Sort-of

Sort-of.

That little descriptor can wreak a lot of damage.

I enjoy looking up synonyms of words when I write. The subtle difference between two words can turn reading into reflection. In the case of sort-of, the synonyms paint a vivid picture of the mindset behind the descriptor. Slightly. Somewhat. Limited extent. The phrase and its synonyms appear accurate and innocent; yet sort-of has an ugly side for a person struggling with image management or insecurity.

Sort-of is a deceiver, pretending to be something it is not and promising things it cannot deliver.  Consider the following examples:

Sort-of pretends to be an image protector. However, it is a tool of false humility. The flip side of pride. In my own experience, it represents fear of not being perfect or the best in an area of life. I would rather people not expect me to be good at something. Therefore, if I am “sort-of” good at something, making mistakes is acceptable. One’s self-worth should not be wrapped up in being the best at something, but rather in doing your best at something. In my own life, sort-of is always followed up with an unspoken afterthought.iamsherise-NVIe0UYOhU8-unsplash

Do you play the piano? “Sort-of.” I’m not an accompanist.

Are you a writer? “Sort-of.” I’m indie published.

Are you a teacher? “Sort-of.” I’m not accredited in my state.

Sort-of can impersonate contentment.  A content person appreciates the gifts God gives him.  One who is not content may look for something more or different. Their search is not for improvement, but for self-satisfaction.  A person who is not content may feel cheated by circumstances. If I am “sort-of” happy with what God has laid out in my life, then am I essentially unhappy with it?  Sort-of can rob a person of joy when it directs the focus toward self instead of toward God. When we think of ourselves, we are less likely to express appreciation to God and to give Him glory.

Sort-of promises to deflect attention. We may think statements like “sort-of” represent our humility. However, humility means we are not thinking of ourselves at all.  When people verbalize their own humility or lesser value, their words tend to solicit a compliment in response, thus turning the attention on them.

Sort-of appears to be a motivator. Rather than motivating a person to improve, to keep learning, and to be grateful, sort-of subtly whispers, “No use trying.”  A sort-of mindset can lead to discouragement, defeat, and defensiveness. This mindset can harden a heart.

Since sort-of can subtly creep up on us,  how can we be our best for God and not ourselves? How can we turn our thoughts to others when we are tempted to think of ourselves? How can a believer be more aware of his selfish thinking? The answers are in God’s Word, which can counteract sort-of by reminding us to reflect on God’s attributes.

  • I Corinthians 10:31 states, So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. This verse reminds believers that our goal is to glorify God. Nowhere does this verse indicate that we are to glorify God only if we are the best at what we do. Only if we are perfect. It implies we do our best and be our best for Him–not for ourselves.
  • The Bible encourages believers to not be self- focused, but to think about others. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:4.
  • Rather than mulling over our own insecurity, we are to reflect on God’s attributes. Psalm 145:5 states, I will speak of your splendor and glorious majesty, and your wondrous works. Consider Romans 8:6. Now the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace.  What a beautiful promise God gives believers in Isaiah 26:3–You will keep the mind that is dependent on you in perfect peace, for it is trusting in you.

I’m “sort-of” giving sort-of a bad rap. Yes, there are times when sort-of is the correct descriptor. The problem emerges when sort-of is used to mask self-focus, insecurity, or defeat.  This type of sort-of needs to be confessed and released.

Perhaps sort-of isn’t what makes your feel ineffective or insecure, but rest assured that any time we seek to glorify God, Satan has a plan of attack against that glory. That is why Ephesians 6:10-18 describes the armor we need to fight against these attacks.

Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens. 13 For this reason take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. 14 Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, 15 and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. 16 In every situation take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit—which is the word of God. 18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request

May you find victory from your insecurity and keep your eyes focused on God.

“Kim, are you ready for today?”

“Sort-of. I just need to tighten this belt of truth.”  She tugs and ties. “Now, I’m ready.”

 

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Happy!

Excited to announce that both my books are Award Finalist in the Christian Inspiration Category for the 2019 American Fiction Awards!

Zip Lining

I turn into a baby when I cross paths with spiders, snakes, and mice. I suspect that doesn’t make me unusual. A few months ago another activity had me acting like a four-year-old. My husband and I went zip lining.  I will never be the same, and I will never do that activity again. Before I go any further, I’ll pause to pat myself on the back for trying zipline2the frightening activity at my age.

I should have known to turn back when the guide had to help me on the ONE practice line that was four feet from the ground.  Instead, I found myself on the first platform and noted that we were at the top of mountains looking down at treetops. I begged then to go back, but in a misunderstanding I  agreed to zip line tandem to the next platform. It was there that I realized there was no going back. I had several more lines to zip before I returned to real life or died trying. For the next hour I ziplined strapped to the guide and a young girl who was having a blast and tried to comfort me.

At one point I opened my eyes for a split second, and a yellow butterfly flew past me. I took it as a reminder that God will never leave me or forsake me.

