telling Me that that song was about me. That I was beautiful because He created me, loved me.
From that day on, I began to look at myself differently. I began to try and see myself the way that God sees me. The devil’s lies were still strong within me, but God showed me that I was in a battle, and He had just given me the means to fight back. Love. Love for Him, love for myself, love for others. Love was the answer.
I had never thought that my hatred of my body was something of the devil until God had me write Entertaining Angels. As the idea came to me, I saw that I had been fighting the devil and his minions the whole time as I struggled to love myself and see my own beauty.
If I had never heard God tell me that I was beautiful, I don’t think that I would have grown as much as I have and be a witness to others. The devil knew that God was going to do something big with my life, and he had been tormenting me, breaking me down slowly over the years trying to stop me. He almost did because I was ready to give up on all kinds of love at this point, but God—oh but God—saved me.
Loving myself is still a struggle at times. I want to look like this or look like that, but I see with each battle how much God loves me. And I know without a shadow of a doubt the devil will not win. The love of God is what keeps me going, and I know that He loves me, despite my size. Despite the way I see myself, He loves me. And He loves you too.
War isn’t easy, but God has prepared us for such a battle. I know it won’t be easy. It never is, but we’re winners. Because God loves us, there isn’t any demon on earth that can stop us. Put on the armor of God today and lift up your sword because whatever battle you’re going through, you’re victorious!
What did I tell y’all? I just love Emerald’s testimony. If you’d like to hear more from her, please connect with her on her blog, Facebook, and Twitter. Emerald is also opening up her blog during April for others to share their stories of depression, self-harm, and suicide attempts to show people who struggle with these things they are not alone. If you have a story, please sign up here: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c044faaa923a4fc1-youarenotalone. I know she would love to have your perspective.
Hello, lovelies, and welcome to the very first ever #WarfareWeek. Spiritual warfare has been a theme in my walk with Christ, and it even makes an appearance in my first book, The Field. I wanted to do something to honor this theme here on my blog.
The topic for the week is “The Fight of Your Life.” I’m kicking things off today, and later this week I’ll be joined by Author Emerald Barnes and Kandi J. Wyatt, Author. Please join us and share if it resonates with you.
As those of you who have been following me for a while know, my word for 2016 is champion. Most of the things I’ve posted have dealt with the noun champion: a person who has defeated or surpassed all rivals in a competition, especially in sports (Google Dictionary). And while victory is an important part of my year, today I want to talk about the verb champion: support the cause of; defend; advocate (Google Dictionary). And the battle I want to talk about today is not so much one fought in the trenches as it is in a courtroom.
Recently, a verse in Nehemiah struck me: “When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this [Nehemiah’s commission to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls], they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites” (Nehemiah 2:10 NIV, emphasis mine). The Israelites had a reputation at that time as far as the rest of their world was concerned: they may have been God’s chosen people at one time, but now they were deserted, desolate, and not cared for, and there’s little question of whether or not they earned their place in the world. Before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, Moses warned them: “Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut up the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you” (Deuteronomy 11:16-17 NIV). And even as Israel moved further and further away from God, He sent prophets again and to beckon them back, but they weren’t having it: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it…Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it'” (Isaiah 30:15 and Jeremiah 6:16 NIV). It doesn’t exactly seem like they deserved to have anyone come along and promote their welfare.
And yet. And yet, that’s exactly what Nehemiah does. When he hears that the people of Jerusalem are in “great trouble and disgrace” and the city’s walls are “broken down” (Nehemiah 1:3 NIV), it causes him distress. Seeking God with the situation opens doors for him to return to Jerusalem with the objective of rebuilding the city and restoring its people (Neh. 1:4-2:10). First, he surveys the damage (Neh. 2:11-17), and then the great task of rebuilding begins (Neh. 2:18). Not only did Nehemiah undertake rebuilding the wall and protecting it from further damage (Neh. 4, 6), he put an end to oppressive practices within the Israelite community (Neh. 5). Then he undertook the most difficult task of all: getting the Israelites back to God (Neh. 8-9), and keeping them on that track (Neh. 13). Nehemiah was an advocate, a champion of restoration for the people of Israel – people known as outcasts, desolate, and deserted – restoration not only to their rightful borders and boundaries, not only to their basic needs, but to God.
