What I Learned From Writing A Book About My Life

My sweet daughter, running wild and free. 

 

Years ago, I wrote a book about my life. I thought, I love to write, I have an unbelievable story, a book sounds like a good idea. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. 

I labored over the book for years. I wept over pages, dove into memories I hadn’t thought about since childhood, and my love for writing grew in the process.

Books take multiple edits and rewrites, and something unexpected and beautiful happened during the revision process. I rewrote the book again and again. Each edit was less angry than the first draft, every rewrite was a chance for a fresh perspective. I began to edit out certain words I’d written about people from my past, because I genuinely didn’t feel that way towards them any longer. It got to the point where I was no longer writing from a place of anger, hurt, or unforgiveness – I was writing from a place of compassion.

I made sample copies of the book and gave them to a few close friends who’d partnered with me on that journey. One of those dear friends came over the other day and handed me the sample book. She said, “I’m embarrassed I’ve had this so long, I can’t believe I forgot to return it to you.”

I hadn’t thought about that book in a long time. I told her I was tempted to throw it in the fire (I heard every writer feels that way about their first book which makes me feel better), but a part of why I felt that way, I explained to my friend, was that it served it’s purpose. I felt everything I needed to feel. I processed everything I needed to process. I accepted every memory, released every pain, forgave every hurt. I am free.

I have no desire to share that book with anyone, it was therapy between me and God.

****

I went to Georgia this past week for a conference. I sat next to a woman who became a fast friend. Kelen is a Christian counselor who also happens to be an expert in reading body language. I felt like she could see through my soul by examining the way my legs were crossed. I was a little intimidated but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to pick her brilliant brain. Kelen has excelled in her profession for a long time, she said in her experience, unforgiveness is people’s problem 98% of the time.

Ninety Eight Percent.

I can’t stop thinking about that.

I don’t recall the exact words Kelen shared with me, but the imagery I walked away with was an onion. I imagined someone sitting down for counseling with Kelen, thinking they are there for an eating disorder or a family quarrel. I pictured Kelen peeling back the layers of an onion. A layer of defensiveness, a layer of insecurity, a layer of pride, a layer of anger…the layers kept getting tossed aside until she hit the core: unforgiveness.

****

I sat on the plane on the long flight back to California and I closed my eyes. Most people would assume I was sleeping, but I was doing important work. I was asking God if there was anything or anyone else I needed to forgive and release. I allowed God to scan my heart like a laser. Is there any remaining anger? Is there any lingering bitterness? Uproot it Lord. I don’t want any heart blockages hindering me.

A couple instances popped in my mind, things I hadn’t written about. So I did what writing that book taught me to do (in my head instead of on paper). I felt what I needed to feel. I prayed until anger took a backseat to compassion. I forgave and I released it to God. I threw away the first draft.

I walked off that plane without baggage, light and free, because the airline graciously gate checked mine for me, and because God took some junk from my heart.

Brene Brown writes; “If you own this story you get to write the ending. When we bury the story we forever stay the subject of the story. If we own the story we get to narrate the ending. As Carl Jung said, “I am not what has happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”

Without me even knowing it, God took my love for stories and writing and showed me how to own my own. God is sneaky like that.

****

I laid in bed with my husband the night I got back from Georgia. I was exhausted from traveling, he was exhausted from taking care of the kids for five days, but we couldn’t resist staying up late to talk. I told him about my new friend Kelen, my baggage-free flight and how free and light I felt. We talked about the ninety eight percent a lot. “Ninety eight percent!” I kept saying, as if the number would change if I said it with more emphasis.

“Isn’t it amazing,” my husband added, “that the very thing us humans struggle to extend to one another is the very thing Jesus came down to earth to extend to us freely?”

And now I have something else I can’t stop thinking about.

He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.” Ephesians 1:7

 

A Faint Truth is Still a Truth: Overcoming Lies, Fears and Insecurities


It was winter of 2004. The line on the pregnancy test was so faint that I threw it in the garbage, called my husband and told him it was a false alarm. I was a pastor’s assistant at the time, so I went back to the computer to finish up some admin work. I typed and filed and responded to emails and then, a few hours later, a thought hit me. What if a faint line is still a line? 

I dug into the garbage, lifted up the instructions (now wet with coffee) and read, “Any test line visible on the pregnancy test, even a faint one, indicates a positive result.”

I still couldn’t believe it.

I gathered two coworkers, all three of us like detectives getting to the bottom of a case. We were unanimously convinced it had to be wrong. After all, the line was barely visible. We went to the store and bought one displaying the words “Pregnant” or “Not Pregnant.” It seemed there wouldn’t be as much room for error there.

I stared at the word “pregnant” but still, the only thing I felt pregnant with was doubt. I hadn’t been married for a full year yet, didn’t God know I wasn’t ready? Didn’t God know I still had insecurities and fears to sort through first?

****

A month prior, I was helping someone with their baby. I tried to strap the little girl in her car seat, but failed. I couldn’t figure out which clip went where and which button I needed to push to get it to latch. My head sunk into my collapsed shoulders like a turtle and I shot her a look that made my ignorance on car seats more apparent. The mom came over and latched it with ease. A little later that day, I was holding the baby outside. The mom told me that I really should get a blanket and wrap it around her legs. Maybe for other people, those instances wouldn’t be a big deal. For me, they were more reasons why I felt unsure about motherhood. You don’t even know how to latch a car seat! Of course you didn’t think to wrap the baby’s legs in a blanket, your not cut out to be a mom. 

I was on bed rest for most of my pregnancy and Netflix didn’t exist then, unfortunately. My husband brushed up on his cooking skills and friends from church brought me magazines and books to keep me occupied. But mostly, I laid in bed afraid.

****

One night, Brandon and I sat in each others arms while he rubbed my ballooning belly.