The guide was kind, until  we were done, then he made sure I knew he had broken the rules by letting me ride tandem. He got the tip he’d earned. I’m sure he was relieved to have me off his back.

Did I mention that on the first platform where I had my misunderstanding,  a very young, obviously in-shape young man was also scared and begged to go back. Somehow, there was no misunderstanding between him and the guide, because I soon discovered he was back at the check-in hut. Probably enjoying a Coke and M & Ms. That’s another 1-Peter-5-7_1200x628story. By the way, the smile in the picture was fake.

My mature self and immature self had quite an internal battle during the experience. As much as I wanted to suck it up and get something out of the experience, my aching arms Matthew-10_30and my fear of falling took over.  We all fight internal battles.  In my WIP, my protagonist psalm121is struggling internally. When she  finds herself outside the security of home and family, she is pulled between the life she’s known and life unknown. At her core, she wants what isaiah41God wants for her, but she struggles to decipher that. Back home, another character has his own struggles when for the first time in his life, his faith feels insufficient.

Where does victory come from in an internal battle?  It comes from claiming God’s  truths.  Ironically, this victory often comes when we stop fighting and  settle down, still and quiet before Him.

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Driftwood

My husband and I recently visited Jekyll Island, Georgia, excited to see Driftwood Beach, a resting place for wood washed up from the ocean. We put the address in our GPS and followed quiet, peaceful roads on the island. Eventually we came to a pier, parking lot, and picnic area speckled with activity. We agreed with our GPS that we had reached our destination.

The beach was visible several yards ahead, so we walked on a wide path and wooden bridge driftwoodsmall2leading to it.  As we reached the beach and rounded the coastline, we saw a few pieces of driftwood scattered on sand. The scene was nothing like we anticipated. We gazed at the structures and took driftwoodsmallobligatory pictures of the largest, most interesting piece. I described the scene as interesting. We had been going for amazing.

We made our way back to our car feeling disappointed. As we returned the way we came, my husband noticed a few cars parked along the road. Focused on our destination, we had not seen them while driving in. A narrow, unmarked path was to the left of the cars. Curious and hopeful, we parked then made our way down the path until it opened to the beach.  The scene before was amazing. Large pieces of twisted and knotted wood adorned the beach.driftwoodlarge

I suppose point A and point B would have met somewhere along the beach if we had kept to our original plan.  We could have put forth our own effort to make “our dream” come true. However, we did not have to because there was another, lesser known way to see what we desired.

Life can be like this. We make plans to achieve our dreams for work, family, and possessions.  However, God may be saying, that is not the way. Wait on me. I will show you the way in my time, and you will notice that what you desired is before you—even if the path was lonely.  Proverbs 16:9 states that a man’s heart plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.

There have many times my family had to trust that verse. We waited through miscarriages until God gave us amazing children. My children waited through relationships until God opened their eyes to their ideal spouse. We have waited for God to open doors to jobs. Sometimes God makes one way evident. Other times, He reveals several options. Although waiting was not easy, I can testify that every outcome was worth it.

driftwoodlarge2God assures us in Psalm 38:9 that all our longings are open before Him. Are you in a waiting room? Rather than trying desperately to forge your own way forward,  pray in your desperation and wait on God. While you wait, you may come to know Him better as He reveals Himself to you. God will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go (Psalm 32:8).

 

 

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The Story Behind “Among the Crepe Myrtles” by Kim Williams — Author Liz Tolsma

Kim Williams is our guest today. She wrote a book called Among the Crepe Myrtles. Today, Kim is here to share the story behind her story. Robbed more than once of what he desires from life, Ben Williams is disillusioned with his concept of fairness. The only person still alive who matters to him is…

via The Story Behind “Among the Crepe Myrtles” by Kim Williams — Author Liz Tolsma

The Name Game

Shirley, Shirley
Bo-ber-ley, bo-na-na fanna
Fo-fer-ley. fee fi mo-mer-ley, Shirley!

Shirley Ellis

namegame

Popular around 1965, the Name Game was one of my favorite songs as a child. I felt like a famous big wig when the song played on the radio because the first rhymed name was my mom’s name. I honestly haven’t thought about that song in a long time. However, names in general have been on my mind in the last several weeks.

While writing the third installment of the Letters to Layton series, I’ve developed some new characters. Selecting names for them has been a blast. I’ve even had some readers give me suggestions. Often the name has to fit how I perceive the character to be. In some instances, the character may demand a different name than the one I’ve selected because as they reveal who they are, they also reveal a more fitting name.

Moving from fiction to reality, I have had the name of my father-in-law on my mind and heart recently.  Ray Williams, one of the finest men I’ve ever known and loved, passed into Heaven early January. Leaving behind a very notable legacy in the community, his church, and with his family, he will be greatly missed on earth. Experience with my mom’s passing taught me that our family is going to miss hearing his name spoken in conversations.  Ray.

