Every Step is a Small Beginning

Each step a small beginning...

Each step a small beginning…

Steps. There was a familiar looking box on the front step. Is that what I think it is? A quick look at the label confirmed my suspicions ~ Simon and Schuster! Yes! My books arrived! Well, not my books exactly, Chicken Soup for the Soul books, but they did include one of my stories. This was my sixth story to be published in a Chicken Soup for the Soul anthology and the excitement of getting my books hasn’t diminished at all since the first box made its way to my doorstep.

“It’s a good start,” I said when I handed my mother-in-law a copy of “my” book.

“Good start? What does that mean?” she said.

“Well, I mean, this is great,” I nodded towards the book, “and I appreciate it, but I want to do more.”

“Why? Like what?”

“I don’t know. Something longer,” I said, almost apologetically. “Maybe a novel, someday.  And I’ve been working on a memoir about my season of marital separation.” That got us off the topic of my writing and onto a new topic that could be a post of its own.

Since I was a little girl I’ve wanted to tell people stories, bring them on a journey through the neural pathways of my imagination. For years, I succumbed to fear, distractions, and who knows what other undiagnosed neurosis that kept me from doing what I have always felt called to do ~ to inspire and entertain through my writing. But I finally took the first step, my own small beginnings, with short personal essays. And now it feels like it is time to take the next step.

I’ll never stop writing my stories and submitting them to the Chicken Soup for the Soul publishers. I am pretty sure I will continue to squeal like a schoolgirl when the books come and I cash my check. I love sharing stories from my life that might encourage or inspire someone else. And I really love that, through Chicken Soup, I have the opportunity to expand my audience. I consider it a tremendous blessing and I am grateful…but… I can’t deny that lately I have felt restless, ready for more.

Still, I know in my heart that God’s blessings are in these small steps, these small beginnings. He is in the process, He is building me, and He wants me to appreciate every step.  I am reminded of His words to the prophet Zechariah about the rebuilding of His temple and I say to myself, Oh, Lord, I won’t despise my small beginnings, and I hope You, Lord, will rejoice to see the pen in my hand.

Do you ever make light of small beginnings?

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand. Zechariah 4:10

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Fearful Thoughts Are A Train Wreck

Walking Through the Fear

Walking Through the Fear ~ A View From the Top

Thoughts. When I looked at the beauty all around me, I shook my head and sighed, thinking about how I might not have made it here to enjoy this part of God’s creation. I hiked up this hill located in a nearby state reserve and looked around in awe, grateful that God had found a way for me to be here. It wasn’t illness or a broken car that almost kept me from coming to the beautiful central coast of California ~ it was, and is, the fearful thoughts that seek to sabotage what God has planned for me.

You see, last week I was out of town, in the Midwest visiting family. It was a long week, and if truth be told, a bit of a stressful week. We arrived home on Sunday and my nerves were shot, my emotional basket drained but I didn’t have time to pause. Instead of unpacking, I began repacking to make the trip to Central California where I was scheduled to speak at three separate luncheons. The week in the San Luis Obispo area had been planned many months before, and when I think about it, was an answer to prayer from God for some quiet time to write and reflect. I was provided a lovely place to stay during the week, a refuge complete with a beautiful garden.

When my father heard that I was heading up here and had a place to stay, he decided to join me for the first few days of my trip. What a wonderful opportunity to spend some time with my Dad! And an added bonus was that I would only need to take the train to his house and he would drive the balance of the three hour trip. I would only need to take the train to his house…

That was the fearful thought that almost ruined it. If you can keep a secret, I will tell you something about myself. Sometimes I suffer from anxiety. Many years ago it was relentless and I was plagued with panic attacks. It hasn’t been that bad in a very long time, but there are times when I still struggle; especially when I am tired and emotionally drained and need to go outside my comfort zone. Like Sunday night.

At 1:30am I woke up. I can’t take the train, I thought. What if I have a panic attack on the train? What about transferring at Union Station? What if it happens there? What if? What if? What if? Until the alarm went off at 6am and it was time to continue packing so I could catch the train in a few hours; a train that my fearful thoughts had convinced me I couldn’t ride.