Most people probably wouldn’t take that case – the case of the guilty. Sanballat and Tobiah certainly wouldn’t have. So why did Nehemiah? Nehemiah remarks, “The gracious hand of my God was on me” (Neh. 2:8), and I can’t help but thinking that restoration was always God’s plan for the Israelites. After all, Jeremiah says, “The people of Israel are oppressed, and the people of Judah as well. All their captors hold them fast, refusing to let them go. Yet their Redeemer is strong; the Lord Almighty is his name. He will vigorously defend their cause so that he may bring rest to their land” (Jer. 50:33-34 NIV). God was just looking for a champion for His people, and Nehemiah – Nehemiah was willing.
This week is Holy Week, and in the Church, we are celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus. We are celebrating that moment when Jesus looked at our guilt in rejecting God and said, “You know what? I’m going to give you the best possible life anyway. Life with My Father.” Jesus died to promote the welfare of a race that rejects God, a race in ruins; He rose again to advocate, plead for, and champion people who can do nothing for themselves, who walk away from Him again and again and again. First John 2:9 says, “If anybody sins, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ the Righteous One” (NIV). We have a Champion – Someone who wants to make it right for us, and everyone around us.
And again, most probably wouldn’t take that case – the case of righting a wrong that wasn’t theirs to begin with. Often, we readily advocate and champion restoration for those we perceive deserving of it, but we often neglect restoration for those who have made their beds and are now lying in them. We would give them a life sentence and leave them right where they are, bearing the consequences of their sins into eternity.
I wonder if we understand how contrary to God’s Word this attitude is. And while Jesus is the Ultimate Champion, I wonder if we understand that God is looking for more of His people to rise up and advocate restoration of the guilty to Him.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NIV)
In Him, there is no wrong that cannot be made right. There is no sentence that cannot be mitigated – no, lifted.
I believe that for you, and I believe that for me.
Let’s start taking more cases, like Nehemiah and Jesus. Let’s start seeking God about the cases that need our attention, and how we can best go about fighting for them. Let’s get real about the damage, and then let’s get busy rebuilding. Let’s take a stand against oppressive practices. Let’s point people to God. And let’s start seeing Him right those wrongs and lift those life sentences.
“Did you shake this?”
My dad eyed the salad dressing critically. “It doesn’t look like you shook it.” Then he took the bottle into both hands, held it out, and shook it vigorously.
Well, yeah, I suppose compared to that, I had only swished the salad dressing around a little.
I didn’t understand that the salad dressing had elements that naturally separated, and so it had to be shaken before use to bring those elements back together to balance the taste.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about how, sometimes, people need to be shaken before they can be used, too. I just finished reading The Curate of Glaston by George MacDonald, which is all about that kind of shaking, and one passage particularly stood out to me: “Sometimes a thunderbolt, as men call it, will shoot from a clear sky; and sometimes into the midst of a peaceful family, or a yet quieter individuality, without warning of gathered storm above, or lightest tremble of earthquake beneath, will fall a terrible fact, and from the moment everything is changed. That family or that life is no more what it was – probably never more can be what it was. Better it ought to be, worse it may be – which, depends upon itself. But its spiritual weather is altered. The air is thick with cloud, and cannot weep itself clear. There may come a gorgeous sunset though.” And so recently, I’ve been reflecting on the seasons during which my own spiritual weather has been altered.
I remember meeting with a friend several years ago, and as we discussed our lives, she said, “I don’t feel like I’ve had the one great trial of my faith yet, do you?” I didn’t really know how to respond. Even then, before I had really gone through much in my walk with Christ, I felt like my faith was never too far from one of those thunderbolt moments – those seasons when everything was shaken, sometimes even what I had thought were the most foundational elements. I never believed it would be just one great trial, one great thunderbolt, one great shaking; I thought it would be more like a video game, where I would graduate to levels of greater and greater difficulty. I was, however, slightly jealous that someone could have the somewhat romantic notion that there would be just one great trial of faith, when I didn’t have that luxury.
They are not bad things, these spiritually-altering seasons. They often feel like bad things, because everything that can be shaken will be shaken, and how everything settles after that shaking is outside of our control.
[F]rom the moment everything is changed. That family or that life is no more what it was – probably never more can be what it was.
That’s not to say we don’t try to control it – to short-circuit the thunderbolt, to try and hold things in place as they are coming down around us.
We don’t understand we’re often better off going through spiritual alterations and releasing the shaky things. It produces value within us: “We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame” (Romans 5:3b-5a NIV). This thunderbolt passage in Curate is about Helen Lingard, a character who has little in the way of passion – described as someone who doesn’t really think for herself, doesn’t fall in love, and whose face doesn’t show much. Without being shaken, she would have gone on, just as she was, and of course, there would have been no story and no character worth mentioning.