In our modern era, names are often chosen for their sound or to honor someone. Biblical names were often descriptors of the individual.  A recent Bible study on the names of God reminded me that the Heavenly Father has names that are beautiful to pronounce, but even more beautiful to understand. Join me in reflecting on one of  them.

El RoiThe God who sees me” (Pronounce “el raw EE”)

God reveals this name to Hagar in Genesis 16:13-14.   This is the only mention of it.  Used, mistreated, fearful, and feeling unimportant, pregnant Hagar fled from her owner, Sarai, and was alone in the desert. Hagar was pregnant because Sarai had insisted her roihusband sleep with her. Indeed, this type of arrangement for barren women was common in the ancient world. The plan was devised to fulfill a promise from God that a great nation would come from Abram. Since Sarai was childless and beyond childbearing years, she took matters into her own hands with an acceptable custom rather than waiting to see how God intended to fulfill that promise.

Once Hagar was pregnant, jealously and apparent disgust reared their heads inside of Sarai. She indicates that Hagar now despised her.  Sarai’s conclusion could have been drawn from truth or from her own imagination. Perhaps Hagar felt uneasy about the pregnancy or perhaps she felt prideful. Whatever the emotion behind both women, the tension was enough that Hagar fled to the desert.

God revealed Himself to Hagar, stating that he saw her and that He was aware of her life and circumstances. He comforts Hagar and then instructs her to return to Sarai, promising to increase her descendants too.  Here Hagar is called upon to trust and obey despite her feelings. In Chapter 16, we see Hagar and her son Ishmael in a similar situation. God once again reveals Himself to her, and Hagar’s eyes are opened to the work of God in her life. She finally understands what God has been saying about His plan for her.

I can recall more than once in life when my achievements were overlooked, yet others got noted for the same accomplishments. More than once, I sat among the crowd applauding a person being recognized and had to hold back tears.  I can also recall when I felt so intimidated by someone that I did not stand up for myself and ended up taking a punishment for something I didn’t do.

It’s natural to have hurt feelings as a human. That is when we must call upon the God who sees us and realize we are not unnoticed or unimportant.  Whether overlooked, misunderstood, lonely, or confused, know that God sees you. The New Testament tells us that He knows the number of hairs on our heads. This is more than attention to detail. This is intimate  awareness by God.

earth2I enjoy seeing pictures of the earth from space. I am always struck by how tiny I am in the scheme of God’s wonderful universe. Yet—He sees me. In fact, He sent His Son to this Earth to be sacrificed for my sins so that I could one day receive forgiveness.

 

Has there been a time in your life when El Roi comforted you?

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Butterflies Dance!

Click this link to watch a beautiful video of monarch migration!

www.facebook.com/747432502278277/posts/838304916524368

 This type scene is behind my book entitled When the Butterflies Dance.
https://tinyurl.com/y625kgrl

The Over 50 Writer

ebook giveaway! Excited to be highlighted on Patti Shene’s blog. http://ow.ly/yQ8D30n9J6R

FAB Review: When The Butterflies Dance

(Spoiler Alert!)

https://faithandbooks.com/2018/12/27/when-the-butterflies-dance-book-review/

The Things I Don’t Know and the Things I Do Know

KrispyKreme

This picture was taken on my daughter’s phone November 15 at 8:57 PM. Three minutes later at 9:00 PM, that same phone was used to call 911 because the man in the picture collapsed onto the table unconscious.

When my family gathered on November 15 at the county school district office to hear the announcement of our daughter’s promotion, we proudly shook hands with county board members, applauded, chattered, and stood for family pictures. I didn’t know that a half hour later while celebrating at Krispy Kreme, I would think my husband was dying. Multitudes of thoughts and emotions passed through me in minuscule measurements of time. I am grateful to say that in the wee hours of the morning in ER, all turned out well. My husband has some iron and blood pressure issues to tweak.

The scary incident reminded me that what I don’t know makes me grateful for what I do know.

I don’t know what relationship, job, health or financial struggles those I love may face. I don’t know when or how my loved ones or I will leave this Earth. I don’t know if I’m headed into an accident while driving to the store. I don’t know what issue I may face at work. Simply stated, I don’t know the future of my life here on Earth. I’m glad because in my humanity, knowing the bad would taint knowing the good.

Omniscience belongs to God, and He promises to be a lamp unto our feet and give us just enough light to take the next steps of our path here on Earth—whether or not the steps are taken on rough terrain or smooth grass. No matter the path I find myself on, I can rely on what I do know.

  • God will never leave me or forsake me
  • God is just and trustworthy
  • My salvation is sealed in Christ
  • God’s rod and staff will comfort

When we get right down to it–our relationship with God and then the people we love matter more than anything else on Earth.

Jesusfamily

As I write this, Christmas is just around the corner, and my husband is playing his trumpet in our church Atlanta Christmas Musical. I wish you a very Merry Christmas.

 

 

(And by the way, I am busy with my characters in Layton as I write book three.)

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