I ended up not taking the train and I am a little disappointed in myself for not, this time, pushing through the fear. Instead, my sweet husband made arrangements for a friend to drive me to my Dad’s. I’m not proud of this. I wish my story had a really great, dramatic paragraph about how I boarded that train with my luggage in tow and even shared my story of triumph with some other poor soul while we clackety-clack made our way to our destinations. But even so, God is so good and so gracious that He made a way for me to be here, in spite of my fearful thoughts.

I know I made it here on the prayers of friends and family. Their prayers brought me the peace and presence of mind to share my story with a sweet group of ladies at my speaking engagement yesterday; and their prayers will continue to carry me through the rest of the week.

I am feeling more rested, my time here with the Lord is refilling my basket. And that is why this morning I decided to walk up the street and hike up that mountain, in spite of fearful thoughts ~ mountain lions, the boogey man, my own anxiety. It was glorious! When a fearful thought emerged, I replaced it with a thought about the Lord. This thought thing is a process. It will take time and practice ~ and come Saturday I will have an opportunity to put the practice into play since I will be taking the train home. I am already imagining the dramatic and victorious paragraph I will write!

“Do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them;  for the Lord your God is He who goes with you…” Deuteronomy 20:3-4 NKJ
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Kangaroo Hunting

I got it...now what?

Kangaroos. Clearly the girls in our family didn’t get the memo about how to dress for our Australian kangaroo expedition. Weren’t we going to be driving through the nature reserve looking for those adorable creatures from the car? No, son, I am fairly certain I didn’t hear you say wear hiking shoes. Daughter, wearing heeled sandals with a darling ribbon wrap around the ankle, please back me up on this.

Regardless, there we were, platform shoes and all, walking through the Australian brush in search of kangaroos. Three menfolk and two womenfolk, five of us, split up and quietly peering down ravines and off yonder, hoping to spot a native hopper in the wild. We knew our chances were somewhat limited since it was early in the day and kangaroos are nocturnal animals; but we were seeking, we were on a mission, and we were determined. And as quickly as a joey jumps in its mother’s pouch, I heard it.

“Listen,” I whisper shouted. A rustling sound came from the bushes in front of my daughter and me and we froze. We watched as three kangaroos bounded out of the bush. The guys were a little ways off but caught sight of the hoppers and we all stared in amazement. And the kangaroos stared back. We were all frozen in a web of surprise. Until my daughter and I began to back peddle in our platforms, wondering what one does in a kangaroo stand off. Yes, they are cute as all get out, but a bit intimidating, too!

I began calling out to my son, who had some kangaroo experience, “Josh, Josh, what should we do….?” A weak little “ahh….” followed my question and I cursed the shoes I had worn, knowing the roo could easily take me.

“Mom, you’re fine! Just relax!”

Easy for him to say, he was further away and I was right in their path of escape. I stood quietly, daughter at my side, and waited for them to make the first move, my escape route firmly established. After what seemed like a very long time, the kangaroo gang finally hopped on their way. One more straggler shot out of the same bushes, giving us another quick shot of adrenaline, but he quickly followed after the others.

The fear left and the exhilaration followed and now we were desperate to see more. It was such a cool experience! I laugh now at my initial surprise and fear when I got exactly what I was seeking, what I was on a mission to find, and so determined to have. Isn’t that so like me? Isn’t that just typical of my human nature?

How many times have I asked God to reveal Himself to me? And how often am I surprised and afraid when He shows up in a big way. What about the times I ask God to send me a mission, an opportunity to serve Him, only to lose courage when the opportunity presents itself. Why, when I am so determined to have or do something, do I shrink away from the blessing when it bounds into my life? I set out on kangaroo hunts and find myself surprised and fearful when I find them. What’s up with that?

Lord, forgive me for those times when I have a spirit of fear and surprise when you reveal yourself to me in all the wonderful ways that you do. Give me the courage to stand when I find what I was looking for. Give me the confidence to embrace the blessings you put in my path. When I come face to face with the kangaroos I am seeking, let wonder and gratitude and exhilaration be my first response.

It is only through God’s spirit living in me that I have any hope of overcoming my human nature, as silly and contradictory as it is. I am so thankful He is compassionate and patient, aren’t you?

God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7

How Far Can You Get?

Can You Go the Distance?

Distance.  People often talk about “going the distance”, “finishing the race”, “finish what you start” ~ but what happens if you can’t go the distance.