These seasons will also bring us closer to God if we let them. I am frequently reminded of something C. S. Lewis said in A Grief Observed, after his wife passed away: “…My idea of God is a not divine idea. It has to be shattered from time to time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence?…” God Himself says, “In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come” (Haggai 2:6-7 NIV). The writer of Hebrews expounds upon these sentiments: “The words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain” (Hebrews 12:27 NIV). With every shaking, I get closer to Him, and His nearness germinates His life within me.
Today is St. Patrick’s Day, and in the patron saint of the Irish we have a great example of someone who was shaken before use. As a young man, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and brought to Ireland as a slave. After making his escape, he felt a call to return to Ireland to walk among the Irish, so he studied to become a priest. Even then, the Church refused to back his calling because of his youth and inexperience. He opens his Confession this way: “My name is Patrick. I am a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers. I am looked down upon by many.” He remarks about his calling, “So I want to give thanks to God without ceasing. He frequently forgave my lack of wisdom and my negligence, and more than once did not become very angry with me, the one who was meant to be his helper. I was not quick to accept what he showed me, and so the Spirit prompted me. The Lord was merciful to me a thousand thousand times, because he saw in me that I was ready, but that I did not know what I should do about the state of my life … Indeed, I was not quick to recognise the grace that was in me; I know now what I should have done then.” If he hadn’t been shaken, St. Patrick would never have ministered in Ireland the way he did.
What will come of my being shaken today? I hardly know, except I will be brought closer to God, and in His closeness, I will become more. And I believe with my whole heart there is a gorgeous sunset in my future.
Gosh. How long has it been? A little over three years, I think, since we last talked, and probably two years since the last time you crossed my mind. A little over seven years, I think, since I first started praying for you, and about four years since I stopped. And almost exactly five years since I plucked up the courage to be completely honest with you.
Until about two weeks ago, it never once occurred to me that you might think about and check in on me, although with me having a public platform, I suppose it’s easy enough for you to do. You said you were done and you seemed like you were done, and I guess I believed you more than I thought I did at the time, because in all of those searches of “Lydia Thomas blog” my analytics tell me have brought people to my blog, I never once thought it might be you.
I just … have not prayed for you or thought about you in years. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess.
I don’t say all that to make you feel small. I say it so you understand that for three years, I lived the pain. I cried myself to sleep over it more nights than I can count. I prayed, pleaded with God, and finally, railed at God in absolute rage. And I laid flat on my back, numb, until He extended a hand and pulled me up. And since then, it doesn’t hurt me anymore.
But I understand – I understand – it’s your turn now. I find myself both sorry for what you are experiencing right now, and not sorry at all. Sorry, because it’s got to hurt like hell, and not sorry at all, because you finally looked down.
You see, about six months after I plucked up the courage to be completely honest with you, I plucked up the courage to be completely honest with some other people who were involved as well. On the day I went to them, the preacher talked about how our society doesn’t like to feel pain and he brought up a medical condition called neuropathy, that is, a condition that causes people to lose their sense of feeling. In illustrating his the condition, I remember he said, “These people could be walking across a field of glass and be bleeding to death and not even know it.” And completely unbidden, a thought came to my mind, Unless someone tells them to look down.
And after that, when I would pray for you, I would ask God that you would just look down. I had a vision of myself standing on the edge of that field, pleading with you to turn around, and you laughed at me, because you were fine. “You’re bleeding!” I cried, but you laughed again. “If I was bleeding,” you said. “I would know it.” And as a last ditch effort, I pleaded, “Just look down.” Because if you would just look down, you would know you were bleeding out.
And I often tell people, that vision turned into a blog post, and then into an allegorical short story, and then into a novella. One of the hardest plot decisions I had to make was whether one of the characters who had spent most of the story in a forbidden field would look down or not, and what would happen when she did. Would she stay in the field or would she come out?
I’m not going to tell you what happened with her, but I want to tell you, what you’re experiencing right now? It means you’ve looked down, and you’re seeing everything is not good, you are not good. And now, you have a choice to make: keep pretending like nothing is wrong and press on or come out and begin the healing process.
And me? I’ve come back to the place where I was five years ago: the edge of the field. Why? I am here for you, no longer begging and pleading, but cheering. you. on. Because where you’ve been is not good enough for you, no matter how much you tell yourself it is. Because even though there’s not hope for this one thing you’ve been secretly been holding on to, there is hope for you. So I’m here to cheer you on, through every painstaking step out of the field, through everything you think you have to lose, through the cleansing of those old wounds, until you can say, “I’m good,” and it’s true.
“But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).
(Photo Credit: Three Rivers Deep)