“What if I’m a bad mom?” I bursted out.

The words came out of my mouth before I had time to process them. I went on to explain that my mom wasn’t the best example and I didn’t know who to turn to for advice.

Brandon formed his words deliberately as if he wanted me to never forget them.

“Mel, you are not just going to be a good mom, you are going to be an incredible mom. It doesn’t matter what kind of example you had, you have the Lord now. He is the best example of a loving parent. You can learn from Him. Mel, you are an amazing individual and I never question your capabilities as a mother. Never.”

Throughout the remainder of the pregnancy I held onto my husband’s words like an anchor, along with scriptures like Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

The fears still came, but Brandon’s words gave me a weapon to fight with. “But I have the Lord” was a powerful comeback to satan’s lies.

You don’t know how to be a mom. 

“But I have the Lord.”

Your mom didn’t know what she was doing and you don’t either. 

“But I have the Lord.”

You have so much to learn. You’ll always be behind.

“But I have the Lord.”

The voice of truth sometimes seemed like a whisper compared to the enemy’s shouts, but somehow that generic brand pregnancy test brought a comforting thought: A faint line is still a line and a faint truth is still a truth. 

****

That was the season when I learned how to echo the whispers of God in the midst of the enemy’s shouts. The more I echoed God’s whispers of truth, the more muffled and incoherent my fears became. What is that, devil? I’m going to make a terrible what? I can’t seem to hear you amidst the echo of God’s truth, so pure and so good. 

I’m glad doubt made an appearance in my life twelve years ago. That season led me to answers about my faith, about myself and about my future that became more certain and resolved than ever before.  I’ve learned even tiny doubts that remain in hiding, can cast monumental and intimidating shadows. The best thing is to pull back the curtain. Most of the time, what we find, is that the source of the grizzly bear shadow of doubt is the equivalent of a paper doll glued to a popsicle stick. Doubts and fears are flimsy and unreliable, but they sure know how to puff themselves up and yell like bullies. Even in moments when the truth feels as faint as the line on that pregnancy test, I know now that a faint line is still a line and a faint truth is still a truth.

And guess what? It turns out I kick-butt at the whole mom thing.

 

3 Benefits to Fasting

It’s January, and my husband and I are in the middle of our beginning-of-the-year fast to coincide with Canvas Church’s 21 days of Prayer and Fasting (click the link for ideas on what to fast).

We don’t particularly enjoy fasting, but because we have seen such tremendous power and breakthrough in fasting, we’ve come to look forward to it each year. What will God do this year? What breakthrough will we experience? What will the Holy Spirit speak to us during this time? What will God do in our church? The beginning of the year brings anticipation.

Before I explain the benefits of fasting, let me pause to explain what fasting is. Cleansing and dieting are trendy, but to be clear – fasting is not a diet or a cleanse, it is a spiritual act. It’s when we deny our flesh, its indulgences and appetites to take more time to focus on God through prayer. We sacrifice something such as food, saying no to our bodies and yes to our spirits.

Many people ask me what they should fast. My answer is: whatever is going to be a sacrifice to you. We choose to fast something that reminds us to pray. When we get a hunger pang, an urge to browse Facebook, or watch television – that’s the time we pray. We don’t fast something we shouldn’t be doing in the first place. For example, we don’t fast things such as gossip – we shouldn’t be gossiping anyway. If we want to eliminate a bad habit from our lives, it’s more beneficial to make that one of the focuses of what we pray about during the fast.

Here are 3 reasons why we look forward to fasting each year:

  1. We fast for breakthrough. In Matthew 17, the disciples asked Jesus why they weren’t able to drive out a certain demon. Jesus replied (vs 21, HCSB) “This kind can come out by nothing by prayer and fasting.” The most incredible breakthroughs we’ve experienced happened during a fast. We’ve had marital breakthroughs, relational breakthroughs, parenting breakthroughs, church breakthroughs, personal breakthroughs, the list could go on. I encourage struggling believers to try fasting if they feel stuck in one area or another. We also don’t just fast for our own breakthrough, but for breakthrough for others. Isaiah 58:3-7 says “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to se the oppressed free and break every yoke?” Fasting helps us take our eyes off ourselves and on to God, and when our eyes are on God our eyes are also on those in need. We might need personal breakthrough, but we also have in mind breakthrough for those around us; our local church, co-workers, family members or needs in this world. When we feel helpless in meeting someone’s need, I’ve heard it said, “prayer is not the least we can do, it’s the most we can do.”
  2. We fast to hear from God. We can hear from God any time, we do not need to be fasting to hear from God. But for me personally, I seem to hear from God more clearly during a fast, which is why I look forward to fasting in the beginning of the year to seek direction and clarity. I believe the reason is twofold. One, my mind isn’t clouded with social media. Two, I’m making more room for God to speak by spending more time in prayer and the word. God is always speaking, we just need to be willing to make the space to hear.
  3. We fast to detox our minds and bodies. No, fasting is not a diet or a new years resolution to consume less media. However, after the holidays, I’m ready for a fast. I look forward to my body being reset and my mind taking a break from the noise of the world and being renewed in the word. Studies have shown there are health benefits to fasting, God designed it to be good for us. And as addictive as media can be, it’s good for our minds to detox from the cravings of mindless entertainment.

Fasting is not resting in our own ability, it’s relying on God’s. We aren’t more holy or spiritual by how lengthy or sacrificial our fast is. Fasting shouldn’t be a burden we brag about carrying. In fact, I hesitated to mention our fasting practices in a blog because I didn’t want to make it about our efforts. However, I couldn’t shake the passion in me to help equip and encourage believers who feel stuck to experience breakthrough in fasting.

There is one more week left in January, want to join me? If so, comment below what you will be believing for and I will partner with you in prayer.