“I would love to come speak to your group, but I can’t get that far south.  I’m so sorry.  I wanted to let you know as soon as possible so you could begin looking for another speaker.”  I told the nice lady on the phone.

“You know, I really think you are the one.  How far can you get?” 

It was an interesting question that really caught me off guard.  In my often black and white world, there were only two options ~ get myself there or politely decline the request to speak.  I obviously saw option two as the only viable option, and then I hear “how far can you get?” 

I stumbled over my words as I quickly thought, how far could I comfortably get? 

“I could take the train to the Oceanside station,” I offered. 

“Perfect!  I can pick you up there!” 

“Okay, I’ll put it on my calendar.”  I hung up chuckling and at the same time wondering what in the world just happened.  And then I realized what a wonderful, remarkable question my new friend asked ~ how far could I get?

 It was a good question for me, and for the likes of me, who often think of life in terms of all or nothing. Either I get all the way there or I don’t speak.  Either I have everything I need to execute perfectly or I won’t try.  Either I know all the answers or I won’t be bold.  Either I know I can reach my destination or I won’t start the journey.   

 But now this twist ~ how far can I get?  Perhaps I don’t have to do it all myself.  Maybe, just maybe, as far as I can get is good enough.  It’s possible that by allowing someone to meet me part way, I am allowing someone else to be a blessing and therefore, be blessed themselves. And here’s a crazy thought, maybe God is saying, “Lynne, how far can you get?  Give it a try! That’s fabulous, my child! And don’t worry, I can take over once you are as far as you can get.”

 And another crazy thought ~ maybe once I get as far as I can go, I will be able to go a little farther next time.  So on Tuesday, December 12th I will be speaking at a luncheon in San Diego because someone asked, “How far can you get?” Now I am asking  you, how far can you get? Maybe that’s as far as you need to go!

For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.  Isaiah 41:13

Hide and Seek

Hiding. Sal was hiding in the tunnel of the corporate building, way in the back by the loading docks, hoping no one would come looking for him. But he knew it wouldn’t be long before they found him. Still, the quiet gave him a few minutes to think back on his conversation with Sam a few days before.

“Sal, come here,” Sam called to him.
“What’s up, man?”
“No, come over here, away from the water cooler. I don’t want anyone else to hear.”
“Okay. What’s going on, Sam?”
“Congratulations, buddy!”
“Congratulations for what? What are you talking about?” Sal asked, genuinely confused.
“The promotion! I overheard the Big Guy telling his assistant that he is going to put you in charge of the company!”
Me? You’re kidding, right?”
“No way! He said you, I am positive. He said you were the one he chose. Look at you, trying to be all modest! You know you have the skills.”
“No, I have some skills but I am not sure I have enough skills to run this company.”
“Well, man, he must think so, cause I know what I heard. Besides, you know he will walk you through it step by step.”

Me? Run the company? Sal thought from the dark corner in the tunnel. But he knew it was true. He also knew that Sam was right – the Big Guy would be with him every step – so why was he hiding? Why this silly game of hide and seek? Fear? Insecurity? Disobedience? Rebellion? He didn’t really know and it didn’t really matter.

“Sal? Is that you? What are you doing, man? Come on, everyone’s waiting for you. You are such a nut! Let’s go!” Sam shook his head and the two men headed back to the corporate office.

Hide and Seek - Here I am!

Did you ever play hide and seek as a kid? Most of the time I couldn’t stand the suspense of waiting to be found and would jump out of my hiding spot in excitement before my seeker would yell “Ollie, ollie, oxen free” ~ whatever that means! But as an adult there are many times when I want to hide and I don’t want to be found. I don’t want my Seeker to find me and take me outside of my comfort zone, my cozy, little hiding spot. Sometimes I don’t want to step up and take on the roles and responsibilities I was created for ~ even though I know, like Sal, that the Big Guy will walk with me every step of the way. Why then do I sometimes hide? Fear? Insecurity? Disobedience? Rebellion?

Do you find yourself playing hide and seek with God sometimes? Me, too. So did many of God’s own chosen people – just read the tenth chapter of Samuel to see how Saul tried to hide during his coronation as king. So let’s not feel too badly. But let’s not stay hidden, either. Let’s jump out of our hiding spots! Let’s jump up and say “here I am!” and most importantly, let’s remember that the Big Guy will walk with us wherever He takes us.

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. Luke 19:10